Within hours of its completion a beautiful canalside mural – designed to promote well-being – was defaced. Sally Clifford finds out more.
WHEN the canalside mural he’d painstakingly spent a week creating was defaced, Jaydon Rowbottom decided to write those who’d done it a letter.
Unconventionally, he didn’t put pen to paper; his medium was a piece of wood he had left over from his work as an artist, illustrator and maker, on which he appealed to the better nature of those responsible, opening up the opportunity for discussion.
His words didn’t fall on deaf ears. Perhaps they did read the sign – before tagging over it.
“I wrote the message because it felt right to open the dialogue with these people,” explained 27-year-old Jaydon.
He went on to describe the ‘incredibly sinking feeling’ he had when he saw the response.
“It was completely disheartening really. That sinking feeling – you have put in that time and effort.”
Jaydon, along with his fellow artist friend Alexander, worked more than eight hours a day for almost a week to complete the 25ft mural which was due to be unveiled on Friday, October 20 – but Jaydon estimates within 12 hours of its completion the colourful artwork was defaced.
He refuses to be downhearted about it for the mural’s intention was all about promoting positivity. This mindful work of art, with its entwined swans flanked by bold and colourful flowers on a vibrant blue background, adds a splash of colour along this busy stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in an area of Armley, Leeds, known as Botany Bay, or Skinner’s Yard.
Well-being was a consideration for its creation when the Canal & River Trust commissioned Jaydon to undertake the artwork which is the culmination of a European-funded social inclusion project.
“The design came from my admiration for the canal system. I have spent seven or so years living in Leeds, and I have spent a lot of time along this canal,” said Jaydon, who originates from Swadlincote but came to Leeds Beckett University to study graphic art and design.
Jaydon’s maternal family hauled coal up and down the canal system while his paternal family were into extreme sports, canoeing and kayaking on canals and rivers. “This was almost the perfect storm for me – one of the perfect jobs to come along – it combined my heritage along with my love for the canal and the flora and fauna. That is why I wanted to represent the swans in the centre of the design – that is the embodiment of the canal because you see them.
“The whole time while we were painting they were visiting and looking. It was almost like they were supporting us,” Jaydon continued. “I also like to draw flowers because it reminds me of family and home and the gesture of giving flowers to someone – that positive uplifting message flowers bring. It is a well-being mural at the end of the day.”
He talked about the possibility of repairing the mural and, possibly, using the design digitally on cards and colouring packs for children to help raise funds for the Canal & River Trust.
“I am an Armley resident and I wanted this to be here and bring light to all those people that are in my community. I am always travelling up and down this canal and I know the impact seeing art has on people. It is incredibly uplifting and it is lovely to see it. It is still colourful and it is still serving a purpose. I just wish it would continue on in the way I had hoped as it is positivity in its full glory.”
Over the years the Canal & River Trust has worked with partners and volunteers to improve this area including removing overgrown vegetation which provides cover for antisocial behaviour.
The defacing of the mural highlights one of the ongoing challenges faced by CRT as it strives to keep canals alive – with a spend of £1 million a year removing graffiti from across its 2000-mile canal network.
Lizzie Dealey, partnership and funding manager, says: “We are trying to look after a network, a functioning network for anyone on the water or on the towpath. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal goes right through the heart of the city, offering this free accessible green-blue space on the doorsteps of thousands of people, so we want to ensure that the towpath is a nice, welcoming environment.”
Lizzie said many don’t realise there is a charity behind it. “This mural was only possible thanks to the project funding and it was intended to conclude and celebrate our Isolation 2 Inclusion project.
“The work we have done with Jaydon aimed to enhance the canal environment and get that message out we want people to love and use this place. Making it more beautiful may make people respect it so this is extra devastating,” she added.