Freshen-up planned for landmark Rugby mural

A much-loved Rugby mural is to be given a freshen-up and recognised as an example of how the community can come together to help create and cherish public art.

Artist Katie O pictured at the mural ahead of work to refresh the colours of Helga Windle's design.
Artist Katie O pictured at the mural ahead of work to refresh the colours of Helga Windle's design.

Highly-regarded artist Helga Windle produced the Icarus and Mermaid mural in 1995 at the Crowthorns underpass in Brownsover, fronting the busy Boughton Road.

In the years since, it has been loved and left untouched by the graffiti that has been repeatedly sprayed on the other side of the underpass and across the wider area.

In recognition of its unique standing, a Rugby borough councillor has put its freshening up as the first step of an extension of the artist’s vision and an encouragement of a new response to public art and graffiti by the council.

The late Helga Windle who created the mural in 1995.

Cllr Wayne Rabin is leading the effort through the community interest company Help Good Grow he established after being elected in 2020 as a councillor for Newbold and Brownsover.

He said: “I established it to develop local initiatives that communities care about to tackle challenges, 'helping good grow' and influencing positive change by creating links with community groups, arranging resource from local businesses and providing financial support.

“The late Helga Windle created the mural in 1995. I understand she felt passionate about bringing the Brownsover community closer together and set about engaging schools and the wider community to create the murals.

"Helga worked tirelessly on creating the stunning mural we see today. She directed groups of school children and families to paint the inside of the underpass – with images of birds and the sky on the Icarus side and images of sea creatures on the mermaid side.

"This mural has lasted over 27 years untouched by graffiti, whereas the other side has been repeatedly covered with graffiti tagging annually. This showed me that the community art has a shared respect amongst all members of the community.”

Cllr Rabin expects the project to be in three phases:

- Artist Katie O from Coventry is due to work on bringing back the colours to the original vibrancy next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, September 28-30, with Rugby Scaffolding having offered to install the platform required for this to happen.

- Repainting the inside of underpass as most of the images are very weather worn. The plan to involve the same schools that were involved in 1995 (Boughton Leigh Primary and Avon Valley). Cllr Rabin said many of the children involved then are now parents with their own children – and want to be involved. The hope is to do this soon once support and funding has been found for materials.

- The final phase will be to create a entirely new mural on the other side of the underpass – the side that Helga Windle could not finish – as a tribute too the late artist, possibly next spring.

Two businesses which supported the original work in 1995 – Tad Zapaznik Plumbing Services and Gridline Foundations – have made donations this time and County Cllr Jill Simpson-Vince has given a grant from her councillor's fund.

In his borough council role, Cllr Rabin raised the issue of graffiti in motion to council in September and then chaired a task group that has recommended a range of new initiatives to respond to graffiti in a review published in July.