The UK’s largest painting unveiled in Ainsdale - giant sand lizards by Paul Curtis

Award-winning artist Paul Curtis has completed his transformation of Ainsdale’s Toad Hall building.

Giant mural on the side of Toad Hall, Ainsdale. Image: Paul Curtis

A gigantic mural depicting two of the UK’s rarest reptiles has been completed on the outside of a derelict former nightclub in Ainsdale.

It has been painted by Liverpool artist Paul Curtis, who is best known for creating the iconic For All Liverpool’s Liver Birds artwork in the Baltic Triangle.

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The Ainsdale mural, on a area equivalent to the size of four tennis courts, is believed to be the UK’s biggest painting by one artist.

It features a pair of sand lizards on the walls of Toad Hall.

Rare sand lizards were chosen for the artwork as they are native to the habitat of Sefton’s sand dunes.

Why was the art commissioned?

The piece was commissioned by Sefton Council as part of a range of improvements to the area. The council has already agreed on £350,000 of investment to improve facilities around the entrance to Ainsdale beach.

Ainsdale on Sea has been recognised as an area of ‘high conservation value and site of specific scientific interest’ within the Sefton Coastal Plan.

Sefton Council has acknowledged that ‘in recent times issues relating to access and facilities at Ainsdale on Sea mean the visitor experience may fall short of expectations’.

Artist Paul Curtis with the giant mural on the side of Toad Hall, Ainsdale. Image: Paul Curtis

The artist’s view

Curtis, who was named Liverpool City Region Artist of the Year 2020, took to Instagram to thank the people of Ainsdale for their support stating: “This has been such hard work, but always knew I’d get there in the end.”

He told LiverpoolWorld: “This is a project I was extremely keen to be part of. The sheer scale and the challenge that comes with a mural like this is something I could get my teeth into.

“I used to visit Ainsdale a lot and often wondered what the story of Toad Hall was, but never imagined I’d end up painting it.

“There are many challenges with a building like this. It’s far from a flat canvas there are numerous nooks and crannies, pillars and alcoves.

“This presents difficulties in simply accessing certain parts, but also in making the image line up and make sense.

“The claws of the lizard were one of the most difficult things I have ever painted because of this 3D challenge.”

Paul Curtis: “Where do I start?” Image: @paulcurtisartwork/instagram

He said the lizards fitted the bill of the brief perfectly due to their bright vibrant colours and elongated shape to match the proportions of Toad Hall.

He added: “The marram grass and coastal environment is designed to form an illusion so that when you walk over the dunes, due to perspective, the mural should emerge from the horizon as though it’s part of your near surroundings.

“It’s been a joy to work in this project. So many people have stopped me and have been really enthusiastic about the artwork. There’s so much joy on kids’ faces when they see the mural.

“I hope this artwork gains national interest and in a small way helps put Ainsdale on the map in the way the Iron Men did for Crosby.

“This is the largest painting by a single artist ever painted in Britain. Thanks again to everyone in Ainsdale for being so hospitable and making me feel welcome.”

Giant mural on the side of Toad Hall, Ainsdale. Image: Paul Curtis

What the locals think

The mural has been the centre of much discussion in the area, with local people taking to social media to air their views about the artwork before it was finished.

Andy Jackson and his wife Cathy live in Ainsdale and have been enjoying the completed piece.

Mr Jackson said: “I really like the detail in the painting and how the colours blend well in the natural environment.”

“I think it’s a great idea to turn an unused building into a piece of art that can be enjoyed by everyone. The bright colours are really eye-catching, I hope it stays,” Mrs Jackson added.

Ainsdale resident Charlotte Forshaw, 9, said: “It’s such a fantastic painting. The sand lizard looks so real wrapped around the old building.

“It used to look very run down but now it’s amazing to look at.”

“Just brilliant Paul,” user pjh4700 wrote on Instagram. “Have loved seeing this growing and coming to life. More please!”

Will the mural stay?

A council consultation asking for the public’s views on any redevelopment closes at the end of September.

The consultation asks whether Toad Hall, which was originally built in the 1920s, should be reused and redeveloped, be demolished and not replaced or be demolished and rebuilt for a variety of uses.

A Sefton Council spokesperson said the council was delighted with the finished artwork, but could not confirm exactly how long it would be there.

He added: “The mural should be in place for the foreseeable future but could be affected by the long-term plans for the area that emerge from the council’s public consultation.”