First 'Portrait Bench' on Afan Valley Cycle Route

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First 'Portrait Bench' on Afan Valley Cycle Route

Posted: 12th February 2010 | Source: Sustrans

Three local heroes are to be immortalised in a piece of art which will be placed along a new pedestrian and cycle route in the Afan Valley. Life-size images of the late great Richard Burton CBE, comedian and actor Rob Brydon and local man Dick Wagstaff, will be created in a weathering steel that will decorate a 'Portrait Bench' to be placed along a new route connecting Port Talbot to Cwmafon and the Afan Forest.

The Portrait Bench - is a new art initiative from sustainable transport charity - Sustrans - which will soon be appearing all over the UK on newly created routes for pedestrians and cyclists using a £50million grant from the Big Lottery Fund. Afan Valley residents are the first to choose their local characters for the bench and it will be installed in the spring but each bench will be individual to each community with nearly 80 installed across the UK by 2013. Sustrans is one of the largest commissioners of public art in the UK with over 2000 original artworks along the 12,000 miles of National Cycle Network.

Graham Jenkins, brother of the late movie legend Richard Burton and local resident, said,

"Its wonderful that my brother will be commemorated in this way - our family are thrilled. He never forgot where he came from - the Afan Valley - and I know he would be tickled pink to see himself become an actual part of the landscape in which he was born and grew up."

Rob Brydon, comedian and actor, said

"This is a great honour and I look forward to offering weary cyclists the chance to catch their breath. I love the thought of becoming part of the landscape alongside Dick Wagstaff and the great Richard Burton. I'm hoping that my sculpture might be able to persuade Burton's sculpture to quote some poetry of an evening, or at least a bit of War Of The Worlds."

Dick Wagstaff, Manager Ranger at the Afan Forest Park, said,

"I am so flattered to be a part of this. I've worked in the Afan Valley for over 35 years so to be a part of it in a piece of art is a huge honour. I can't believe my image will be alongside such famous local sons as Burton and Brydon."

The three local heroes to adorn the bench were chosen by the local community in Cwmafon. International acting legend Richard Burton has long been a celebrated local son and Rob Brydon is a much loved comedian and actor still with strong local links in the community. Local hero Dick Wagstaff has worked at the Afan Forest Park since 1974 and is seen by many people as truly making the area the beautiful place it is today.

Sara Rees, Senior Arts Officer, Sustrans Cymru, said

"It's great that the Afan Valley is first to choose their Portrait Bench characters. We can't wait to see the bench installed in spring and see it really become a part of the landscape. Sustrans supports public art that local people can see and enjoy every day and the Portrait Bench is a great example of how our everyday journeys can be made attractive and interesting."

Sustrans part-funded the £2million scheme in Afan Valley with £400,00 from the Big Lottery Fund which was partof £50million grant awarded to the charity in 2007 after winning a national TV vote. This funding is being used to create many new routes, bridges and greenways for pedestrians and cyclists across the UK so that local communities travel is ways that benefit their health and the environment.

Sustrans has worked alongside Neath Talbot County Borough Council and the Forestry Commission to create this route including a new river bridge near the Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, and with the Cwmafan Residents Action Committee, a local community group, who have secured funding from BBC Breathing Places and Welsh Assembly Government Tidy Towns for local environmental enhancements.