‘Disgusted and disappointed’ – Millenium Mural artist angry as work still has no home

Dave Betson with images of his mural.
Dave Betson with images of his mural.

THE artist who created Hartlepool’s iconic Millenium Mural says he “disgusted and disappointed” that his artwork has not yet been found a home.

The under-threat mural, by long standing Harlepool Art Club member Dave Betson, has been hanging above the entrance to the Marks and Spencers store in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool, for the last 15 years.

Artist Dave Betson with wife Pat and niece Julia Pargeter and her husband David.

Artist Dave Betson with wife Pat and niece Julia Pargeter and her husband David.

Its future is in the balance after shopping centre bosses say it is to be taken down for “essential maintenance” when Marks and Spencer move out later this year. They cannot commit to re-installing it in the same place.

Mr Betson, 82, has been in talks with Hartlepool Borough Council in the hope that its officers would want to find a place for the piece.

But the talented painter believes they “aren’t bothered”.

He said: “I just feel absolutely disgusted and disappointed to be perfectly honest. I can’t understand why it has to come down in the first instance but, as it has to, then you would think the council’s arts and heritage people would be interested in preserving it.

“The fact that nobody from the council seems particularly bothered is terrible in my opinion. For them it just seems like another irritant, put it on the back burner and forget about it.”

The Mail launched a campaign to save the 78ft mural and 500 signatures were gathered in a petition.

Mail readers have suggested the Museum of Hartlepool, Borough Hall on the Headland and Hartlepool Railway Station, in Church Street, as possible locations.

A council spokesman said: “Although the council has had no previous involvement in the mural, we have explored a number of possible sites, all of which proved impractical due to the large space required and the fact that the mural can only be hung as a single entity. We have exhausted all the possibilities.”

Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange manager, said: “Maintenance works at the centre are continuing with significant investment planned in 2015.

“These works will mean the mural needs to come down and we are in the same position as when we first spoke to Mr Betson. Potential new tenants and changes to the centre mean that when we take the mural down we cannot commit to reinstalling it in the same location.

“We will continue to work with Mr Betson, Hartlepool Borough Council and The Hartlepool Mail to find a suitable location in the town.”