Artist Chris Burke has been commissioned to tell the more than 2,500 year tale of Tunbridge Wells from the Iron Age to the present day in a huge mural at the town’s main railway station.
Chris, who works as an illustrator and cartoonist for titles such as The Sunday Times, GQ magazine, the London Evening Standard and Vogue, has been awarded the commission to replace murals on platform 2 painted by artist Brian Barnes in 1989.
These were removed when it was discovered the framework securing them was badly decayed and the paintings could not be saved.
Now Chris is designing 18 large panels for the three metre by 35 metre space and each will tell the story of Tunbridge Wells.
The huge work will start with the Iron Age forts built at The Rocks around 200BC, it will show how Tunbridge Wells became a spa town in 1606 and include the period when celebrated dandy and 18th century fashionista Beau Nash became Master of Ceremonies and boosted local tourism.
The panels will also show how the town became a major draw for royals and arisocrats alike, the start of the railway and the opening of Tunbridge Wells’ station in the 1840s, and the gaining of the title Royal Tunbridge Wells, which was agreed by Edward V11 in 1909.
Chris, 61, who will have the entire work in place by the end of March, was awarded the commission after he demonstrated his plans to involve the local community.
And on Saturday February 18 he will be holding a special drop in session at Royal Victoria Place shopping centre, where he is currently being provided free studio space.
There, members of the public will be able to turn up and talk to Chris about what they would like to see on the 18th and final panel, which will cover the period 1900 to now.
Chris, who lives in the St. James area of the town, said: “It is great to be able to work on this project. It is a mammoth task to create a mural of this size which will tell more than 2,500 years of history and to have it in place by the end of March, but I am very excited by this.
“It will be great to have a piece of work in such a visual location for so many passengers to see when it is completed.”
Chris, who is a father of one, is currently drawing the designs for each panel. These will then be photographed by a special hi-res camera and placed on vinyl, which will be attached to aluminium and placed on the massive panels that will adorn the walls at platform 2.
He is working closely with local artist Elaine Gill. Film and media student Samuel Puddick, who studies at West Kent College, is also capturing the development of the work in a series of pictures as well as a video documentary.
The work will be placed next to a special piece by Brian Barnes, which will refer to his original mural as well as Tunbridge Wells’ landmarks.
Our Managing Director David Statham said: “It is very good news that Chris has agreed to work with us to provide this stunning piece of work for platform 2 at Tunbridge Wells, which will recall the history of the area.
“This is a very exciting project and will be in place for all our passengers to see for years to come.”
Chris was awarded commission after we teamed up with local stakeholders including Refresh Tunbridge Wells, Royal Tunbridge Wells Together and passengers.
Michael Holman, Chair of Refresh Tunbridge Wells and chair of the selection panel for the art work at the station, said: "We are really pleased that Chris has come on board for this project and we are looking forward to seeing how the art work develops in the coming weeks. We had more than 20 people apply for this commission and it was amazing to have so much interest.”
Chris and Elaine are also encouraging local people to contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on their Facebook page platform2tw if they have any information they wish to share that they would like to see in the work when finished. The project can also be followed on Twitter @platform2tw