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Mural panels depicting the history of Bishop's Stortford are being showcased in a town centre twitchell.

The artwork has been installed on the side of Marks & Spencer, along with new lighting, in the alley linking South Street and Riverside, as part of a joint initiative between the store, the town and district councils, Bishop's Stortford Museum and Bishop's Stortford BID (Business Improvement District).

Finance came from the Welcome Back Fund, backed by the UK Government and European Union Regional Development Fund, to make town centres more inviting as Covid-19 restrictions eased.

From left, Bishop's Stortford Town Council chief executive James Parker, mayor Cllr Keith Warnell, Bishop's Stortford BID manager Gina Thomas and Marks & Spencer store manager Lee Goodwin
From left, Bishop's Stortford Town Council chief executive James Parker, mayor Cllr Keith Warnell, Bishop's Stortford BID manager Gina Thomas and Marks & Spencer store manager Lee Goodwin

Town council chief executive James Parker explained: "The objective is to showcase the mural, make it more accessible to the general public and make this well-used and important connecting alleyway, which doesn't appear to have a name, more attractive.

"The design of the M&S wall, broken up as it is into several panels, lends itself very naturally to an artwork of this nature, to complement the panelled nature of the wall whilst breaking up the large expanse of brick."

The mural is a copy of the original embroidery housed at the town's museum in the South Mill Arts complex in South Road.

Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince

It was created in 1990 and was the brainchild of Leila Riddell, a graduate in design and founder of the Bishop's Stortford Embroiderers' Guild. Upon moving to the town, she was inspired by its wealth of historic and interesting buildings.

It took 142 volunteers, including fellow embroiderers, members of the Townswomen's Guild, members o church groups in Bishop's Stortford and Little Hallingbury as well as schoolchildren four years to complete.

The original's seven panels depict different periods of the town's history from the Ice Age up to 1990. It was selected by art and embroidery historian Thomasina Beck as an exemplar of 20th-century needlework.

Bishop's Stortford BID manager Gina Thomas said: "Working with the town council and Marks & Spencer, we've been able to bring to life a great idea utilising funding from the Government. It's fantastic to see this walkway improved with fantastic work on display and better lighting."

Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince

The BID's plans for 2022 include earning Purple Flag status for the town centre, and improvements to the alley will boost those aspirations. The international Purple Flag accreditation programme recognises safe and thriving locations at night.

Gina said: "Meetings have already taken plan with East Herts Council and the Purple Flag team to get us started. We're planning a workshop with all organisations and stakeholders which will be led by Purple Flag to assess our current position and help us identify the areas we need to address."

Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince
Artwork in the alley next to Marks and Spencer, from South Street to Riverside, based on the town mural at South Mill Arts. Picture: Vikki Lince


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