On December 19th, Banksy offered his own ‘Seasons greetings’ on his Instagram. The video begins with a picturesque mural of a child standing, arms outstretched, face tilted towards the sky with his tongue out to catch snowflakes ‘falling from the sky’ as the accompanying song says. The frame, shot by a drone then moves around the corner of the cinderblock building to show the source of the ‘snowflakes’: a burning dumpster. The drone pans upwards from the new mural to reveal the Welsh industrial town of Port Talbot. The mural then showed up on Banksy’s personal website claiming it as an authentic work by the artist. It is thought that Banksy drew inspiration from the recurring ash fallout from the steel factory in the town that continuously coats cars and homes.
The Port Talbot mural, located on a garage belonging to resident Ian Lewis, has instantaneously become famous. In the first two days, volunteers monitoring the artwork estimated that as many as 2,000 visitors came to see the painting. On the night of December 22nd, though, the mural was reportedly ‘attacked’ by what some locals have called a ‘drunk halfwit.’ The attach came just hours after half of the mural was covered by a plastic screen. On Sunday, the other half of the mural was also covered with the protective plastic screen. The culprit was chased away by a security guard after trying to bring down the plastic screens. Police were called but ultimately did not come to the scene. Since the event, additional security guards have been hired to monitor the graffiti art and traffic wardens have been called in to handle traffic flow. Actor Michael Sheen, who is from the Port Talbot area, has helped pay for security measures in an effort to keep the mural in-tact.
Gary Owen, a member of the Port Talbot community and purportedly contacted Banksy in August asking the artist to make the town the canvas for one of his street artworks, told the BBC:
‘It’s amazing and such an honour that Banksy chose to come and paint his latest piece in Port Talbot… We should be treasuring this privilege and it’s very sad that some people want to spoil it for everyone and give Port Talbot a bad name. I do fear it’ll become a target for some idiot who wants to make a name for themselves – and that’s sad.’
For now, the mural remains unharmed and open to the public, albeit a bit obscured by the plastic barrier encasing it. However, it will be interesting to watch how the mural is handled by the community and Lewis after the street artist has received so much press over the last year and the sale of street art becomes more and more prominent.