Just a stone’s throw away from his childhood home, is a new, rather striking portrait of the Cheltenham-born composer Gustav Holst. It is perhaps not the portrait you’d expect. There are three portraits of the composer in the town – two in the Holst Birthplace Museum, one in oil and one in ciment fondue, and of course there is the well known Gustav Holst Memorial Fountain in Imperial Gardens, showing Holst conducting in life size bronze. This new, arguably less conventional portrait has been created using spray paint on hoardings in North Place car park. It is a collaboration with Cheltenham Paint Festival’s Andy ‘Dice’ Davies and shows Holst in the uniform of a YMCA worker during WW1. The piece has been titled The Cultural Front: War Composition, and it is a response to Holst’s work during WW1 when he was Director of Music in Salonika with the YMCA. As well as Andy’s portrait there are posters pasted on the boards with hand printed headlines and content taken from the trench newspaper, The Balkan News. These are the work of Pittville School pupils and members of the public during letterpress workshops with the artist Andy Kinnear. Statements such as ‘A World of Complete Ruin’ and ‘Dust and Toil Race to Victory’, are given an added poignancy when separated from the actual newspapers themselves.

The Cultural Front: War Composition will be on display until the art work lasts. Street art is notoriously ephemeral. The North Place car park is the main site of this year’s Cheltenham Paint Festival, which takes places 8-9 September. Fortunately many of the works from 2017’s Paint Festival are still visible on the hoardings, although they are soon to be obliterated by the 2018 art works. It is hoped then that The Cultural Front: War Composition will last until 2019’s Paint Festival. We are sure that Holst would have approved, even though he was a famously reluctant portrait model!

The portrait is part of the exhibition Gustav Holst’s WW1 With the Salonika Forces at the Holst Birthplace Museum 10 July – 15 December 2018.

For more information about the exhibition and its events and activities for all ages see www.holstmuseum.org.uk

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