Ron's PlaceRon Gittins (1939 - 2019)
About the Artist/Site
Though Ron Gittins was well-known for his creative proclivities and was often seen about town wearing elaborate, homemade costumes and pushing a stroller filled with art materials or a life-sized papier-mâché sculpture of Cleopatra, neither his community nor his family knew the extent of the work he had done to turn his Wirral flat into an immersive art environment. Upon his death in September 2019, people entered his home for the first time in years to discover expansive murals featuring Greco-Roman and Egyptian characters and underwater scenes, painted canvases on easels and propped against walls, papier-mâché sculptures, piles of found objects and other materials for future art projects, and the most stunning works–fireplaces built out into enormous, three-dimensional sculptures like a roaring lion, a bull’s head, and a temple.
Gittins had shown creative promise as a child, attending the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead for his primary education. He was musically gifted and said to have been a “brilliant Buddy Holly impersonator” who also enjoyed drama and would often perform scenes from Shakespeare. He was involved in local acting groups, but according to family, did not take direction well–an issue that also bled into his professional life. He was self-employed as an artist for a period of time through a business that he named “Minstrel Enterprises” (himself being the “minstrel”) and even achieved some local media attention for his artistry when he recreated a Roman villa in his bedroom in his parents’ home.
There are several reasons why Gittins may have kept his interior artwork private, but the most likely explanation is that his flat was rented and he probably feared that the structural and aesthetic changes he made (as well as the numerous piles of found materials) would not be appreciated by the property owner. However, a significant clue pointing to Gittins’ industrious art-making and palatial interior took the form of large sculptural “totems” flanking the front door. Unfortunately, these stately pieces were removed due to safety concerns.
Fortunately for the site and the community in which it was created, the property owners (Salisbury Management Services) have generously allowed family members to take up Gittins’ lease and begin clean up and conservation efforts. Gittins’ niece Jan Williams, artist and owner of The Caravan Gallery, and her partner Chris Teasdale are leading this effort and are currently raising money to support preservation of the site. They plan to save the artwork and honor Gittins’ artistic legacy through converting the home into a functional space for community engagement through exhibitions and other public programs.
Narrative: Annalise Flynn, 2020
Update: In early 2023, the building containing Ron's Place was put up for auction by the owner. The Ron's Place team immediately launched an urgent fundraising campaign, but they were unable to secure the funds necessary to purchase the building. However, the morning of the auction, Tamsin Wimhurst of the Muller Wimhurst Trust contacted the team with with the extremely surprising news that she would like to loan the group the money to acquire the site. The Ron's Place team / Wirral Arts and Culture Community Land Trust was able to place a successful bid just hours later, and they are now the owners of the entire building containing Ron's Place. Plans for the conservation of the site and community arts programming are ongoing.
cement, paint, found objects, papier-mâché
Map & Site Information
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3904 / -3.0159166
East Dulwich, England