The unexpected fish

Something fishy is going on in the West End. It begins in Hunter Street where fish appear unexpectedly on hoarded up buildings then swim along to Bank Corner, turn a sharp right, and slip into Beresford Lane schooling en masse before disappearing. Around the corner in Beresford Street a giant squid is waiting.

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It was the mural of a scuba diver which first caught my attention. Peering out from his/her mask the diver made intense eye contact with passers-by while a mysterious ship wreck languished below. Further down Hunter Street I came across another mural, a disconcertingly large and lifelike shoal of sharks thankfully with a more benign aquatic friend nearby, a turtle who warmly surveyed the street from its tropical underwater garden.

These Hunter Street murals were commissioned last year by Newcastle Council’s Pride of Place (PoP) committee as part of an ongoing series of projects to beautify the city centre. They engaged local artist Jack Wachtel to create this playful oceanic wonderland on two otherwise sad and abandoned buildings.

Earlier this year, not far away in another part of the West End, sculptor and mixed media artist Mark Aylward was feeling frustrated. His workshop faced Beresford Lane and his view, the back of the SSI ORCA building, was an ugly tagged wall. He decided to act.

After obtaining permission from the building’s owner to transform the back of the property into a quirky fishscape mural, Newcastle Now provided the paint, Hunter Development Corporation funded the anti-graffiti finish, and a young person from the Department of Juvenile Justice prepped the wall. Mark created a series of fish stencils and with his partner Helen Stronach and his son Jonathan they brought the wall to life.

Inspired by the newly arrived fish, next door neighbour Mitch Resevsky picked up his brush and painted a giant squid across the front of the warehouse he calls home. You can see a time lapse video of the squid taking over at Mr., http://mitchrevs.com.

What do the curious locals think? Many have stopped Mark and Helen to tell them they are delighted at the quirky mural, but of all the compliments they have received they are particularly touched by an anonymous note left in their letterbox which read, in part, ‘Thank you for making our street so beautiful and fun’.

You can find the scuba diver and ship wreck murals next to 621 Hunter Street, near the corner of Steel Street. The shark and turtle murals are between 679-685 Hunter Street, near the corner of Bellevue Street. The fish mural is in Beresford Lane and the giant squid can be found on the corner of Bellevue and Beresford Streets.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155

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