Issue date: 16 May 2011
The Wolverton Train Mural has just been refurbished by local volunteers.
The Wolverton Train Mural was originally created under the supervision of Community Artist Bill Billings in 1986 as part of the Milton Keynes Urban Aid Scheme (itself a spin-off from the IWA's National Rally the previous year). The Mural represented Wolverton’s past, present and its future. It also covered up some extremely objectionable graffiti, and for a while remained remarkably free from vandalism. Over the years the Mural has been the subject of several work parties by IWA Milton Keynes branch volunteers, who re-painted weathered and vandalised sections and regularly cut back encroaching vegetation.
By 2010 the Mural was in urgent need of refurbishment following a number of acts of vandalism . Concerned with its condition, members of IWA Milton Keynes branch convened a meeting in May 2010 at Wolverton Town Hall with representatives of the voluntary sector and members of the local community interested in the Mural. There was strong support for the repainting project.
To fund a limited amount of work on the Mural, IWA Milton Keynes branch obtained a Grant from the Milton Keynes Community Foundation. In early January, Electrolux plc funded the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation, which trains unemployed youngsters in building skills, to create a short section of wall to replace the missing gates. In January, Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council agreed to fund the majority of the costs of re-painting the Mural using Section 106 funds, so-called “planning gain money”. The S106 money was specifically allocated for the refurbishment of the canal towpath environment. British Waterways loaned equipment to ensure that the work site was a safe environment to meet the necessary health and safety requirements of working along the towpath.
Three Community Artists, David Fenton (leader), Neil Keen and Ryan Billings (son of Bill Billings who created the Mural in 1986), have re-painted it with the support of the Thames Valley Probation Service, which provided Community Payback offenders, and volunteers from the local community and from IWA Milton keynes branch. The artists had worked closely for a number of years with Bill prior to his death in 2007, and have now used more modern paints and techniques than Bill had available in 1986.
For the time being the Mural’s appearance has been stabilised, but the condition of the wall varies from very sound to very poor. The spalling of the bricks and the “blowing” of the mortar will continue over a large area of the wall, with consequent damage to the Mural. In addition there is a significant crack in the northern end of the wall which could lead to its collapse. It will become more difficult to maintain the Mural as the wall deteriorates.
Photo: Ryan Billings (foreground) applies his brush, with a Community Payback worker and Project Manager Joseph Cresswell. Photo by LesFranklin.