Nature inspired Street Art adds splash of colour to Saltdean WC's

by Sarah Ryman Spotlight on

Well known for her mural in the Brighthelm Gardens and social change art in The Banksy Tunnel, ‘S.o.S’ aka Sarah Gillings creates art that makes a difference. As an award-winning Sussex artist, Sarah has recently unveiled a brand-new nature-themed mural.

The neglected WC toilet block adjacent to the Saltdean tunnels was in desperate need of energizing and Sarah was commissioned to bring it back to life in the areas second phase of community funded regeneration. As people need to experience the outdoors more and more emphasis has been focused on creating inspiring and uplifting art.

As one of the artists commissioned by the Saltdean community for the fun and engaging mural in the Saltdean Tunnels earlier this year, along with fellow Brighton artist REQ, Sarah understands the benefit that public art can have on a community. The Saltdean Tunnels mural is a 360 immersive experience that reflects the wealth of marine life on The Living Coast, including dolphins and seals. The mural has brought joy and hope to residents and visitors during these uncertain and frightening times.

Sarah, aka ‘S.o.S’, first creates a digital vision of the mural, bringing in elements of the local area. Many of the species featured in Sarah’s work are endemic to Saltdean and need protection. This latest mural features 2 giant lifelike butterflies, bees, and a snail as well as local coastal flowers. The mural is then spray painted freehand by Sarah and her new apprentice Zara, who is learning the skills of public mural art from Sarah. Layers of weatherproof paint are gradually built up to give the vibrant and uplifting mural depth. It is then completed with a graffiti-proof wipe-clean covering.

The Saltdean WC’s mural painting was carried out whilst adhering to social distancing from the public and to health and safety guidelines.

Working with spray paint often brings its own challenges. The wind and rain we have experienced recently have hampered progress. Street art in Brighton, and surrounding areas, has been very much under discussion lately as it is often associated with antisocial graffiti, tagging and throw-ups. This is a perception that Sarah is working to change through her charity U CAN SPRAY – the UK’s first street art charity. U CAN SPRAY works with community groups and young people, as well as in prisons to positively re-engage people through the power of street art.

Sarah Gillings aka ‘S.o.S’, mural artist, said:

“Yet again the local residents of Saltdean show us that when you want to get something done – fund it collectively! I am so proud that my latest work created is bringing such joy to the people passing by. Some of the comments just keep me quite warm and fuzzy while I’m painting in the windy elements! The local area on the cliffs has a wealth of wildlife and seeing small creatures in huge proportions, I hope, will help us consider the environment more.”

Bridget Fishleigh, independent councilor for Brighton & Hove said:

"Sprucing up Saltdean seafront has been a real community effort. Thank you to everyone who contributed financially and rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in”

Comments from those following the mural progress on social media have been so encouraging, such as:

“This is incredible. Hooray for Saltdean heroes!” and “it looks great as you come over hill since it’s so bright.” The Brighton Dolphin Project also commented: “We love, love, love your work. Amazing job!”

The Saltdean WC mural is now available for all to see, leaving a legacy on Saltdean seafront for the community.

If you are taking a walk along Saltdean seafront front as part of your daily exercise, be sure to visit the tunnels and WC’s. Sarah would love to see your selfies with the murals and you can tag her using @streetartsos and #SaltdeanTunnelMural.

S.o.S aka Sarah Gillings is an award-winning East Sussex Inclusive Arts Practitioner (IAP) and you can read more about the Saltdean Tunnel project here

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