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Give Peace A Chance & Gladiator Murals at Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy – The Movie

Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy, Balderstone Close, Leicester LE5 4ES

Give Peace A Chance Mural at Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy

24.4 – 3.5.17

‘All we are saying

Is Give Peace A Chance………….’

A wall alongside the previously painted ‘Casablanca’ mural, intended to appear as a stained glass window with ‘Peace’ as its theme. The design is based upon ‘Dove of the Holy Spirit’ c.1660, above the Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Rowlatts Hill Primary School, Balderstone Close, Leicester LE5 4ES

Titchmarsh Primary/Warmington School

‘Sharing Day’ Mural


‘I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner’

The words of John Lennon, and the story, as he told it, about how the song ‘Instant Karma’ was produced. It’s slightly inaccurate. It was written and recorded in a single day, Tuesday 27 January 1970, but not actually released until 13 days later however this detail is irrelevant.

The point he was making was to stress the speed achieved within a working timeframe from concept to realisation. An improvised idea was developed and manipulated, then embellished into a finished item which retained the energy and spontaneity with which it was produced. He successfully captured a moment in time as compelling today as the day it was written. Although it is not always the case, sometimes the best results can be achieved when working with impulse and allowing serendipity to play its part.

Once upon a time, in a world long ago, I worked in a design office. The name above the door, ‘Fast Art Fast Print’, reflected the nature of the activity inside the building. The nature of the job was to produce good quality design into print, and quickly. To steal a well known advertising slogan, it did exactly what it said on the tin. They were good days and the first time I’d worked in a graphic environment. The design process was alien to me, I was on a very steep learning curve but soon recognised the demands of the commercial world, and it has influenced my working method ever since.

My aforementioned graphic background and the ever-present influence of Lennon, as well as my previous experience of such large scale painting, was worth its weight in gold with this ‘Bigger Picture’ project. I received a ‘late notice’ email to ask if I was available and if I would like to be involved. The next day a telephone conversation outlined details for the ‘Sharing Day’ project and the following day painting began. Not exactly ‘Designed at Breakfast, Painting by Lunch and Finished for Dinner’ – but it came pretty close.

The mural was completed in two working days. Six different groups of children, arriving at 40 minute intervals, played their part on the first day; some worked with felt pens on paper with a view to creating a large graphic picture, others used stencils and painted directly onto the wall with their fingers. My role initially was as adviser and guide in order that the basic composition took shape, then as artist to complete the image, tidy and clarify previously painted marks as appropriate and to include some lettering.

The finished painting is a success as a co-operative project and works as an illustration of a particularly special day on the school calendar. On Friday 18th October, Titchmarsh Primary and Warmington School joined together to engage in a ‘Sharing Day’ involving Painting, Poetry, Science, Music, Numeracy and Physical activities. The mural is certainly a reflection of the energy, enthusiasm, exuberance and effort of that fast paced day. A moment in time, captured in paint. Instant Karma? I’d say.

SLATER-MondayPMMonday – PM

A new year, another bigger picture project. It was suggested toward the end of last year by Iain Erskine, Head of Fulbridge School, Peterborough. ‘I’ve a job I’d like you to think about,’ he said, ‘for the gable over the front entrance’. I’ve painted gable ends before but never within the confines of a triangle, so it was new territory.


The subject of the painting was to celebrate the conversion from school to academy status, as well as an opportunity to upgrade and perform necessary maintenance to the front of the building. It would also highlight and promote its reputation as a school of creativity.

The school’s mission is ‘Unlocking Potential: We believe that if we give children the roots, they will grow wings and fly’. Being an avid follower of Jethro Tull since the late sixties, this concept naturally caused their 1995 album ‘Roots to Branches’ to spring to mind and images began to fill my head. A composition I painted in 1981 also became an important source and influence too. After discussing ideas with Iain I began producing a variety of designs based primarily upon these two themes before presenting him with an initial scribble, which was then taken further as a coloured visual.


