AN artist who painted a 78ft-long mural which has had pride of place in a shopping centre for the last 14 years is devastated after being told that it is to be taken down.
Talented Dave Betson spent six months, back in 1998 to 1999, painting the Millenium Mural which is hung above Marks and Spencer in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
The detailed artwork - which depicts iconic images from the town and its history – has looked down on millions of shoppers passing through the shopping centre since it was presented to the people of Hartlepool by British Steel, who selected Dave to create it, to mark the millenium back in 2000.
But 82-year-old Dave, from the Fens area, has been told by shopping centre bosses that the mural must be removed for repair work to be carried out on the wall where it hangs, and have told him that it will not be re-hung there.
Dave said that shopping centre chief Mark Rycraft suggested to him that it be placed into storage, or hung on a wall in the indoor market in an enclosed area on the first floor of the complex.
But proud artist Dave is not happy with either option as he believes people will see it properly in the indoor market as it will not be hung very high and the view will be obscured by stalls.
He also dreads the thought of his hard work simply gathering dust in storage.
“I’m absolutely devastated to be honest,” said Dave, a member of Hartlepool Art Club for 40 years. “It’s knocked my end in.
“I was there for six months virtually everyday doing work on the mural, six months of my life.
“I was commissioned to do it by British Steel and it was presented to the people of Hartlepool. It doesnt belong to me, it doesn’t belong to British Steel, it belongs to the people of Hartlepool.”
He said: “I still remember the day it was unveiled. There was a big opening ceremony with the mayor and lots of school children and the centre was packed.
“They covered it with a big curtain and when it was unveiled there were claps and wows and cheers. It was marvellous.
“I thought it would be there as long as the shopping centre was there. It’s terrible and I’d really like someone to come up with an idea of where to put it.
“British steel were originally going to put it in one of their huge sheds but they thought it was too good to be hidden away.”
Middleton Grange’s Mr Rycraft said: “For over 14 years we have proudly displayed it in the centre for our shoppers to enjoy. The mural is large and heavy and now, due to essential maintenance work, we have to take it down.
“I have great admiration for Mr Betson and his artwork and therefore approached him to discuss the movement of the mural some months ago.
“Unfortunately due to potential future maintenance and development plans that are in the pipeline for the centre we cannot commit to being able to re-install the mural in the same place.
“I discussed with Mr Betson alternative locations for the mural and suggested the Market Hall as it has a wall with its potential to take the weight and size of the piece.
“The market is an integral part of our city and our centre and we would be happy to house the artwork here if we can.”