A STEELWORKER is struggling to cope with huge security bills after a Banksy mural appeared on his garage wall in December.
Ian Lewis from Port Talbort, Wales, says he wants his life to go back to normal since the artwork appeared needing financial help to protect it from vandals.
The 55-year-old says he needs a long-term solution for it as he’s dealt with over a thousand visitors a day at the site since a week before Christmas.
He told the BBC: “It’s been very, very stressful and very surreal.
“It’s just all been so much for me. I’m actually managing an arts attraction by myself.
“There’s in excess of one thousand people going there a day, all hours, day and night. I just can’t cope with it now, to be honest with you.”
Hollywood actor Michael Sheen stepped in to help Ian with the security costs over the Christmas period.
Ian said the artwork would have been lost to vandalism or theft if it wasn’t for his help.
Volunteers put up plastic to protect the mural but it was still targeted many times.
And now Ian wants to have the wall removed and placed somewhere safer, after 20,000 people came to visit it over Christmas.
He added: “I didn’t know at the beginning it was a Banksy, I just thought it was a fantastic bit of artwork, and I was going to cover it and protect it and keep it for myself.
“Then it just went viral on Facebook that it could be Banksy.
“The first night people were coming up there and people wanted to chip bits off it.
“There was even talk that people wanted to chisel it out and take it home, they wanted to steal it.
A protective clear sheet has been placed on top as a temporary measure[/caption]
“I’ve been stressed, it’s dropped a bomb on me. I’d just like a bit of normality back into my life, like it used to be.
“It needs to be put in the middle of the town centre maybe. They can be moved, I know they can be moved. I think it would need a team of experts to move it from what I can gather.
“I think that the Assembly should step in and take over, because it is an arts treasure, and it’s just too much for me.
“If I could turn back the clock then no, I was happier I think before it happened. I just don’t know where I’m going with this.”
The mural appeared last week and was later confirmed as a genuine Banksy[/caption]
As the artwork is on private property, Ian has sole responsibility for it and has to manage all the visitors.
Michael said: “At the moment my biggest concern is for Ian.
“It’s been a really stressful thing for him and it’s put a lot of financial burden on him that nobody else at the moment is helping him with. I’ve done what I can but we need a long term solution in place.
The painting shows a child playing in the snow – which is in fact ash from a bin fire[/caption]
“It’s wonderful that it’s there and it’s great that Banksy came and did this and has drawn attention to Port Talbot in this way. But Ian does need some help with this now, and I hope that it can stay in Port Talbot.”
The chair of the Assembly’s culture committee Bethan Sayed has called for the Welsh government to buy the mural from Ian.
She said: “Obviously this would have to be with the owner’s consent – this is private property,” she added.
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“If we want to protect it, if we want to keep it in Wales – then we need to have it as a national asset.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford says he will see what can be done.
He added: “I’m going to do is to ask Dafydd Elis Thomas to see what can be done, probably not directly but through the organisations we fund in those fields, to make sure that no undue harm comes to that new piece of art we’ve been able to enjoy.”
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