Traditional signwriter takes influence and direction from young people for new mural unveiled in the Dales.

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A striking new mural has been unveiled in the heart of Settle, North Yorkshire, painted by Signs by Umberto with co-design led consultation involving young people in the local area.

Stretching the full height of the three-story facade, the eye-catching mural is sited at the top of historic Kirkgate, close to the main marketplace in Settle town centre. Created in contrasting pastel colours, the mural features four giant words ‘soar’, ‘wandering’, ‘rise’ and ‘rolling’, chosen by the young people as a reflection on their connection to their hometown.

The new mural is the latest outcome of a co-design process with young people aged 14-19 in the area as part of The FOLD, a creative programme led by Deco Publique and commissioned by Great Place: Lakes and Dales.

The FOLD was designed to give young people power of voice with the aim of creatively empowering decision making in their own spaces.

One of the young people involved is Lily Whittle, aged 19, from the village of Wigglesworth just outside Settle. Lily said: “There aren’t that many creative opportunities for people my age to get involved in here, so when I first heard about The FOLD, the prospect of bringing more of an arts scene to Settle was extremely exciting.”

“I felt quite disenfranchised living in Settle, like there was no outlet for young people and I was looking to leave. There were other people in the group who truly loved living in Settle and seeing the place through their perspective made me feel more connected to the town and much more appreciative of living here.”

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The mural’s creation coincides with a new report released by North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission which highlights the challenges faced by the young people in the region and the boost to North Yorkshire’s economy that this ‘missing generation’ would bring. Recommendations include the need to transform the area for younger generations, an aspiration shared by projects like The FOLD.

The idea of a mural came from the young people as something for them to have ownership over. It was important to the young people that, whilst the mural’s main aim was to reflect their own experience of growing up in the rural landscape of Settle, the work should have universal appeal for all residents and visitors. They chose the style, wording and colour scheme with this in mind and were involved in the artist selection process. Signs by Umberto was deemed as a perfect fit due to his ability to create contemporary and bold designs whilst honouring heritage.

Robert of ‘Signs by Umberto’ is a traditional sign writer based in Yorkshire. He began signwriting at the age of 14 and is now a member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen. In the design, Robert took inspiration from traditional typography found in advertisements and signage from the 1900s.

Robert says: “I’m in love with letterforms and in particular painting lettering with historical value.  It gives me enormous joy to think that my family might see this when I’m old, a sign still resonating into the next generations. I pride myself on doing the very best that I can when painting lettering, for that very reason, so that my son might look up at the work as an old man and say ‘my dad painted that’.

Lauren Zawadzki, Director of Deco Publique, said: “We were all enormously conscious of the heritage of the area and wanted the art to reflect that whilst also being something that has a contemporary angle that the young people could take ownership of. In bringing on board ‘Signs by Umberto’ to collaborate on and deliver the project we were able to take advantage of Robert’s incredible experience in traditional typography which really helped bring the ideas to life.”

Lily concludes: “Personally, I felt it was important to include the word ‘Rise’ in the mural; to me it’s about rising to the challenge of growing up, eventually leaving Settle to go to university and having to face bigger things, but knowing this town has made me.  I am beyond proud of what we have managed to do, what Robert the artist has done and what The FOLD has allowed to happen. I hope the mural will be there for years and years to come.”

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