Wales

'I worked 160 hours in a week to protect Port Talbot's Banksy'

Kevin Gregory
Image caption Kevin Gregory has been keeping watch on the Banksy artwork

A Banksy mural that appeared on a garage in Port Talbot last month sparked interest around the world and has attracted thousands of visitors.

The job of protecting it belongs to security guard Kevin Gregory, who says he worked 160 hours in the week after the artwork appeared.

The 54-year-old explained that although visitors have been overwhelmingly positive, his role looking after the artwork - which is covered in a plastic sheet - is essential.

"If we disappeared now, that would be vandalised," he said from his caravan parked beside the mural.

Image caption The caravan where the security guards base themselves

Mr Gregory said there had been about 20,000 visitors to the mural, including activists with Brexit banners.

If the same level continued throughout the year, that would make it one of the country's top 10 most visited attractions.

"The first week we had Taibach here, then we had the whole of Port Talbot here, and then the second weekend we had people from Cardiff… all the valleys.

"Now the third week has popped in, we've had people here from Manhattan, Mexico, Spain, Italy… you name it, they're coming here."

Image caption The Banksy artwork supposedly attracted 20,000 visitors in just a few weeks

After Mr Gregory's intense shift pattern on the first week, he has hired someone to help him, and they now take it in turns to work 12-hour stints.

He explained often when he is keeping watch at night, he sits in his van - which is cooler - so he can stay awake.

The security guard added they have had to deal with a few issues: "We've had a couple of people down here who tried to vandalise it. We sorted it all out, it's not a problem.

Image caption The Banksy is currently fenced off to keep visitors back

"Someone was drunk, came down down here, he tried rattling the fence - he had a bit of a [foul] language problem.

"I had to cool him down and walk him off the site."

He said the culprit still sticks his head in the window every now and then to "taunt" him.

But he said the thousands of people who have travelled to see the work have been "absolutely fantastic".

Of those thousands are playwrights Paul Jenkins and Tracey Harris, who are currently working on a production about the arrival of the Banksy.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Artist Banksy confirmed he is behind 'Season's greetings' in Port Talbot

Mr Jenkins said they want to tell the tale of the community, and added that many want the mural to stay in the area.

"The one thing they want is for it to stay in Port Talbot - they don't want it to go."

It is a view that is similarly held by David Rees, AM for Aberavon, who says the mural has a Port Talbot message.

"It's been a good thing because it highlights the area, it shows more to this town than just simply the steelworks - it also highlights the steelworks themselves and the implications it has for the town.

"It should stay in Port Talbot, because it is a Port Talbot message as well as a UK and a world message."

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