OPINION - Banksy or not, we're focusing on the wrong thing

The artwork depicts a man and a woman dancing while an accordionist plays.

The street art appeared on Admiralty Road in Great Yarmouth sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning. - Credit: James Weeds

Since Friday, there has been a lot of talk about whether Banksy is behind the street art pieces around Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft and Oulton Broad.

But people who are asking "who did it?" should be asking "what does it mean for us and how can we make the most of it?"

While it would be a fantastic gesture if the real Banksy had visited the local area and left his mark, it would be even better if we used this as an opportunity to highlight existing artistic and creative talent in the region.

What does it mean to us?

Artists who don't have the international fame of a Banksy - but who contribute regardless - could truly benefit from the attention these pieces have provided, as well as challenge locals to take more of a part in creativity themselves.

Currently in Great Yarmouth, there are so many artists and creative people working on projects based in the town and for people in the town.

For example, artist Greater Than (aka Justin Peach) hosted a weekly art club over lockdown via his Facebook page.

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He presented talks and Q and A sessions while giving tutorials on art skills and even used household items so people didn't feel pressured into spending lots of money on supplies.

Justin Peach/Greater Than working on The Feathers pub mural

Artist Greater Than, aka Justin Peach, working on the mural at The Feathers in Gorleston. - Credit: Greater Than

His focus was making art as accessible as possible because art is for everyone.

In September, Mr Peach also left canvases of his work across Great Yarmouth for people to take home for free to try to get rid of the stigma of art ownership.

"Art is something which should be shared," the artist said in conversation.

Mr Peach will be having another "Free Art Sunday" on August 22.

Another example is the skate art workshops in Cobholm, hosted by Freshly Greated.

A deck from the skate art workshop hosted by Freshly Greated in Cobholm.

A deck from the skate art workshop hosted by Freshly Greated in Cobholm. - Credit: Freshly Greated

The free workshops encouraged local residents to decorate skateboards alongside artists.

"The level of talent from people who don't claim to be artists is phenomenal," Rebecca Moore, director of Freshly Greated, said.

There are so many more examples in the areas where the Banksys have appeared, and hopefully more can appear as a result of the artwork which has sprung up recently.

How do we make the most it?

The recent displays (whether they were made by THE Banksy or not) are creating a buzz and this proves that so many people are interested in art and culture.

We need to embrace our creative sides to enhance the landscape of our lives.

The national focus on East Norfolk and Suffolk has been great for boosting the area's image, but now is the time for us to harness that boost and use it to make Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft and Oulton Broad better than they already are.

When Danny Boyle chose Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft as the backdrop for his movie Yesterday, it brought eyes on the area and some mild national interest. 

But once the cameras stopped rolling and the crews left, that was it.

As a region, we did not make the most of that exposure and use it as a platform to put forward some local talent who could really benefit from the attention.

Actor Hamesh Patel as Jack the singer in action during filming on Gorleston beach. Picture: DENISE B

Actor Hamesh Patel as Jack the singer in action during filming on Gorleston beach. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

However, we can learn from our mistakes.

With the City of Culture bid up for grabs, this could bring yet more eyes on Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. 

But eyes should be focusing on what already exists in these places and the bid should be used as a way of bolstering what we already have and encourage us to leave our legacy.

Once the street art has been verified and the national attention begins to dwindle, are we going to look back and remember this week as an exciting time as a famous artist had visited?

Or are we going to realise that Great Yarmouth is creative with lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved in art?

We can take it from here, Banksy.

For more information on Greater Than and Freshly Greated, visit their Facebook pages.