24 Years ago, Steve Cowlishaw walked past the Gloucester Road Bridge with a handful of pupils from Belmont School. Little did Steve know that what those young people said would inspire him to create one of the longest lasting and iconic pieces of public art in Cheltenham. The Charlie Chaplin mural, which was inspired by the pupil’s ideas, has been in Cheltenham since 1994 but in recent years the harshness of nature has put the artwork into a state beyond repair.

The only options were to let it rot or completely repaint it,  and with such history behind it, there’s no surprise that Cheltenham Borough Council chose the latter. Andy Dice Davies, who goes by the street artist name “Dice67” was asked by the council to bring the life back into the piece after Hannah Wright, local community volunteer, campaigned to save it. Andy explained his connection to the silent actor and said “I love Charlie Chaplin, I remember watching some of his movies as a kid”. Andy would often use the family cine-projector to watch the some of the chaplin films including The Great Dictator.

The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first speaking role and his speech is seen as one of the greatest ever made. Andy himself calls it “fantastic” end enjoy it so much he has linked it directly into the new artwork. Either side of the mural a QR code can be found which when scanned, takes you to that very speech.

The 2nd generation piece keeps a lot of the original styling while amplifying other features. Instead of the bridge simulating a filmstrip, Andy decided to paint the strip itself complete with frame borders and the reel holes. The windows on the original were also said to line up with the windows on the houses behind, Andy took this idea and applied it to the entire piece. There are footprints on the other side of the road which when stood on makes the trees, buildings and telegraph poles line up with everything behind it, giving an almost seamless and transparent look to the filmstrip. The 3D element “involved a lot of running back and forth” according to Andy which is why his father-in-law came out to help with getting the perspective just right.

Either end of the bridge there are two figures, one being a Chaplin himself and the other being a boy from a Chaplin film “The Orphan Asylum”. Both Charlie and the boy appear in the same frame during the film but Andy instead used them to book-end the piece and round it off. Another scene from the same film lies in the centre, it depicts Charlie and the boy sitting in a doorway.

Andy is an experienced artist with his work all over Cheltenham. His largest and most notable were the “Smile” piece in the Honeybourne Tunnels and “Merry christmas” where he painted his Daughter bursting through the wall like wrapping paper in North Place Car Park. Both of these murals are now gone or defaced but Andy has big plans for these areas in the future (as well as many other spaces in Cheltenham) so watch those spaces.

Andy is one of the organisers for this year’s Cheltenham Paint Festival in September, revitalising the Chaplin Mural got people interested in public art which should get them excited about the upcoming festival. It will play host to over 120 artists from around the world to turn cheltenham’s bland, empty walls into a canvas for some of the best street artists out there.


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1 Comments

Comments

  1. Dice
    Thank you for your kind comments. It was an honour to be able to refresh the original and I hope it lasts as long!

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