Saltdean Tunnel mural is ready for viewing

30 June 2020

A successful community project has emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic.

An epic public mural in Saltdean Tunnel which depicts the sea flora and fauna found below the The Living Coast has been completed by Brighton-based mural artists REQ and Sarah Gillings MA AKA S.o.S.

The mural is part of a wider project to spruce up Saltdean Tunnel which has been driven by local resident David Wilson and Bridget Fishleigh, Brighton & Hove’s Only Elected Independent Councillor.

David Wilson and Bridget Fishleigh, Brighton & Hove’s Only Elected Independent Councillor stand in front of the tunnel at Saltdean Lido

David Wilson and Bridget Fishleigh, Brighton & Hove’s Only Elected Independent Councillor

Volunteers have been working tirelessly for weeks repainting railings, power washing, weeding, and restoring the area pictured below to its former glory. As well as the anti-graffiti covered mural, new lights, a community noticeboard, and a new art deco ‘Welcome To Saltdean’ sign have been installed.

The project has been funded through crowdfunding with people able to sponsor a commemorative brick with a personalisd message on it.

The tunnel at Saltdean Lido before it was painted

The tunnel at Saltdean Lido before it was painted

Design concept and technique

REQ and Sarah drew their inspiration for the mural from Britain’s coastal waters with the goal of drawing attention to the beautiful creatures that live there. There seems to be an enduring misconception that the waters around the UK are murky, boring, and largely devoid of anything exciting.

The concept was to create the experience of being underwater with the many types of sea life we would find around British waters. The overall aim of the two local artists was to create a 360-degree immersive experience that the viewer feels part of rather than a scene to look at and feel detached from.

The duo has worked together on many successful projects along the south coast and this project was their first collaborative mural of 2020. This mural is an educational one, with lots to discover and children are really enjoying the oversized creatures.

As for the public feeling part of the process, it’s very clear the Saltdean Tunnel has now become a must-see destination which the whole community has taken pride and ownership in.

Selfie photo of Lara and Kim on the beach after a swim

The mural takes shape

The mural-painting duo does not use stencils or grids for their large scale artworks, which are painted completely freehand in spraypaints. Their unique technique of blending creates very realistic and high-production-value results which is why they were recommended for this commission.

During the painting process, the general public has been very excited about the developments and have been posting selfies and images all over the internet. SOS’s album has been shared over 600 times and the daily updates by David on the Saltdean Notice Board on Facebook, have been met with so many positive comments by everyone. The Hashtag #SaltdeanTunnelMural can be used on social media for public images and everyone involved with the project is keen to see all the fun photos people are taking.

An octopus detail in the mural at Saltdean Lido

David Wilson said: “There’s no doubt that Sarah and REQ have created a modern masterpiece which brings joy to everyone who walks through the tunnel. The mural is so bright and vibrant. Every time I look at it I see something different.”

S.o.S & REQ were commissioned for the mural last year, however, due to COVID 19, the work had to be delayed. The effects of Covid19 have been quite severe for freelance artists and musicians especially, and award-winning S.o.S was fortunate to receive funding from Arts Council England to bridge the gap of her live painting & teaching cancellations (which total £12, 000) by supporting her with a grant for professional development. However, the creative duo is keen to continue to paint murals for other local businesses and community groups; as mural painting is a fairly solitary occupation because it’s not undertaken around the general public, and lots of venues are still closed.

Looking from one end of the Saltdean Lido tunnel to the other with clear view of sealife mural painted on walls

The Saltdean Tunnel mural painting itself was carried out whilst adhering to strict social distancing from the public, however, the artists and helpers worked together in a safe way to ensure that the painting progressed well and adhered to health and safety. Therefore during painting times, the tunnel was closed to pedestrians to avoid too many people in the tunnel at one time as the artists had a considerable amount of ladder and scaffold tower work.

The public has been enjoying being able to have outings and to visit Saltdean beach, and have been eager to see the mural. Some people have traveled from long distances to come and see the attraction. Whilst it’s a difficult time coming out of lockdown it’s heartening to see how a real community project by its members can ignite hope and inspiration amongst the general public.

All images copyrighted to Karen Clark Photography

by Sarah Ryman

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