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Artist James Mankiewicz standing next to his mural, 'My Grateful Face'

A vibrant mural celebrating gratitude has been added to Portsmouth City Council’s Somerstown Street Gallery project, with local artist James Mankiewicz speaking of ‘brightening up peoples’ day’ with his eye-catching painting.

The mural, titled ‘My Grateful Face’, will now be followed with artwork by local street artists, school children, charities, youth clubs, professionals and amateurs who will help decorate the site boundary surrounding two tower blocks that the council is bringing down.

A collaboration between Portsmouth community art project The Grateful Arts Club and artist James Mankiewicz, the artwork was originally conceived as a beer can label to celebrate the first Grateful Arts Club x Motiv8 exhibition in September. Gratitude coach Charla Grant, founder of Portsmouth-based The Grateful Hearts Club, launched the community arts project in July 2021, and immediately embarked upon a series of workshops with the young people of Motiv8, a Portsmouth charity that works towards improving the life chances and opportunities for young people and their families.

Charla said ”The ultimate expression of gratitude is giving back, and that is what TGAC is all about”.

”Our aim is to engage and inspire people in gratitude through art. The mural celebrates these things, along with the abundance of creativity in our city and the power of community”.

Somerstown Street Gallery ‘brightening up peoples’ day’

James – a graphic designer and illustrator from Portsmouth – said: “Stained glass was the inspiration for this colourful guppy face. It surprises me how much colour improves your mood. I really love it when, at the right point of the day, the sun hits this mural, hopefully brightening up peoples’ day”.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to turn my design into a bigger piece. I would love to paint more bright and colourful murals like this.”

Cllr Darren Sanders, cabinet member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness, commended the collaborative nature of the mural. “It’s a fantastic addition to this project”, Cllr Sanders said. “The mural reflects the community spirit that runs through Somerstown and shows what can be achieved when people work together”.

Get involved

The council is appealing for more local artists, schools, charities and community organisations to come forward to work with them to decorate the hoardings with their local artwork. The site boundary also includes Somerstown Self-Portrait Gallery – nearly 650 self-portraits by local children and adults. Email molly.penney@portsmouthcc.gov.uk if you would like to get involved.

Exciting redevelopment plans

The project to carefully and safely bring down Horatia House, in Meriden Road, and Leamington House, in Earlsdon Street, is progressing well and is due to be completed late next year. The council is working with a community panel to put together plans to improve the site, and the wider area, for the people who live there, after the blocks have come down. The council and the community panel have said that they will create a high quality, sustainable, mixed-use urban neighbourhood. The community panel – which is at the centre of both the deconstruction and redevelopment projects – includes local people, resident groups, businesses, people who used to live in the blocks, schools and charities from Somerstown and the surrounding area.

The group has been meeting every month since March 2021. If you would like to join the community panel; call Tim Raw on 07901 100537 or email tim.raw@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Find out more

The council also hosted lighting workshops, public open drop-in sessions and play and plant events in the area surrounding the blocks this summer to find out how people want the area improved.

A Forest of Somerstown free community art session – as well as another public open drop-in exhibition, to give local people a chance to look at the plans for the area and to share their views – will be held on the corner of Earlsdon Street and Melbourne Place from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 27 November. The event will include free cakes, free hot drinks, a DJ and free wreath-making craft for adults and children. Everybody is welcome.

Go to www.horatialeamington.portsmouth.gov.uk to find out more about the project. On the website you can watch project videos and find every document relating to the deconstruction of the blocks and the redevelopment of the area.