Bringing Colour to Grays Court

Following a series of community consultations in Denaby, Well Doncaster commissioned Doncaster artist Mandy Keating to design and paint a mural in the heart of Denaby Main and revamp a 33m long wall in Grays Court, Denaby's main shopping precinct

Mandy set about visiting the local primary schools, youth clubs, cafes, coffee mornings and groups to deliver workshops where residents could not only share their ideas for the design but also have a go at applying different styles and techniques to their designs. I began to take photos of the people I chatted with, as what was becoming apparent to me was the sense of community and people rather than place being most important.

Artist Mandy said of the design process; "When I collated all of the wording, drawings and photos, the image that came to mind was of a ‘street’ scene, showing buildings of Denaby past and present, along with a diverse mix of people of all ages performing different activities in this scene".

Tackling a wall 33m long is not mean feat and Mandy was helped by children from Denaby and the Well Doncaster Team. Using stencils Mandy created a backdrop of Denaby buildings and overlaid these with figures of real Denaby people.

"Choosing which people to put into the mural was hard" says Mandy "because I got some great photos of local people in different poses – more than I needed really. I wanted to make sure there was a balance so that it wasn’t biased in favour of one particular age group or type of activity. I looked at what people seemed most interested in or just did and the results showed on the final design.

What was interesting was that some images of people were very recognisable, such as Deacon riding a scooter and probably helped to secure support from some

of the younger residents. The ladies having a cuppa were so impressed when they saw their images on the mural that they declared the Hot Chocolate Lounge, where I had photographed them, to be their favourite café and they would tell all their friends about it too".

Mandy was on site for almost 2 months and so became a regular fixture in Denaby. People often stopped and talked to her about the mural, shared their memories of the building in the mural and to see if she could paint their front room!

"The most interesting part of painting the mural had to be the conversations I had with local and not so local people. I felt that at the start people had more misgivings about the mural; the quality of it and it becoming vandalised throughout or at the end of the process. As time wore on and I became somewhat of a fixture, people began to respond to the progress of the mural and to me".

As the mural progressed and figures started to appear Mandy shares that people began to claim ownership of a character on the wall;

"The image of Jim, the older gentleman with his walking stick, was claimed to be several other older gentlemen in Denaby! The young girl walking her dog was also claimed by two other people, one of whom was convinced it was her even though we hadn’t met before. When the said young girl came to look at the mural I didn’t see her approaching as I was painting.

I just heard a shriek (and nearly fell off my ladder as a result) as she realised it was her. When I turned around she had a big smile on her face and said she was made up to be on the wall. If only it was so easy to make everyone that happy! Ben who was the helmet clad character on a bike wasn’t recognisable as his face was hidden by the helmet, however, he knew it was himself as he remembered me taking photos of him and in fact had come into Tom Hill Youth Centre specially so I could photograph him. Again, once people knew it was him lots of people came to see the mural".

Mandy goes on to say; "When I first started the project, I was worried that I would be seen as an interloper, someone who didn’t belong there however, I was made to feel very welcome and comfortable, even by younger people, whom were seen by some as vandals who would destroy the mural. In fact, the mural wasn’t touched once during my time there even when the cones were knocked over. I would like to think it was a mark of respect that stopped anyone attempting to vandalise the mural and an appreciation that I ‘got’ people in Denaby".

To read more about the mural and see more pictures of it taking shape please visit the Well Doncaster blog