Now, the idea of projecting images is far from innovative, and light projections connected to historic buildings are common place around the world. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt the idea has some merit, and would certainly attract an audience for the one or two nights when it might be displayed, but that, it would appear, would be the extent of the display. Initial costs cited in the media put the display at a whopping £30,000, for a single (presumably) night time showing, and no more.
Again, costs are costs, and are to be expected. However, I can’t help feel that the lack of permanence would be a real problem with this concept. Without wanting to get too distracted by revisiting the long since demolished Chartist mural, it is important to consider why this was important in the community.
The Chartist mural was not an outstanding piece of artwork. Complex, technically impressive yes, but not something that the National Museum would lament having lost. Yet, artistic brilliance was not the point. The point of the importance of the Chartist mural was that is was part of the day to day life of hundreds, probably thousands of Newportonians. If you lived, worked in or traveled through Newport, for a generation you could not avoid a daily reminder of the Chartist story, why the rising took place, and the sacrifices made. That this part of daily life in Newport was lost was, I would argue, far more important than the content or style of the mural itself.
A light show projection, while perhaps memorable for those who witness it, will be inherently limited to the day of the projection. This will have no impact on the passing footfall traffic passing through Newport on a day to day basis. To lose this, or fail to successfully replace this, would be a great shame. What public artwork that remains in Newport City centre, related to the Chartist movement, is far too abstract to fulfill the role, and have little impact on people’s understanding or awareness of the rising and its context.
The general consensus seems to be that replicating the Chartist mural, as a concept, is dead in the water. Maybe so, but to replace the mural with a one off show, which by its very nature will be exclusive of many potential viewers, would be a poor substitute for the daily reminder which the mural provided.
So, by all means, run with the sound and light show if needs be, it certainly has potential, but please can we collectively reject any notion that this would be a satisfactory long terms alternative to the Chartist mural – a one off budget breaking light show will simply fail to have the level of impact exerted by the mural. This long term impact on the community must be a priority. The perhaps less exciting, but the more permanent establishment of artwork along the length of Stow Hill, could be far more effective in the long term. Let’s hope that the impressive amount of money put aside for this important project, does not all vanish once the light show is switched off.