Painting the town to tackle the yobs

Painting the town might not be many people's idea of the best way to tackle loutish behaviour.But a pioneering project to use art to transform run-down areas at Yarmouth has won plaudits around the world.

Painting the town might not be many people's idea of the best way to tackle loutish behaviour.

But a pioneering project to use art to transform run-down areas at Yarmouth has won plaudits around the world. With three colourful murals set to adorn the ends of terraced houses in a deprived area of the town the scheme has been held up by the home office as one of the most successful ideas in the battle against yobs.

By beautifying areas plagued with graffiti, organisers said residents would start to have pride in their community which would lead to them taking more responsibility for low level crime on their doorstep.

Eight walls around the town centre, that used to be a magnate for unsightly scrawling, have so far had scenes painted on them. None of them has since been defaced.

Now the project is being rolled out into a deprived residential area, with organisers hoping the scheme can transform it. Three sites in Cobholm have been earmarked for murals.

Criminal damage co-ordinator for Yarmouth Dave Gladden said: "The murals can have a massive effect. It gives people pride in where they live. My hope is that people will say in the future what a colourful, lovely place Cobholm is, not the downtrodden area that it is now.

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"Then businesses will bring new investment and jobs into the area," he said. "This project is cutting edge. We have had inquiries from all over the country on the effects the murals have on tackling anti-social behaviour. We've even had a man from Wellington, New Zealand, who came to see how the work we are doing is having an effect."

Mr Gladden admitted that public murals were not new in themselves but that the purpose of these paintings, and the effect they were having was.

He said most projects to stop graffiti involved giving vandals a wall they could use to paint. But this idea stopped the graffiti and improved the area, he said.

John Dashwood, the artist behind the three proposed murals said: "Urban areas can be very drab. Art makes people happy. People like music and painting because that is what makes life worth living. It makes life interesting and colourful."

And he said: "There were a lot of reservations about it in Cobholm initially. People thought, "What's this guy going to do? Is he going to get an aerosol can out? But they were pleased when they saw my previous work.

"It's makes people value their area," he added.