Unveiling the new Galashiels Gateway Mural

3 October, 2016

 

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Photo copyright Phil Wilkinson www.philwilkinson.net


In late 2015 I had a meeting with a local Scottish Borders community organisation called Energise Galashiels. Once dominated by a thriving textile industry and the subject of two Robert Burns poems, the group were concerned that Gala town centre was becoming bedraggled and they were resolved to rectify this.

The opportunity to work with a motivated local group in order to help change the destiny of a town seemed like another exciting artistic adventure. I had worked on a similar project in the Midlothian area of Mayfield and Easthouses, creating a community mural with school kids to enliven the entrance to their town.

 

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A montage of the Galashiels mural site, showing the “before”, a composite with the proposed drawing plans applied, and an “after” view.

 

 

Frith, William Powell; The Railway Station; Royal Holloway, University of London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-railway-station-12825
Some inspiration for the mural – The Railway Station by William Powell Frith, William Powell, 1862.
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An early drawing plan for the mural.

We resolved to launch a new crowd mural using the impending visit of the iconic Flying Scotsman train both as subject matter and as a launch event. I brought my train to town on 12 bespoke five foot squared canvas boards and locals were invited to put their friends and family into the picture for a modest donation.

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Galashiels locals posing for photo reference before being painted into the mural.
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Michelle and Liz of “Liz’s Gifts” shop on Douglas Bridge, posing for photo reference before being painted into the mural.
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A local train buff and former train driver posing for photo reference before being painted into the mural.

Dressed in my usual painting regalia (a leather kilt, tweed waistcoat and top hat) I worked in town from Friday morning through till Sunday evening, painting the picture and collecting photo reference in the form of portraits of Gala locals. I had helpers in the form of two young painters named Kat and Robbie, plus my mate Charlie and two Sheilas (Sheila Armstrong and Sheila Robertson), who worked as a team gathering the reference material. My kids Red and Riley also helped on the Sunday.

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Working with Kat and Robbie on site in Galashiels.

After the live painting event in Galashiels, I took the picture back to Edinburgh’s Tron Kirk which was my main Edinburgh painting base at the time. I worked on it publicly for the next four months on and off, which basically involved digging my way out from underneath the mountain of photo reference that we had collected. I also painted a mixed selection of Galashiels notables and celebrities into the picture… and also Scottish TV favourite Lorraine kelly who always features in my pictures.

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The mural in progress inside the atmospheric Tron Kirk in Edinburgh.
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Working on the mural inside the Tron Kirk in Edinburgh.

The finished painting was unveiled in Galashiels by Lord David Steel on October 1st, during the inaugural Creative Coathanger festival which featured a fortnight of events and artistic activity designed to cement Gala’s place as a creative hub for the borders and take advantage of the brand new train link. Many excited participants gathered in front of the mural to find themselves amongst the painted crowds and the event garnered articles in all the Scottish newspapers and on STV Borders.

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Unveiling the mural in Galashiels with Sir David Steel and Energise Galashiels chair Mike Gray.
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Galashiels locals checking out the new mural on the unveiling day.
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A Galashiels local with her dog (who appears in the mural by itself).

The real hope is that this brand new and welcoming imagery at the doorway of the town will help create a new story for the community and support the forging of a bright future for Galashiels.

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The finished Galashiels mural.
Categories: Murals, Scotland

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