A resident of an artistic retirement home who paints with his mouth helps create golden streamers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a major music festival.
The decorations will decorate St Asaph’s Cathedral where the two-week North Wales International Music Festival will be held from September 17 to October 1.
Members of an artist group from Pendine Park in Wrexham have been invited to join the anniversary task force in preparing celebratory bunting, banners and garlands, including Steven Neal.
Steven learned to paint by holding his art brushes in his mouth due to his multiple sclerosis, which means he cannot use his hands.
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The 69-year-old lives at Penybryn nursing home in Pendine Park, where he became a regular member of the art club run by Pendine Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards, and had never painted before.
Like his fellow citizens, he is happy to be part of the creative team of the North Wales International Music Festival.
Steven and other enthusiasts from the Pendine Art Club were commissioned to paint eye-catching black silhouettes of musical notes, musical instruments and performing figures on a gold background.
The resulting illuminated images will stand out to stunning effect, providing a stunning backdrop for major festival performances.
Steven is a skilled draftsman by trade, but said that the technical drawings his former career entailed were mostly straight lines drawn to strict calculations, but his latest works have taken him in a new direction. He paints, landscapes, nature and animals.
He said: “I’m not a grandmaster, but I’m definitely improving. I’ve built quite a portfolio and I can see the progress since I started drawing with my mouth.
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He adapted his pens and brushes to different lengths with thin hard plastic pipes he spotted being used by a carpenter working at the nursing home.
He said: “I was looking for something to make my brushes slightly longer and when I saw these little tube pipes I knew they would be perfect. They are comfortable to use and flexible enough that I can give finer details.
Steven frequents the Pendine art group at every possible opportunity and relishes the opportunity to paint alongside other art enthusiasts.
Another passionate member of the group is Tracey Wilde who said she has created 57 bunting pieces so far.
She said, “I love it. We are all thrilled that what we create here is seen by so many people at the festival. It reminds me of when I learned to play the piano accordion for a short time. I can hear the music in my head while I paint.
The festival’s community organizing team provided the art group with pre-cut gold painted mulberry paper on which they could paint their individual creations on the theme of “all things music”.
This year’s 50th anniversary program includes concerts by virtuoso harpist Hannah Stone accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as she performs a harp concerto written by Anglesey composer Gareth Glyn.
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Other highlights include early music group Red Priest, award-winning Welsh folk group Calan, the hypnotic Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, the famous festival resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia performing with Britain’s National Youth Chamber Choir and a new community opera based on the legend of Gelert.
It is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the festival’s main sponsor, the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, set up by Pendine Park to fund much-needed arts and community enrichment activities.