An artistic care home resident who paints with his mouth is helping to create spectacular swathes of golden bunting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a top music festival.
The dazzling decorations will festoon magnificently from the walls and ceilings at historic St Asaph Cathedral where the two-week North Wales International Music Festival will be held from September 17 to October 1.
Members of the art group at Pendine Park in Wrexham were thrilled to be invited to join the anniversary taskforce preparing bunting, banners and celebratory garlands.
One of the residents whose work will be displayed at the cathedral cannot use his hands due to the effects of the disabling condition multiple sclerosis, so Steven Neal has taught himself to paint by holding his art brushes in his mouth.
Steven, 69, lives at Pendine Park’s Penybryn care home, where he has become a regular member at the art club run by Pendine Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards.
From producing landscape paintings to intricate impressions of owls and bicycles, Steve lets his creative juices flow when presented with a blank canvas and a set of watercolours.
His achievements are particularly impressive as he is a latecomer to painting, having rarely dabbled with a paintbrush before arriving at Pendine Park.
The paintings he produces are created with the paintbrush in his mouth, a technique he decided to pursue following discussions with Sarah.
Like fellow residents, he is pleased to be a part of the North Wales International Music Festival creative crew.
He said it is motivating to paint for a purpose with a set goal to be achieved.
Steven and other Pendine art club enthusiasts have been tasked with painting eye-catching black silhouettes of musical notes, musical instruments and performing figures on a golden coloured background.
The resulting illuminated images will stand out to striking effect providing a sensational backcloth for big name festival performances.
This year’s 50th jubilee programme includes concerts by virtuoso harpist Hannah Stone accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as she plays a harp concerto penned by Anglesey composer Gareth Glyn.
Other highlights include early music group Red Priest, award winning Welsh folk band Calan, the hypnotic Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, the festival’s acclaimed resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia performing with the National Youth Chamber Choir of Great Britain and a new community opera based on the legend of Gelert.
It’s all being made possible thanks to the support of the Arts Council of Wales and the festival’s headline sponsor, the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which was set up by the Pendine Park to provide funding for much-needed arts and community enrichment activities.
North Wales International Music Festival Artistic Director Ann Atkinson said schools and other community organisations are also involved in creating the unmissable jubilee decorations.
She said: “We want to create really stunning black and gold bunting to put in the cathedral to celebrate our 50th year. It’s fantastic to have talented residents of Pendine Park, our headline sponsor, as part of this massive community effort.”
Steven Neal said he and the other residents feel honoured to be contributing to such a landmark occasion.
He said drawing and painting gives him focus and a creative outlet.
He is a qualified draughtsman by trade but said the technical drawings which his former career involved were mostly straight lines drawn to strict calculations, but his latest artworks have taken him in a new direction. He paints, landscapes, nature and animals.
He said: “I am no grand master but I am definitely improving. I’ve built up quite a portfolio and can see the progress since I first started drawing with my mouth.”
He adapted his pens and paintbrushes to different lengths with slender hard plastic pipes which he spotted being used by a carpenter doing a job at the care home.
He said: “I’d been looking for something to make my brushes slightly longer and when I saw these small tubular pipes I knew they’d be perfect. They are comfortable for me to use and flexible enough for me to impart some finer details.”
Steven attends the Pendine art group on every possible occasion and enjoys the opportunity to paint alongside other art enthusiasts.
Another keen member of the group is Tracey Wilde who said she has has created 57 pieces of bunting so far.
She said: “I love it. We’re all really excited that what we’re creating here will be seen by so many people at the festival. It reminds me of when I used to learn to play the piano accordion for a short time. I can hear the music in my head as I am painting.”
The festival community organising team provided the art group with pre-cut gold painted mulberry paper onto which they could paint their individual designs on the theme of ‘all things music’.
Sarah said: “It’s a new and interesting project for all of us and rewarding to think that the work will be put to such good effect on the momentous occasion of the music festival’s 50th anniversary.
“I know Pendine Park has been proud to support the festival and its associated events in the past and we feel even more honoured to have been asked to have some creative input during this special year.”