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Illustrating city's history

26th September 2018
Art and designResearch

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Windrush, with celebrations planned across the country.  To mark the occasion, and as part of the city’s Black History Month events, Solent University has been working with the community to produce a large scale mural.

The 20ft x 8ft mural - the brain Child of Don John, one of the Black History Month South organisers - will take pride of place on the side of the fire station in the St Mary’s district of Southampton. We find out more about the creative and physical process of creating the mural from BA (Hons) Illustration course leader, Brian Reed – who worked alongside recent illustration graduate, Titilopemi Ajala (Tia), to realise the vision of the piece.

How did Solent get involved with the mural?

The University has worked with Don John on Black History Month events on a number of occasions over the years. I was introduced to Don in March and we’ve spent the last six months developing the mural, alongside Tia.

What is the aim of the mural?

The African Caribbean Centre (aka The West Indian Club) in Southampton, closed last year after over 40 years. The African-Caribbean community were one of the first migrant groups to settle in Southampton post WW2. The Windrush migration to the UK was a crucial element in laying the foundation for a multi-cultural society in the UK. Southampton provided an important gateway from the Caribbean and there were many who settled in the region and others who used Southampton as the stepping stone to the UK and beyond.

Black History Month South is supporting certain initiatives to mark the contribution The West Indian Club made to Black History in Southampton, and one of the ideas mooted was to design a mural, that would act as a memorial to the club and Windrush.

Tell us a bit about the processes involved in creating the piece...

It all began with a series of meetings, where we discussed format, content and symbols to be included. Then Tia and myself developed a few visual languages; elements of these are all featured in the final design. The design has changed and evolved over the last few months.

The initial artwork and figures were sketched out and hand drawn, then scanned in and digitally coloured, and the composition finalised.

Overseeing the printing of the mural is Simon Griggs, a technician instructor of photo technology at Solent. He told us how the five large boards that make the finished piece were printed.

What is the type of printer being used?

It’s our recently acquired Canon Oce Arizona UV flatbed printer. It’s similar to a standard inkjet printer used for digital photographic prints.

Tell us a bit about the print and how it reproduces the image on the board…

It has a flat bed, giving it the ability to print directly to the surface of a substrate. In the past we would print onto paper and then mount to a rigid board, this printer cuts out the mounting process. Additionally, the ink is UV cured as it prints so final pieces are weather proof and instantly touch dry.  You can print onto any flat surface including glass, fabric, wood...

We are using an aluminium composite board for the mural as it is light and strong.

How long did each board take to be produced?

The printer took around 45 minutes for each of the boards, but with loading the media and adjusting printer settings you’ re looking at about an hour for each section.