Mural hailing Becontree estate history unveiled
PUBLISHED: 14:24 28 October 2014 | UPDATED: 14:24 28 October 2014
After months in the making, a colourful mural depicting the history of the Becontree estate was officially unveiled to the public on Saturday.
Filling the east wall of Valence House’s visitor centre, the retro-tinged design charts the estate’s heritage through a winding street, from the first cottages built for the government’s “Homes fit for Heroes” scheme right up to the present day.
The unveiling included free family art activities, tea and cakes and an opportunity to discover local films, photos and stories.
“There were a lot of children and it was very different from an ordinary art opening, much warmer and more friendly,” the mural’s designer, Chad McCail, said.
“Our hope is that people will walk past the wall and it will attract their attention so that they will come and look at it and ask questions - and go into the archive to find the answers.”
He thanked each and every resident who helped contribute to the project for their involvement before dedicating the mural to MA history student and volunteer painter Matt Benjamin.
“He was fantastically dedicated and helped right from the beginning, doing absolutely everything,” Chad said. “He’s only young but he was really fantastic - although everybody was so good.
“There were three elderly ladies in particular who helped towards the end and did a lot of painting up on the scaffolding through the wind and rain. Without them it just wouldn’t have got done.”
The five by ten metre mural was the Lanarkshire-based figurative painter’s first but he hopes that it won’t be the last - and he promises that he will return soon to see all his new friends in the borough.
Chad was chosen to create the mural by a panel of residents back in July. He set up a studio in Valence House the following month and used a combination of residents’ memories and archive material to help formulate a design before finally spending about a month painting it.
Mahatma Ghandi’s 1931 trip to Kingsley Hall are among the historic moments highlighted, along with a seldom-known visit of the Hitler Youth in 1938, the Blitz, Dagenham carnivals and strikes of the ‘70s.
Entering the 21st Century, the mural paints a picture of the borough’s diverse community uniting to oust the British National Party in 2010, before finishing with children playing together.
Valence House archivist Clare Sexton, who has been involved in the project since its inception in May, is pleased by the finished result.
“The mural’s for everybody so it is nice that it is so visible and big and bold and colourful and has a timeline that really tells a story,” she said.
“It’s been brilliant because the mural has been inspired by the community and painted by the community, in part, as well.”
Supported by the council, Creative Barking and Dagenham and Valence House, the project was a collaboration between Historypin, the Barbican and Create London.