A rich palette of colour has lit up Sunderland streets as part of a unique public art project.
From football legend Raich Carter to the Victoria Cross medal of a fallen World War One Sunderland soldier, to a strongman and Wearside’s first shipbuilder – all loom large on Hendon buildings for a street art trail.
Grafters’ Gables blends the brush strokes of artist Frank Styles with the pen of storyteller James Whitman.
Once completed, there will be seven murals in the area depicting real and fabled local characters from Hendon’s history.
Streets that have been brightened by the vibrant creations include Villette Road, Hastings Street, Marion Street and Mainsforth Terrace West, as well as the Blue House pub.
“Some are factual characters, but some we’ve elaborated upon,” explained Frank.
It’s all about accessible art, which you don’t have to go to a gallery to see.Frank Styles, street artist
“I’m in the process of completing the piece in Hastings Street which depicts the Battle of Hendon in 1795 involving the Sunderland Loyal Volunteers.
“It was a mock battle in preparation for the Napoleonic invasion, which obviously didn’t happen. It carried on down on the beach and ended up just being Sunderland men fighting each other. One guy even lost an eye. It’s an event few people know about.
“Another piece on Villette Road is inspired by tightrope walker Charles Blondin.”
Frank and James met with a local history group who were able to give them an insight into the area’s past. While Frank’s work adorns walls, James’ will form a novella which will be released as download on the project’s website — graftersgables.com — and will also be available from the lending library at Carnegie Community Centre.
Frank says his murals, which can take up to three weeks to complete, have caused a stir.
“Most of the response we’ve had from people has been really positive, especially the Raich Carter mural, which has turned out really well and has ended up being the flagship piece,” he said.
“There has been a small amount of residents who’ve objected, they think it devalues the properties here. We have the permission of all the landlords whose buildings have been painted upon and we are actually bringing money into the area with funding.
“It’s all about accessible art, which you don’t have to go to a gallery to see.”
Grafters’ Gables, which is supported by the Arts Council, Community First, Back On The Map and Sunderland City Council, will be launched on Saturday with a free guided tour.
Award-winning theatre company, TheatreSpace NE, will lead the tour of the murals and introduce the stories behind them.
Everyone is welcome to attend the event, which will begin at 5.30pm at the Carnegie Community Centre, formerly Hendon Library.