Riverside Mural for Larkrise Primary School


A mural that I have been painting for six months (mostly on sunny days) with the very talented and patient Ali Monk.  Last week a team of us (including Doug, Bob, Tom, Ed and Kes) installed the seven panels into the main hall at my local school, the Larkrise Primary School in East Oxford.  We are very grateful to the “Friends of Larkrise” for making this mural possible.  A special thanks to Mr. Ed finch for coordinating the design, planning and installation.

The mural features a picnic on the banks of the River Thames, in the countryside near Oxford.  The ‘dreaming spires’ are shown on the horizon to the left.  A young woman cycles along the tow-path pulling her son in a large bike-trailer.  A small narrow boat (with solar panels and a prolific garden on its bow) is tied to the tow-path.  In the distance three wind-turbines can be seen.  As we pan to the right we see a picnic of diverse and happy children, reading, painting, using a tablet, climbing, swinging and making music.

Each of the seventeen classes at the school is named after a different species of bird.  The children wanted each bird featured in the mural.  Luckily for me Ali is a knowledgeable bird-watcher and also a skilled painter.  She painted all 17 birds, and many of the flowers and other animals.  It was great fun working with her.

The right-hand end is the most wild, featuring a fox, a rabbit and a fallow deer. This end was inspired by our love of nature, and by the exciting and inspiring ideas in George Monbiot‘s book “Feral“.  Much of the scenery is framed with trees – archaeologists have found evidence that Britain was almost entirely covered with rainforest – and supported a vast range of large animals including lions and elephants.  Britain today has lost more than 98% of its trees, and as Monbiot explains so well, perverse EU subsidies encourage farmers (and other ‘land-owners’) to keep the hills bare, often using sheep to deplete our countryside.  These ‘sheep-wrecked’ landscapes lead to flooding, soil erosion and a loss of natural habitats.  Only a handful of rich people gain from this.  And many communities suffer from increased flooding as seen in the last few weeks in Cumbria, Yorkshire, etc.  If we reforested our hills the land would soak up and hold much more of the rainwater, and we’d lose less topsoil as erosion, wildlife would benefit, and people would also benefit in so many ways.  This mural suggests we evolve towards a more sustainable countryside, including rewilding.

While painting this mural we took photos once every 30 seconds.  We strung these photos together to make a simple and fun stop-motion animation film – just 10 minutes long.  The first half shows the painting, while the second half shows close-ups of many of the key parts of the mural.  Here is the film:

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