On our New Years walk from Baglan Burrows to Port Talbot Aunty and I made a brief detour to visit Tai Bach’s newest attraction. Just before Christmas the news was full of the story of a piece of street art that had appeared overnight on the sides of a concrete garage. Now this wasn’t just a bit of graffiti sprayed onto the walls by a local, but Banksy had made a clandestine overnight visit to the back of a street of Terrance houses in Tai Bach. After the recent publicity Banksy works of art have received, either being stolen from the walls of buildings or paintings self shredding after being bought for huge sums of money in an art auction, this was a real news story and this new addition to the catalog was attracting a lot of attention.
Banksy paintings invariably have a strong social and political message, and this one is no exception. Viewed from one side of the garage it appears that a young boy is enjoying the sensation of playing in the snow. But change your perspective slightly and you can see that this is just an illusion, what we thought was snow is in fact ash falling from a skip fire. Speculation is rife why he chose Tai Bach, and because Banksy is such a secretive individual we may never know, but the when you consider the position it does make a little more sense. Tai Bach is sandwiched between the hulk of the Port Talbot steelworks to the south and the concrete viaduct of the M4 motorway to the north. Not even the locals would admit its a pretty place to life. It’s functional and had grown up to provide housing for the workers. Recent declines in employment opportunities following the closures of heavy industry in the surrounding area, and recent layoffs from the steel works gives the village a slightly decaying feel.
As soon as it was confirmed that it was indeed a Banksy the local council had to decide on what actions were needed to protect it from either vandals while may seek to destroy the work, or thieves who might wish to steal part of the garage. So out came a security man, and a rather unfortunately botched attempt to protect the paintings by covering them with Perspex. Whilst I can understand the need for this, the way in which it has been done has debased the work and made it difficult to seen as it was was intended. Hopefully a better solution will come soon. Because of the perspective it was impossible to get a clear photo of the painting, so I apologise for the poor quality here.
The word on the street is that the owner of the garage has already been offered £2 million. This must be a very difficult offer to refuse, and I don’t think anyone would blame him if he did decide to sell. Money here is difficult to come by. But it would be a shame to do so. It is almost certain if it was bought by some rich person who feels that their money can buy anything they want, it would never be seen again by the public and community is was intended for. Taking this painting away from the context of the area, without the backdrop of the steelworks, would make it a sterile piece of work. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but money can be selfish.