Bird murals put village on the global map

A CONTROVERSIAL art display in Seahouses has attracted worldwide attention.

The two brightly-coloured eight-foot tall billboards featuring murals of resident birds have been the cause of conversation since landing in the village a month ago.

It has sparked a mixed reaction, and some residents are in a flap over the 2,500 temporary installation, which is positioned on the exterior walls of the public toilets on Seafield Road.

Parish councillors have called for the 'hideous' display to be removed, while one villager has claimed the 'eyesore' turns Seahouses into a 'mini Blackpool'.

Now the debate has gone global.

People from as far away as Pakistan and the USA have flocked onto online message boards to discuss the bird-themed artwork, after the story appeared on countless websites, including the British Toilet Association – under the section Latest Toilet News – and the ornithology site, birdguides.com.

The project, led by Inspire Northumberland and the Seahouses Development Trust, has received a positive response from abroad, with one overseas fan describing it 'a treat to see'.

Amy Judd from Vancouver, in Canada, was full of praise for the display, writing on nowpublic.com: "I love this, what a great idea."

The project, created by artist Stuart Mugridge, is an interpretive piece, to encourage residents to see the village in a different light.

It has been designed to relate to the heritage and character of Seahouses and features an eider duck – a regular visitor to the harbour – and the yellowhammer, to represent the land.

Rumana Husain, a graphic designer from Karachi, Pakistan, also wrote on nowpublic.com, saying: "Wall chalking/graffiti art is used all over the world as footnotes from people living on the margins of metropolises. But the clever use of public art such as this one, also with a purpose to raise awareness and discourse, is a treat to see."

And Cristian Prez, of Forti in Spain, has praised the work for raising awareness of the area's wildlife.

Writing on drummerportfolio.blogspot.com, he said: "The painted duck belongs in the county's wildlife. The painter was thinking to teach the people to respect the surroundings because there is a huge wetland where the birds live and reproduce."

Jon Riley, chief executive at the Trust, is amazed the artwork has captured the imagination of people across the world.

He said: "It is surprising, but it is what we hoped for. We hoped that it was going to attract people's attention.

"It has put Seahouses on the global map."

The artwork is part of the Seahouses Townscape Development Project, funded as part of Northumberland Tourism's Market Town Welcome scheme.

The regenerative project aims to creatively improve the village's overall physical look with the longer-term proposal to incorporate designs for new seating, lighting, signage and visual colour scheme.

Mr Riley added: "The main aim (of the artwork) was to catch people's attention locally but it shows what goes on with the internet, and with all the press coverage, it has been picked up worldwide.

"In a way that is the aim of the Market Town Welcome project. It is all about encouraging tourists to come to Seahouses, getting them to spend their money and support the economy."

Mr Riley also said he was delighted that the display had sparked discussion and hoped it would create interest in the future regeneration plans.

"The creative work surrounding the public lavatory is aimed at generating a sounding board for public response.

"We wanted to put up a temporary piece that would enable people to voice their opinion – good or bad – about the village.

"This is a productive way of starting the consultation process about the regeneration plans – as we are looking for local people to help cultivate the design and planning procedure."

On the back of the billboard project, Northumberland County Council has agreed to upgrade the inside of the toilets.

l The consultation plans for the Seahouses Townscape Development Project will be exhibited at the Trust offices in the village from the week commencing Tuesday, June 1 between 9am and 5pm.

For more information, call 01665 721868 or email nssdt@seahouses.org