I have been involved with the Jurassic Coast since before the inception of the World Heritage Site. In that time, there have been plenty of ideas about communicating the Jurassic Coast message through art. The Jurassic Coast Mural, which has recently been unveiled in Exmouth, bubbled up out of the community of Exmouth with local people wanting to be part of communicating the story of deep time which the World Heritage Site represents.
One of our local Councillors, Alison Greenhalgh, someone with flair and vivacity and more energy than you would ever think is possible, wanted to see a mural painted on a plain rendered wall on the back of Leisure East Devon’s Ocean Building. She started making enquiries, doing research and pressing buttons all over the place and before you know it a project was born.
My role as one of the Ambassadors from the Western End of the Jurassic Coast (more accurately the Triassic and oldest part of the Jurassic Coast) was to facilitate using my knowledge of local government to make sure that all permissions were obtained and to ensure that resources were available to make this happen. Sadly, Alison died suddenly and unexpectedly before the project could get off the ground. All concerned felt a duty to see this through even though a blank 50 metre wall did seem – oh so big!
Meetings were held, planning schedules were drawn up and Gillie Newcombe and Graham Bell (pictured right with the nearly completed mural) from Exmouth Art Group which Alison had belonged to, were ready in the wings to take responsibility for the practical work. These two were amazing!
They decided to draw up a frieze to scale so that the actual work was drawn up in conceptual form in advance. This was, it turned out, a masterstroke because when obtaining permissions from the building owners and others it was possible to say, ‘Look at this and you can see what it will look like when complete’. The artwork sold itself. Local paint supplier and retailer David Wilson and his wife Linda had been looking to support a mural project in the town for some time and were delighted to donate the paint for the work.
The work started just after Easter 2017 and was completed in the beginning of July, with Gillie and Graham doing the lion’s share of the work with support from a small team of willing volunteers from Exmouth Art Group. Truly a mammoth effort! (although of course no mammoths existed in the time that was being portrayed.)
The mural shows many creatures from all over the world which would have lived during the Mesozoic era which is made visible by the cliff exposures along the 95 miles of the Jurassic Coast. From marine creatures to flying pterosaurs it is a visual feast ending with volcanoes and a meteorite reflecting the great extinction at the end of the cretaceous period.
The mural has been added into the Dinosaur Trail which runs around Exmouth and is included in the updated leaflet for the trail this year. Art Group member and Rotarian, Malcolm Pressey, never daunted by a project, took on the role of editor of the book which has been published to describe the story of the mural. It is aimed at families and children with a section in the middle where dinosaur shapes can be coloured in. It is a lovely publication which you can buy for £4 from me, with proceeds from it to be donated to the Jurassic Coast Trust.
An official unveiling with local dignitaries present was held on Thursday 27th July, which was a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work and thank all concerned of whom there were many. It also raised awareness of the World Heritage Site and the Trust in the Exmouth area.
We had to thank Gillie and Graham of course, and they were presented with golden paintbrushes and a framed photograph as mementos of an amazing achievement.