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Sunday, July 25, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK

Special Report

Graffiti makeover smartens shops

Children on the community project start brightening up the shops

Street artists have thrown off their image as vandals with an invite to "tag" a row of Welsh of shops, with the owners' blessings.

Traders have teamed up with Torfaen County Borough Council to rope in youngsters from the area to brighten up the shopping area of Blenheim Square, at Fairwater, in Gwent.

No questions are being asked about the artists' backgrounds, with the invitation to let their spray cans do the talking.

[ image: Patrick Graham:
Patrick Graham: "Here, young people get to do what they want."
A local company has donated paint and the council plans to get together a group of local young people to create a really exciting mural.

The graffiti artists mixed in with other local children eager to get stuck in and paint the security shutters with a mural.

Project spokesman Patrick Graham said the talents of the spray painters could be put to good use by a community normally wary of such activities.

'Tempting canvas'

"The array of shutters on the shops can be a bit bleak, and some would say a very tempting canvas for those who want to express themselves," said Mr Graham.

"Most often, young people get told off for writing on walls - here they get to do what they want.

"Hopefully, it will keep going into something positive and the old and young will have some respect for each other."

Describing it as "hard work as well as fun", he said he hoped that those who were unable to resist the urge to "decorate" the shutters would turn up instead to contribute.

Other community projects on the cards include getting young offenders to grow organic vegetables for local consumption, Mr Graham added.

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