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Bring the Paint to Blackwell Parish...Westhouses

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

You may well have already seen our latest addition to the “Bring the Paint to Blackwell Parish” project that appeared in Westhouses over the last month, made possibly by funding from Arts Council England and Creative Civic Change.

Leicester spray art collective Graffwerk once again visited the parish, with two of their artists Wing and Rich completing the huge mural on the side of the Corner Club over five days. 100 litres of masonry white paint was used to whitewash and prime the building alone! More ‘Graft’work than Graffwerk at that stage! You can see this foundation stage and the whole painting of the mural in the time lapse video below.

When we formed the Greater Creative project 3 years ago thanks to funding from Creative Civic Change specifically for arts activity, we began by listening to what parish residents wanted for our community. We are a group of residents ourselves and know how important it is to feel heard in the decisions made about where we live. We have continued to start conversations and listen to what comes up when we think about improving our community creatively and have had dialogue with over 640 people in this time. Early on we undertook a range of extensive consultation across the parish to find out how our project could look. Those consultation and conversations in 2020 and 2021 informed an artist brief for 3 designs which were put to a public vote. 131 residents voted for the project and one design secured 105 of the votes!

The Stanier 8F steam locomotive has a strong link to Westhouses rail heritage and we received lots of positive feedback when it featured in our 2020 colouring book. During painting, local train enthusiasts came down to watch and gave us pointers to make sure it was an accurate representation. For example, the buffer had some yellow numbers on but it was painted over to make it more locally accurate!

Family members of residents drove these locomotives and one shared his father’s engine numbers, so it found its way onto the mural alongside the local engine shed number 18B. Adan Julian who’s dad worked out of Westhouses chipped in some of his local knowledge. “When I first saw it, with the original number they’d painted, I thought that’s not a local train It wants more than that, it wants something that was here.”

His brother Robert Julian added “He drove that engine regularly, that train when it was made new was assigned to Westhouses, 48494 never went anywhere else, that’s where it stopped until it was scrapped.”

“When my father first came to Westhouses to work he got lodgings, so he lived in the front room of a Mrs Barnes and he met my mum and stayed in Westhouses for 60 years. Some of the steelworks out in Scunthorpe would need maybe ten trains a day, dad would get back to Westhouses and get relieved and the train would carry on but if he was on one of those big shifts you might not see him for a fortnight with him taking lodgings elsewhere!”

“Yes, from walking down the lane to walking back our mother never knew when she’d see him again! Although we did wait and sit and wave if we knew he was coming by on a particular engine at a certain time. In the height of it all you’d see someone walking up and down the village 24 hours a day for work.”

When discussing the finished piece Robert told us “How he’s incorporated the bricks into the archway of the tunnel is amazing, I get a fantastic view of it, every time I walk up my garden, I’m still amazed at how he got things so detailed. It’s good to keep that connection [to local heritage], some people might be from out of area originally and moved into the village so might not know anything about it all.”

We also received lots of wonderful feedback via email and of course on our Facebook page from local residents:

“Being born and bred in Westhouses and from a railway family I think this is absolutely fantastic. My father is an ex-railway man and will be looking down and smiling”

“I have never experienced art like this before. When I drive past it, it gives me tingles”

“Happy tears tonight, surprised to know this amazing piece of work has the train number my Grandad drove. So proud”.

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