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Westgate Festival Mural

Page updated 17th April 2017

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This large mural was painted over a period of 6 months, in 1979, by Andrew Stacey to celebrate the Westgate Festival. The mural measures 60 ft (18 m) by 40ft (14 m) wide and was hand painted by Stacey, before he applied three layers of varnish. It was a wet October, which made the completion for the deadline for unveiling, on 24 October, difficult.

Notice how it continues beneath the level of New Bridge Street and depicts on the lower wall one of the leats that flowed past this part of the city, under the arch over which New Bridge Street runs and across Shilhay. The main theme is based on several contemporary Exeter festivals and depicts local characters and groups such as the Western Morris Men and Footsbarn Theatre. The top hatted figure on the bottom right is Artful Thomas, a well known character from the first three decades of the 20th Century. If you compare the two photos, it is apparent that Stacey changed the design when the mural was part painted, as the house on the right, in the final painting, shows an end wall, while the partly painted mural shows the front of the house at an angle.

Andrew Stacey had been a scenic designer at the Northcot and also an art teacher at Exeter College before he became a muralist. He had already produced other murals around the city, including one in collaboration with children, on the corner of Clifton Road and Chute Street. He produced wall and floor murals for Newton Abbot Hospital 1998 and Dawlish Hospital in 1999, as well as children's play schemes and nurseries.

The property, which once contained the hairdresser Joans, was renovated (2011) and the mural was given a face lift, making the colours more vibrant.

In September 2014 it was announced that the mural was to be covered over in the process of repairing the wall, and adding a layer of cladding to improve the insulation of the wall for the tenants of the building. After a flood of protests on FaceBook, a crowd funding site was started to raise funds to fight the proposal. The Twentieth Century Society inspected the mural and thought it could be saved and asked Exeter City Council to take steps to save it. On 15 October, the mural was covered over as the remedial work commenced. The fighting fund became a fund to replace the mural, and Andrew Stacey, the original artist agreed to help. The traders of Fore Street, with the agreement of the owners of the building, also pledged to help fund a replica or new design at a possible cost of £28,000. At the time of writing, the remedial work is continuing, and hopefully a new Westgate Mural will be painted on the wall, which will reflect the people of the area.

Sources: FaceBook, Express and Echo and Exeter City Council.

Painting the mural in 1979.

Painting the mural in 1979. Photo Express and Echo.

The mural

The mural before its last touch up.

The block of houses with the mural.

The building with mural in Fore Street.

Repairing the wall.

Repairing the wall in 2014. Photo Julia Sharp.

The Mayor and artist

The Mayor Richard John Van Oppen with Andrew Stacey, the muralist. Photo Pat Sheridan.

The site of the mural

The shop with the sign for 'Mobilgas' was the site of the mural.

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