“Banksy of the Bird World” paints urban mural in Shrewsbury Market Hall in honour of rare heron
An international artist, dubbed “the Banksy of the Bird World”, has painted a giant mural inside Shropshire Council’s Shrewsbury Market Hall to celebrate the story of a rare heron that famously made its home in the town’s Dingle in The Quarry for several months.
Matt Sewell, whose work has been exhibited all over the world, chose the Market Hall for the urban artwork in honour of the American black-crowned night heron that mysteriously appeared in Shrewsbury in the summer of 2017.
Matt is an avid ornithologist and celebrated artist, illustrator and author. His artwork is known for its depiction of birds and he is the author of a series of best-selling illustrated books about birds.
Like the famous Banksy, he is also a graffiti artist and loves to paint large outdoor murals in urban settings. His graffiti art features in Belfast, Sheffield, Manchester and London, as well as Shrewsbury.
Matt, who has been studying and painting birds for most of his life, said:-
“The Market Hall is a vibrant part of Shrewsbury that I thought would be perfect to show some love to the black-crowned night heron.”
Kate Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Market Hall facilities manager, said that when Matt tapped on her door and asked whether he could paint the mural, she was thrilled to accept:-
“I’ve been aware of Matt’s books for years and know that he’s incredibly popular, so when he asked to paint a mural on the Market Hall’s gallery level walls, I leapt at the chance. We were flattered! It’s wonderful, especially as it’s been inspired by the heron’s visit to Shrewsbury.”
The mural has been painted in Matt’s trademark pop-art style in two parts, either side of the central stairwell, at The Bellstone end of the building. It depicts the heron – distinctive with black and white plumage – nestling in the trees with goldfinches that are commonly seen in the Dingle.
‘Noddy the Night Heron’, as he was nicknamed by local people, lived in the Dingle for seven months. Twitchers from far and wide descended to catch a glimpse of the mystery bird.
But concerns about his health and survival over winter led to him being taken in by Cuan Wildlife Rescue in November 2017. At first it was thought Noddy may have been blown off course during his migration from America to Spain, France or Africa. But clues about his behaviour now make experts believe he may have been a captive bred bird that made a bid for freedom.
“The Dingle offered the heron perfect shelter – a dense willow to roost in and a pond freshly stocked with delicious fish. I’d like to think the town’s friendly goldfinches, of which there are many, welcomed this strange migrant in open winged, as our guest liked it so much he never left.
“Our foreign feathered friend had twitchers travelling far and wide to come and watch, take photos and to come and tick off in their bird books well into winter, which for a bird of warmer climes is a time of year that it is certainly not best suited for. So he was wrapped up and whisked away by the amazing team at Cuan Wildlife Rescue centre and given the VIP treatment over a very cold and snowy winter.
“With the bird’s origins still a mystery the heron is being cared for in another wildlife centre, but what an adventure that little heron has had!”
Matt, 41, is originally from the North East. He moved to Shrewsbury from Brighton with his family seven years ago. He has illustrated for The V&A, Barbour, Levis, The Guardian newspaper and many other national publications. He is a regular contributor to the Caught By The River website and his art has been exhibited in London, Manchester, New York, Tokyo, and Paris.
In 2012 he released his first best-selling illustrated book “Our Garden Birds” and has since followed up with the titles “Our Woodland Birds”, “Our Songbirds”, “Owls”, “Penguins & Other Seabirds” and “A Charm of Goldfinch”.
Shrewsbury Market Hall:
The Market Hall is a two-tier, indoor market hall situated in the heart of Shrewsbury town centre.
It is jointly run by Shropshire Council, which is responsible for the permanent stalls located around the perimeter of the market floor and gallery, and Shrewsbury Town Council, which manages the canopied stalls in the centre.
The Market Hall is situated above a range of well-known high street and independent retailers. Busy trading streets, Shoplatch and Claremont Street, run either side of the building.
It opened in 1965 and is today home to many traders offering a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, fresh fish, delicatessen, a selection of eateries, books, china, antiques, collectables and contemporary arts and crafts and much more.
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