Locals Scramble to Protect Banksy Mural in Wales
Getting a Banksy of your very own without having to endure the tumult of the art market might seem like a dream, but for Ian Lewis, a resident of Port Talbot, Wales, the realities of having a mural by the notorious street artist has turned into a logistical nightmare.
Banksy completed the work, dubbed Seasons Greetings, on Lewis’s garage just before Christmas, and the arrival of the work has turned the Welsh steel town into an instant tourist magnet, with some 2,000 people a day visiting Lewis’s property. Initially, the community came together to pay for protection around the mural, with local arts organizations and the actor Michael Sheen (who attended college in the town) all chipping in. Officials in the area have taken over and are bearing the cost of protecting the mural and say they’re looking for a long-term solution.
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In addition to the issue of protecting the artwork, there’s a concern about whether the mural will stay in Port Talbot at all. The community is growing concerned that Lewis could sell the work and have it removed from the town. Though, reportedly, Lewis wants the mural to stay in Wales as much as everyone else.
Bethan Sayed, an assembly member in the locality, spoke to Lewis about the matter and relayed his comments to The Guardian: “I want it to stay in Port Talbot, to stay in Wales. It’s brought attention to the town and I want to support that. They’re making Banksy mugs, coasters, T-shirts and stuff in the town to sell to the tourists. We’re getting 2,000 people a day visiting the garage, from as far away as Australia. I think someone wants to write a play about it. I can’t keep up with all the messages.”
Shops in Port Talbot have begun to sell Banksy souvenirs emblazoned with the mural, and some local establishments have put signs in their windows saying “Banksy must stay.”
“The most important thing is that it stays here,” said Port Talbot resident Faye Morgan. “This is its home. It makes sense here and nowhere else. I think Banksy gave it to the town, not to one person.”