Fifty Years of Keeping Glastonbury Town Colourful

Glastonbury Town’s First Mural

At the recent launch of the Glastonbury Mural Trail at Glastonbury Skate Park the Trail was officially opened by Pat Leyshon, who was the painter of the first of Glastonbury Town’s colourful murals in the 1960’s. Her artwork decorated the front of her shop ‘Pat Li Shun’ and would be the first thing visitors approaching from the Wells direction would see of the High Street. There was no M5 and the A303 was mostly a small road so loads of holidaymakers used to stop off in the Glastonbury once they had seen the shop.

Pictured left to right are Thyrza Leyshon, Stephen Boyd (son of Mayor Betty Boyd), Pat Leyshon aka Pat Li Shun, Alban Leyshon
Photograph by Brian Walker

Pat’s daughter Liz Leyshon is a County Councillor, I asked her what the Town’s response to her mother’s artwork had been:

“In the late 60s and early 70s, my parents had some real opposition to their painting of the flowers on the Pat Li Shun shop and printworks at 88 & 90 High Street. As it was before the 1974 local government reorganisation, it was presumably the Town Council that objected. My dad, always one for a (non-violent) confrontation, made the points that the new health centre opposite was so ugly that someone had to do something to distract attention from it, and that as they had not painted any words on the walls, they were not in breach of advertising consent. Eventually it seemed that the ‘shop with the flowers on’ was seen as an asset rather than a liability. They were fortunate in that the building was not then a listed property. When the shops further down the High Street were painted different colours, I recall there being early opposition but now we expect Glastonbury to be colourful”.

“My mum told me that when she was painting the flowers, the Town Clerk came up on his bike, removed his bicycle clips and told her that the flowers would not do and had to be removed”.

“I still prefer the flowers to anything else I have seen since in Glastonbury or anywhere else. My Mum says the coloured shop buildings further down were started by Jan and John Morland when they visited Tobermory in Scotland. Mum also says make no mistake, these were commercial decisions!”.

“The real issue now is that so many buildings in the High Street are listed and they were not in the 60s and 70s. That’s why the Mendip Conservation Officer can intervene now. Have you seen the list of buildings that are listed in Glastonbury? It’s a massive list!”

Listen to ‘Tracing the Map” by Sue Palmer, a wonderful set of recordings of Glastonbury Folk made in 1999 about the development of Glastonbury High Street, Part 3 is about the 1960’s and 1970’s and begins with the infamous painted shop:

The flower mural marked a new beginning for Glastonbury Town, which was becoming a destination for alternative thinkers and colourful hippies.

They Can’t Stop Us Dreaming

The same shop attracted controversy earlier this year, when it was opened as the Heart Land Tattoo Temple and decorated with a striking mural. Mendip District Council didn’t approve however, and pressurized the landlord who painted it back to grey. Soon after another mural appeared, this time featuring a starling and the legend “They can’t stop us dreaming”.

The Birth of the ‘Keep Glastonbury Colourful’ Campaign

In Spring 2019 the new lilac and green paintwork on Fairyland Aromatics was also to become the subject of controversy, see my article Keep Glastonbury Colourful. Mendip District Council’s Planning Department insisted that the colours were not appropriate for a listed building and that it had to go back to black and white. The shop got lots of support and help fighting the planners and now Mendip have decided to take no further action and let the paintwork stay. The campaign captured the imagination of locals and visitors and Lilac and Green seemed to become Glastonbury’s unofficial colours, see Kim Von Coel’s Glastonbury Visitor’s map with it’s lilac roads for instance.

Fairyland Aromatics on the day of it’s reopening

The Glastonbury Mural Trail

All this debate and discussion around colourful shop fronts and public artwork got people thinking about how Glastonbury could be brightened up. Local artist Kim Von Coels hit on the idea of creating new murals around the town and a map so they might more easily be found and appreciated. The Mural Trail has really bought the town together – artists were matched with individuals and businesses offering their walls to be painted, sponsors came forward to pay for the materials, the Chamber of Commerce got on board and the Town Council have fully supported the initiative. It’s another sign that Glastonbury is no longer the divided town of the past, with the whole community coming together to create a more colourful future.

To keep up to date with the Mural Trail do subscribe to their Facebook page.

The Trail map/leaflet is available for FREE from the Glastonbury Information Centre, Rogues Gallery in the High Street, Blue Cedar print shop in Silver Street or the Lords of the Wildwood community tearooms in the Assembly Rooms.

You can watch Jonathan Minshull painting a stunning mural of the Avalon Marshes with Thorndown Wood Paint in this short video and you can view the mural outside St Dunstan’s House. Magdalene Street, where the Glastonbury Information Centre is based.

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