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Wales Online
Wales Online
Nathan Bevan

'We'd turn these grey, unloved urban spaces into bright, colourful landscapes': The street artists transforming Welsh towns

For some it's seen as vandalism and a blot on the landscape. For others it's a way of breathing new life into rundown areas and adding colour to drab urban backdrops.

And the latter is certainly true in the case of a group of graffiti artists tasked with brightening up the less inviting parts of one south Wales borough. This trio of budding Banksys from Bridgend have been transforming rundown landmarks with some striking spray paint murals - most recently turning a dark and dingy underpass in Porthcawl into a vividly bright underwater wonderland.

They are the work of Ryan Lee Davies - AKA Another Day, Another Spray - and THEW Creative, which is made up of brothers Matthew and Aiden Cole. All three are from the Avon Valley and their work is part of Bridgend County Borough Council's aim to replace 'hateful and divisive aerosol art with uplifting, welcoming and positive expressions'. You can get more Bridgend news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

READ MORE: The jaw dropping street art in Cardiff and the stories behind them

Grey, unloved urban spaces have been turned into bright, colourful landscapes (Ryan Lee Davies)

"I first met Matthew and Aiden about 18 months ago whilst doing some murals over on Bridge Street in Port Talbot, which is kind of a free space where graffiti artists can display their art," said steelworker Ryan, 48 - a self-professed fan of street art from a young age. "We did ones of (late drug kingpin turned best-selling author) Howard 'Mr Nice' Marks, the actor Ivor Emmanuel (of Zulu fame) and musician Maxi Jazz from Faithless - that one went up as a tribute to him not long after he passed away last December.

"The great thing about it is that it shows how graffiti isn't just about people tagging their names over everything or scrawling abusive words. It can actually be beneficial to the local area.

"And what we were doing got a great reaction, pretty soon after which we were being commissioned to do stuff elsewhere." A series of make-overs under the council's Positive Messages Campaign banner then took place, transforming dark and dingy underpasses and walkways.

A foxy make-over in Brackla (Bridgend County Borough Council)
A maritime scene for a seaside town like Porthcawl (Ryan Lee Davies)

"We'd turn these grey, unloved urban spaces into bright, colourful landscapes. Take, for example, the subway in Bridgend's Broadlands which we decked out with birds, badgers, flora and fungi.

"We also made the town's Brackla and Merthyr Mawr subways much more inviting for people to walk through," said Ryan. He added that the former also got a pastoral make-over, with foxes, butterflies and adders, while the latter was filled with hope-themed kaleidoscopic colours and patterns.

And the team's latest effort is in Porthcawl, where another underpass received an uplift - this time with vivid oceanic imagery to complement the town's seaside setting. "Now it's like walking through a marine aquarium," said Ryan. "We've been getting no end of compliments about how it's brightened up the place. It's actually become quite an attraction, with some people even bringing their kids down to see it."

He added that artists like Banksy had helped raise the profile of street art over recent years, as well as changing public opinion towards it. "I teach school workshops in how to do it and it's clear the kids love it. So I'm hoping there's a whole new generation out there who'll grow up to work wonders with a spray can."

Porthcawl councillor Neelo Farr, BCBC Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: "What a sight to behold. The images have a direct impact on residents, transforming the potentially barren environment into one which is vibrant, energising and inviting." She added that anti-graffiti paint was to be coated onto all of the street art projects to "ensure that our strong, positive community ethos will not be stamped out."


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