“Somerstown self-portrait gallery has given my dad purpose and joy at a very difficult time”

 

The daughter of a Somerstown artist said adding his painting to Portsmouth City Council’s Somerstown Self-Portrait Gallery had given her dad a ‘new lease of life, purpose and joy’ after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease soon after breaking his back during COVID lockdown.

Helen Goss said her dad Richard – a prolific local artist who has lived in Somerstown for more than 40 years – had gone into a rapid decline during the global pandemic. Helen explained that producing a lino cut self-portrait for Portsmouth City Council’s community art project – on the site boundary fences surrounding two condemned tower blocks near his home – had helped Richard to ‘come back to life’.

Click here to watch a video of Helen telling her story.

“He picked up a paintbrush for the first time since his accident because of this wonderful project,” Helen said. “During lockdown he asked me every week ‘when can we go and see my self-portrait?’.”

Richard’s painting is one of nearly 650 contributions by local people to the Somerstown Self-Portrait Gallery. The self-portraits are part of the larger Somerstown Street Gallery – an array of artwork by local artists, schools, charities and youth groups surrounding the boundary of the Horatia and Leamington Houses deconstruction sites, in Meriden Road and Earlsdon Street.

Helen said: “This project has brought my dad so much joy and I think it’s a great idea. Dad had limited ability, because of his Parkinson’s, but we had such a lovely time making the ink and it was a simple thing for him to do. He was so surprised at what actually happened, and look – we’ve got it here on this amazing place with all the other people in Somerstown.

“Sadly he couldn’t be here for the launch of Somerstown Self-Portraits gallery because sometimes health doesn’t work in your favour but I’ve taken a photograph and I’m going to take it to him to show him and he’s so proud. I’m so happy that the council has given us this opportunity.”

The Forest of Somerstown

Helen unveiled her dad’s self-portrait while hundreds of local children and adults added their painted handprint leaves to the Forest of Somerstown – a community participation mural which took centre stage at a public open drop-in session and exhibition of the plans for the area on Saturday 27 November.

The event, on the corner of Earlsdon Street and Melbourne Place, included hot drinks and cake, interactive architectural models and a chance for local people to meet, and ask questions of, the design team and council officers who are putting together plans for the new housing, green space and play space that will replace the blocks.

Firefighters from Southsea Fire Station also came along to meet local people, lend a hand to the forest mural, and to show one of their fire engines.

To be involved with the Somerstown Street Gallery email molly.penney@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Be part of this exciting opportunity to improve Somerstown

The project to carefully, and safely, bring down Horatia and Leamington Houses is progressing well and is due to be completed in the second half of next year. Tearful former residents of Horatia House described their emotions at watching a crane lift the first panel from the block on Monday 29 November (click here to watch a video of them describing their reaction).

The council has also hosted a lighting workshop (click here to watch a two-min video from the event) and a play and plant event (click here to watch a video) in the area surrounding the blocks, to find out how people want the site improved. A community panel – made up of local residents, businesses, charities and former residents of the blocks – is helping the council and the design team to put together the plans.

The council and the Horatia and Leamington Houses Community Panel have said that they will create a high quality, sustainable, mixed-use urban neighbourhood.

The community panel – which is at the centre of both the deconstruction and redevelopment projects – has been meeting every month since March 2021.

If you would like to join the community panel; call Tim Raw on 07901 100537 or email tim.raw@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Find out more

Go to www.horatialeamington.portsmouth.gov.uk to find out more about the project.

On the website you can watch project videos and find every document relating to the deconstruction of the blocks and the redevelopment of the area.

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