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C20 Society battles to save Newport mural

A post-war mural in a Newport city underpass threatened with demolition by shopping centre plans has been put forward for listing

The Twentieth Century Society has submitted the mural off John Frost Square for listing to Cadw - the Welsh heritage body.

The artwork is to be flattened to make way for the Friars Wharf retail-led development - a £200 million shopping and leisure centre being masterplanned by Leslie Jones Architecture.

Made of 200,000 pieces of ceramic tile, Kenneth Budd’s 1979 mural is a memorial to the Chartist protesters killed by soldiers outside the nearby Westgate Hotel in 1839.

Henrietta Billings, senior conservation adviser for the Twentieth Century Society, described the mural as ‘an outstanding example of post war public art’.

She said: ‘Listing the mural would help save it from demolition, and if necessary ensure its safe removal to a new location in the city’.

She added. “The quality of design and execution are some of the best we have seen.”

More than 2,000 people have signed an on-line petition at asking for the mural to be preserved.

Newport City Council said it had noted the Twentieth Century Society submission to Cadw and awaited ‘its decision with interest’.

Andrew Ogg, managing director of Leslie Jones Architecture, said: ‘We appreciate the sensitivity both of the issue locally and the quality of the artwork. The problem is a totally practical one.

‘The mural is built in-situ on a 300mm thick block of concrete which is on a suspended slab above a basement right in the middle of the site. The wall is part of a car park which is literally unsafe and has to come down.’

Ogg said that Waterman engineers have taken a ‘really hard look’ at what it would take to break the mural out and they came up with a figure of £1million because of the need for diamond drilling and the weights involved.

‘The detail of the mural is delightful but we have to appreciate the actual building it is embedded in, which is derelict and been declared unsafe for the best part of ten years,’ Ogg added.

According to Ogg the council has not reached any final decision on whether they can get any grant to fund the mural’s removal, but he hoped that demolition of the shopping centre will take place by Christmas and work start on site in the spring “so the issue is coming to a head and needs to be resolved.”

The late artist’s son, Oliver Budd, told that his dad would “probably be spinning in his grave” if he knew about the threat to his work.

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