Worth 'silly money' - but is the Banksy stable a 'poisoned chalice'?

Banksy stable at Merrivale Model Village Great Yarmouth

The Banksy bottleneck around the artist's stable which is proving a big draw to the Merrivale Model Village in Great Yarmouth - and also presenting its owners with some difficult decisions. - Credit: Liz Coates

It's not hard to see where the Banksy stable is in medieval Merrivale - the diminutive community that now has its own portable, pint-sized work of art.

Announced by the gaggle of visitors lining up in front of it, it's the bottleneck you spot first as people jostle politely to be snapped beside the now world-famous model.

As village owner Frances Newsome weaves her way through the pathways she is occasionally congratulated for having such an illustrious name plastered all over the surprise addition - deployed in broad daylight and unnoticed for at least two days.

The Banksy stable at Merrivale Model Village, Great Yarmouth

The Merrivale model Banksy now has its own protective case and security guard. The village's owners are thrilled with the new addition, but it has created some issues, not least around security. - Credit: Liz Coates

But being the sudden custodian of an international art treasure does come with its downsides.

Now in its own glass box, its companion piece - a girl spilling apples in surprise - is awaiting her own protective case so she can be placed back in position, as Banksy intended.

Since it was verified by the artist on Friday things have taken a turn for the expensive.

The Winter Gardens at Great Yarmouth has been awarded £10 million of lottery money. Frances and Fran

Frank and Frances Newsome, owners of the Merrivale Model Village say they are thrilled with their Banksy, but have spoken about the downsides of it being suddenly thrust upon them. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The model now has its own security guard and is being stored at a secret location.

It is collected and taken back at different times, and via different routes such is the level of nervousness about it being a target.

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Security systems and CCTV have been upgraded to satisfy insurers amid suggestions it could fetch "silly money."

Then there was the backlash.

Banksy Admiralty Road Great Yarmouth

Banksy's bus shelter dancers are proving a big draw at the hitherto unvisited spot next to the Grade II listed Victorian gas holder in Admiralty Road. - Credit: Liz Coates

Before it was verified there were unkind comments on social media about  the "money-grabbing" owners trying to "cash in" on the possible Banksy "Spraycation" - while they were none the wiser than anyone else.

There has been some contact with Banksy's "people" but still no comment on why they chose the village - a commercial venture where people have to pay entrance, unlike the free-to-view murals in Gorleston and Admiralty Road which are more in keeping with the Banksy ethos.

Frances and Frank Newsome are at pains to stress that overall they are thrilled and grateful for their moment in the spotlight.

But Mr Newsome said there was a "poisoned chalice" element to the gift, amid a "minefield" of issues that people might not think about.

Although visitor numbers are up by around 50pc, it's not enough to eclipse the costs of security, storage, and insurance.

He said while exciting, it was also "all a bit scary."

Banksy stable at Merrivale Model Village

The Banksy stable remains on display at Merrivale Model Village in Great Yarmouth, although it could be replaced with a model. - Credit: Liz Coates

The plan at the moment was to keep the real Banksy on display for as long as possible, as long as everyone respected it.

Meanwhile a model is being made at Arts University Bournemouth where leading Banksy authority and author Professor Paul Gough is vice chancellor.

"It feels like a responsibility," Mr Newsome said.

"A millionaire could buy it and put it in his front room.

"We are so thankful, but it is a bit of a poisoned chalice."

Although they have not ruled out selling it, they are also considering a museum loan so it can still be viewed by the public.

Before it was verified one man flew especially from Germany to see the work.

Mrs Newsome said the exposure given by Susan Calman in her Channel 5 programme meant the village was already on a high, the Banksy effect being "the icing on the cake."

Banksy Gorleston arcade grabber

Banksy's arcade claw mural in Gorleston is among those grabbing public attention. - Credit: Liz Coates

She hoped it would encourage more local people to visit the attraction, many saying they had lived in the area for decades and were only now finding it for the first time.

If they did end up selling, the proceeds would be ploughed back into Merrivale, she added, with the ambition to make it "the best model village in the world".

Meanwhile Professor Gough said the model could fetch "silly money" possibly upwards of £200,000. He added it was unusual in that it was a free-standing object, and was ultimately "a gift with conditions."

He added the village would likely come "under enormous pressure" to sell and that if the Banksy vanished a copy would be the next best thing.

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