'Banksy ignited something in Port Talbot': Locals react to a future 'with or without' the artwork

Port Talbot residents have reacted to the news that their Banksy artwork is set to leave the town next week.

'Season’s Greetings' appeared overnight in Port Talbot in 2018 and shows a child playing in the falling ash and smoke from a fire in a skip.

Street artist Banksy, whose identity remains a mystery, confirmed he was behind the piece with a video on his Instagram account - leading to much excitement in the Welsh town.

However, 'Seasons Greetings' is currently hidden behind shutters, and is soon set to be placed in storage over the border in England.

Art dealer John Brandler owns the Banksy piece 'Seasons Greetings'. Credit: PA Images

The owner of the piece, John Brandler, says Neath Port Talbot council told him to remove the artwork as the lease is up on the building it is housed in.

Mr Brandler plans to move the artwork out of Port Talbot on Tuesday – and does not predict it will return to Wales.

"I'm in negotiations at the moment with three storage places to put it in storage until the next step. I'm also in discussions with people to create the street art museum," he told ITV Wales News.

"So the chances of it coming back to Wales, as I said before, is probably about five minutes after hell freezes over."

There was huge excitement in Port Talbot when the artwork was confirmed as a genuine Banksy piece. Credit: PA Images

Neath Port Talbot Council said that they entered into discussions to keep the Banksy in the town, but the costs would have been too high. They were told they would have to pay for its re-installation, its insurance and pay a loan fee each year.

Kevin Gregory, a security guard employed to protect the Banksy when it first arrived, told ITV Wales News of his sadness to see it go.

"It was here for a reason - because of the pollution coming out of the steelworks," he said.

"And for that to disappear out of Port Talbot... the story is going to end, isn't it?"

Port Talbot locals held a candle-lit vigil filled with poetry, music and speeches to mark the departure of the Banksy mural. Credit: ITV Wales

But there are many locals that want to ensure that the story of art and culture in Port Talbot continues.

Steve Jenkins is one of those artists inspired by Banksy's arrival in the town. His own mural now appears on the garage 'Season's Greetings' once occupied.

Mr Jenkins told ITV Wales News: "I think he ignited something in Port Talbot, that everybody has just gone crazy over the street art now."

One of the legacies of the Banksy will be ARTwalk Port Talbot, a community-led street art project which showcases local works with a free smartphone app and walking trail.

The project aims to foster the town's creative potential and commission permanent artwork that can outlast the Banksy.

At the vigil, ARTwalk committee members discussed their sadness to see the artwork leave, as well as optimism for the future. Credit: ITV Wales

ARTwalk Port Talbot committee member Bev Simmonds-Owen said: "Port Talbot isn't just a sad industrial town.

"It has got a beautiful beach. It has got beautiful mountains. And it has got a beautiful culture that is full of art.

"And why shouldn't we be inspiring more of that – with or without the Banksy?"