Leith Walk shops to be blank canvas for bright project

Passers-by watch artist Jamie Johnson at work in Leith Walk

Passers-by watch artist Jamie Johnson at work in Leith Walk

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THEY could rarely be described as a thing of beauty – never mind a work of art.

The late-night face of Leith Walk’s shops, metal security shutters more functional than funky, are to receive a makeover from local artists.

A new project is starting by offering six blank canvases for artists to display their work after hours to brighten up Leith Walk.

Illustrator Jamie Johnson is the first to be selected to take part in The Shutter Project, with his work set to be revealed when Gamesmaster Games Exchange closes for the night tomorrow.

The 23-year-old worked with Dave Wilson, who has managed Gamesmaster for the last 20 years, to create a piece of art to reflect the business, which he has painted onto the Gamesmaster shutter. The project is supported by the city council’s I Love Leith initiative and LeithLate – Leith’s annual multi-arts event, which is now in its second year and launches tomorrow.

Mr Johnson, who lives in Pilrig, spent 12 to 15 hours over the space of three days painting the shutter using spray paint and paint pens.

He grew up in a flat opposite the shop on Leith Walk and was a Gamesmaster customer from an early age, buying his first Sega Game Gear around the age of eight. He regularly visited the shop with his mum as a boy, spending plenty of pocket money.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s essentially an interpretation of a 2D gaming landscape based on early Super Mario games and early Sonic the Hedgehog. It is inspired by these games which I bought from the shop when I was a kid. For the keen eye, there’s quite a few strong references like underwater levels. It’s a little bit different and I hope people, whether they get the references or not, enjoy it. There is a bit of humour in it as well.

“It also adds to the cultural vibrancy of the area, which I think is important.”

Six shutters will display the work of local artists, with the plan being for each artist to have some sort of connection to the shop. All going well, a different shutter will be unveiled on Leith Walk once a month for the next five months.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, convener of the economic development committee, said: “This is an excellent example of local collaboration to improve the look of the town centre. It is important that we encourage shopkeepers to look after their premises to create a good impression for potential customers passing by after hours.”

Morvern Cunningham, event organiser for LeithLate, added: “We are proud to be collaborating with the City of Edinburgh Council on an initiative that brings high quality artwork by talented artists onto the streets of the creative hub that is Leith. The Shutter Project is in collaboration with LeithLate and we are launching a big LeithLate event on Thursday, at which we will showcase Jamie’s shutter.”

I Love Leith is part of a programme to build stronger town centres in the Capital. Businesses on Leith Walk interested in The Shutter Project should contact Sarah Woodford at the city council by emailing {mailto: sarah.woodford@edinburgh.gov.uk| sarah.woodford@edinburgh.gov.uk| sarah.woodford@edinburgh.gov.uk}.