Tuesday night I cleaned my house. I put some stuff up the loft. I drove to Tesco and stocked up on Christmas cheese. I had a bath, and got into bed. I opened facebook absent-mindedly, and the top post was “A Banksy, in Port Talbot?” Thinking it was a joke I scrolled through the comments, and on discovering this supposed Banksy was at the back of my street my jeans and jacket and Buster’s lead were on in about 30 seconds.
Did I find it pretty sharpish? Yes?
(My own picture screengrabbed from Reddit so no credits here)
Did I believe it was a genuine, authentic Banksy? No.
Did I add to the Twitter storm the moment I clapped eyes on it? You betcha.
Minutes after I posted the tweet explaining how I wasn’t convinced (I believe I may have said something in the realm of “God his standards have slipped”) I had a Direct Message from Huw Thomas (from BBC Wales News) asking for the location and my opinion. I explained that while the kid looks like it could pass as Banksy, the sled and the dumpster really gave away that it wasn’t…. That they looked kind of sub-standard. (Yep, Charlotte who didn’t even take GCSE Art criticising a piece of art this well put together. I know I couldn’t do it and I wouldn’t even try.) The next day I had another message offering to express my views on camera. I was in work, and so declined…
Aaaaaand thank God I did, as later that day, a video of the artwork appeared on Banksy’s instagram entitled “Season’s Greetings.”
Cue dropped jaws throughout the town of Port Talbot. Cue an 8ft fence. Cue a security guard. Cue a caravan (??) And cue cars driving the wrong way up my one way street.
So… Why? Why Port Talbot?
Is it because earlier this year the World Health Organisation reported that Port Talbot was the most polluted town in the UK with 18 micrograms of pollution per cubic metre of air? Now, Port Talbot is home to one of few working Steel Plants in the UK, and the plant never stops running. It’s churning out steel, and with that, pollution, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But if those figures were correct, it would have meant that the little seaside town of Port Talbot would be leaving LONDON, infamous for its smog, in the (if you’ll excuse the pun) dust as London was reported to be producing 14 micrograms of pollution per cubic metre….
The day after the report was published, the WHO redacted their report and issued an apology, and that they had inadvertently nearly doubled the figures for Port Talbot which in fact stands at 9.6 micrograms per cubic metre.
Still pretty havily polluted, however, the correction is a fact that most publications are relishing leaving out reporting only that “Port Talbot was named most Polluted town in UK by World Health Organisation.” Pfft. Journalism at it’s finest.
The drone footage on Banksy’s page indicate that the Steel Works is definitely the main inspiration.
So that’s that cleared up. But why there? There is so much of Port Talbot, what’s special about that place?
This is an image from google maps, obviously before the Banksy artwork appeared.
The area to the very right of the garage, the grass behind the railings is where locals hold bonfires every Bonfire night. Fun fact: I once fell off those railings while doing a tumble toss and fell face first into the dirt. #Memories. This was another reason I didn’t think it was Banksy, and most likely just a local copycat (Bancsi?) expressing their feelings ont he bonfires.
Maybe its a coincidence. Maybe it’s not. Maybe we’ll never know.
My little tiny village had a lot of history already; Anthony Hopkins birthplace. Richard Burton’s Childhood home. And now a Banksy. Honestly, I’m with the rest of Port Talbot in thinking it’s very exciting. Yes, it’s a commentary on our home town’s pollution, but also it’s reported to be pushing the value of the area up quite dramatically. It’s attracting tourists from all over South Wales so far, according to my instagram feed.
If you swing by to see it – let me know, come and say hey and I’ll put the kettle on. Just please… don’t drive the wrong way up a one way street.