The central motif is based upon the Fulbridge oak tree logo, with entwined roots spreading far and wide. White doves are scattered around the composition which increase in size as they take to the air. The school motto reflects and softens the angle of the gable and the new academy name takes pride of place. Two small child figures are located like bookends to each side, holding a paper chain of figures. There are many cultures and languages spoken within the school, and this motif shows that all children entering the building are as one, with an equal opportunity to shape their own future.

The painting from which these two figures were taken was painted in sepia tones, and I decided I would employ a similar palette for this project. The gable of wooden boards has been in place for several years, so I felt there shouldn’t be a dramatic and stark change. After all, the school is already ‘outstanding’ and its policy remains the same, there is no need to make it appear that it has become a different place. A sepia tone would not only look similar to the wooden boards but would also have a timeless quality, which was why my original composition was painted with such a palette.


The image began life as a drawing commission from a chum to illustrate an apolitical ‘social ideal’. It is titled ‘Imagine’ and was my response to the assassination of John Lennon. It illustrates a simple but enduring message, one relevant to every generation if we are going to live together in harmony and with respect for each other. It was painted in oil on canvas and I wrote a poem to accompany it.


Imagine a time
with no mass unemployment
Imagine a world
without nuclear deployment
Imagine all people
respecting each other
Imagine them living
as sister and brother
Imagine all countries
without class distinction
Imagine world wildlife
with no fear of extinction
Imagine no hunger
no greed and no poor
Imagine no hatred
no malice, no war

It is a sentiment that is never out of date, and relocating the figures from this painting to the new composition was like passing the baton. It felt the right thing to do.

    Haze. Sleep. Dream. Nightmare
    Suddenly. Without warning
    Prostrate. Hanging on

    A deep rooted pain
    Aggressive and insistent
    And out of this world

    Air gasped through gritted teeth
    Ribs crushed tight in hot barbed wire
    I refused to leave

    The other side called
    I almost lost ev’rything
    But wouldn’t let go

    My spirit tested
    But Black Sunday came too soon
    – I wasn’t ready

On 21st November 2010 I suddenly found myself lying on my living room floor, tied up with red hot barbed wire crushing my chest like a garotte. At least, that’s what it felt like. I was fighting for every breath in excruciating pain, the like of which I’ve never experienced before nor ever want to again. When asked its strength on a scale of 1 to 10 by a paramedic, I replied “89!!!” – to have simply replied “10” would have been far too tame, this was well off the scale. I haven’t the faintest idea how long I had been on the floor, all I can remember is how hard I had to concentrate on dealing with the pain and trying to breathe – and the realisation that my wife Henri had saved my life. I was in shock, confused, and hanging on by my fingernails until the second injection of morphine kicked in. From nowhere, and without warning, I felt my end had come and the only thought in my head was about staying alive. It was a nightmare, and I wanted to wake up. Unfortunately the nightmare was reality, I had to accept that it really was me in that desperate position. I thought I had a heavy cold coming on, instead it was pneumonia and pleurisy, and when I arrived at hospital the x-ray showed I had only one lung working. I developed other complications too, and was in hospital for 23 days. When I left I felt I’d entered another world. The reflection in the mirror was changed, winter had arrived, everywhere was covered with snow and the price of petrol had shot up by 15p a litre!


Now, twelve months later, to describe this event as life changing would be too predictable and melodramatic. Nevertheless it’s certainly given me food for thought. What happened that day turned my world upside down. There has been plenty of time for reflection, contemplation, rumination, deliberation, consideration, meditation, and frustration – but most of all, the last twelve months has been about recovery, and starting again. It’s been a very strange year, and a long one, but at the same time it’s passed in the wink of an eye. Life can be like that sometimes.

    From out of nowhere
    Something came to collect me
    The choice wasn’t mine

    Parcelled up in pain
    Unsure of destination
    Bound, weighed and measured

    For Delivery?
    For Recycling? Or Disposal
    Promised land? Or Dump!

    But winged ‘Postman’,
    Celestial ‘Bin man’ or
    ‘Courier’ no-showed

    With address unknown
    I was returned to sender
    For collection later


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