The Diary: Street art of Barnsley

Graffiti Wall, Albert Street, Barnsley
Graffiti Wall, Albert Street, Barnsley
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There is perhaps something very Barnsley about a visitor’s guide to art which starts in a...Wetherspoon pub.

A new leaflet designed to introduce tourists and Tarn-folk alike to the town’s cultural highlights does just that. “If you don’t think getting a cheap drink is arty,” says Peter Birkby, head of University Campus Barnsley and the man behind the six-page pamphlet, “You’ve not met many artists.”

The Joseph Bramah, as the Market Hill boozer is called, makes the guide’s list of 16 attractions because of its impressive collection of old sepia photos. “Beautiful imagery,” notes Peter.

The leaflet - called Barnsley Art Walk and being given away free now - points visitors in the direction of more usual fare too. Galleries and museums, street sculptures, and works of historical importance are all included.

“We’re not Sheffield,” says Peter. “But this proves Barnsley holds its own.”

A wall of graffiti in Albert Street is included as is the famous mining statue outside the NUM headquarters in Victoria Road. The Lamproom Theatre, in Westgate, is recommended for its collection of old show posters; a stunning carved tree in Churchfields park makes the grade; and visitors are told to stick their head in the Barnsley Building Society in Effingham Street. The reason? A sculpture by Graham Ibbeson decorates one wall.

Inevitably, the Dickie Bird statue in Church Lane is also given a prominent place on the walk. “Well...” says Peter, “it’s Barnsley - you couldn’t not have Dickie Bird, could you? He’s a legend.”

The Cooper Gallery in Church Street, Barnsley College in Old Mill Lane, and the Experience Barnsley Museum at the Town Hall also feature in the six-page booklet and map. Incredibly perhaps, it is the first guide of its kind ever made.

“Why do it?” ponders Peter who comes from Oldham and lives in Wakefield but who has worked in the town for eight years. “I was in Dinard, a little town in France about three years ago, and they had something similar. I thought we could do that.

“There are so many great pieces of art dotted about which people walk past every day but never really register. I thought a little booklet not only had the capacity to bring visitors here but also to show Barnsley off to people from here. We have a cracking art scene - but the one thing we don’t do is shout about it enough.”

He gathered a group of like-minded individuals, plotted a route and, with £1,800 from a social enterprise grant, had it printed.

The 16 sights are all within a 20-minute walking loop around the town centre – “but if you stop at each place it could take all day,” notes Peter. And now, after it launched last month(with a party at The Joseph Bramah), there’s already talk of a second edition. I keep seeing things and thinking ‘That should be on the map’,” he says. “If we could generate funds from businesses and do a new one each year it would be good for the town.”

Barnsley Art Walk is available in libraries, galleries, Barnsley College and at the interchange.