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Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 13:19 UK
Graffiti makeover for derelict Ipswich shop
Graffiti artist Scott King is watched by two people in a van, Ipswich
Passersby stop to take a look at Scott King's work

By Richard Haugh
BBC Suffolk

Three local artists are being paid to paint over a boarded-up shop in Ipswich to make the area more attractive.

Joel Millerchip, Scott King and Christian Nunn have been commissioned to produce a mural on the former Barnes carpet shop, Upper Orwell Street.

"The residents pretty much came up with the idea to put a mural on this building," said Val Peacock, from Ipswich Borough Council.

"It's been stood empty for years and looks an eyesore."

The mural is approximately 100 feet long and is the result of talks between Val, community development officer at the council, a local group called Wash Watch and the police.

The trio of artists were chosen for the mixture of styles and their work is being paid for by part ("around £2000") of a £3m government scheme called the empty shop revival fund.

Scott King says he's used his graffiti skills to turn his life around

"There's been a big initiative to do things to the empty buildings around the town, turn them into art projects just to make them points of interest instead of standing there empty," said Val.

"We've had a lot of comments about the fact there's a lot of premises stood empty, and I think people forget it's also a residential area as well as a trade area.

"I think a lot of the residents and traders will be really upbeat about the vibrancy it's going to bring and we're hoping if people are impressed by this they'll want it repeated around the town."

Nice place to doodle

The artists involved are happy to have the chance to exhibit their work on such a large scale.

"This is the biggest thing I've done," said illustrator Joel Millerchip, who along with Christian Nunn has hosted several collective exhibitions in Ipswich as Lielow & Sketch.

Joel Millerchip in front of his mural on Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich
Joel Millerchip wants to see more local artists show off their work

"When we first saw it we couldn't believe how big the canvas was."

Joel usually spends his time doodling in his sketchbook before finalising the images for magazines, flyers or, as part of his next project, a children's book.

His first day of work on the mural presented a new challenge, with last minute redesigns required after being surprised by the scale of the work.

But he was buoyant about the role such pieces can play in the local area.

"It brings communities together. Whatever they think of it, good or bad, it brings them together in discussion."

Joel's contribution includes references to Cardinal Wolsey, football and the nearby Spread Eagle pub and bookends the graffiti lettering of Scott King.

"I'm writing 'putting unity in the community' in old school lettering," said Scott. "Nice and plain so everyone can read it and enjoy it.

"To get the positive side of the art across is the main thing. I do little groups with kids to get the positive side of graffiti across - not the tagging, I'm dead against that."

The final touch will be added by Christian's 'abstract background'.

Mixed reception

Joel, Scott and Val say the reaction by passersby has been largely positive, with the encouragement already prompting talk of similar projects for the future.

However, across the road from the mural, one shop owner was less impressed.

Mural on Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich
The full scale of the mural, a couple of hours into the work

"I've been here since 1986 - it's completely deteriorated." said Michael Roberts, owner of Roberts jewellers.

"Most of the shops are empty and lots of the buildings need pulling down because they get people sleeping in them at nights."

Mr Roberts isn't against the mural, as such, but believes the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"When I see them doing this mural, it's pretty pathetic when they promised to build a new shopping complex, a hotel and some superstores in excess of 8000 square feet. What's happened? Nothing.

"I just feel that some of the people in charge of the council probably don't live in Ipswich and maybe some of them have never been in the road."

But could initiatives such as the mural help raise the profile of the area, and therefore attract new businesses?

"They've got no reason to come down here when all the shops are closed."

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