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Portrait of Queen Victoria unveiled at Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

A unique and special portrait of Queen Victoria now hangs in west Kent's largest shopping centre.

The unveiling ceremony of 'Victoria at 21' was performed by the Deputy Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Cllr David Elliott at Royal Victoria Place.

The community art project, which was launched at the of 2013, took nearly 18 months to complete.

Artist Helen Marshall looks at her work before the unveiling

It was commissioned by Royal Victoria Place to commemorate the shopping centre’s 21st Birthday and its links with the town’s royal heritage.

In keeping with the centre’s royal namesake, artist Helen Marshall was commissioned to create a giant portrait of Queen Victoria at the time of her 21st birthday.

The artwork is composed of over 3,000 photographs featuring those submitted online by the public, from the centre archives and a whistle stop tour of the town itself undertaken by Helen Marshall.

Artist Helen Marshall and Deputy Mayor Cllr David Elliott at the unveilng

The tour included visiting well-known local businesses, organisations and schools to include AXA PPP, Harold Brown and The Victorian B&B, The Hotel Du Vin, St Augustine’s Primary School, Oakley School and Hillview School for Girls.

Helen Marshall is a British artist with her work is rooted in photography and design. In 2008, she created the Record-Breaking ‘The Big Picture’, which was the largest Photomosaic in the world.

Marc Burchett, Marketing Manager of Royal Victoria Place who spearheaded the project, said: “It was amazing to see this project which has taken almost 18 months finally unveiled and able to take pride of place at Royal Victoria Place.

"Already within the first few days since it went on public display, it has created a lot of interest and it’s great to see the reactions of shoppers when they either see their own photo or that of someone they know. We are so proud of what Helen Marshall has created for us and this artwork will enable us to provide a legacy for the future with a link to the proud royal heritage our town enjoys!”

The unveiling of community art project VictoriaAt21 by artist Helen Marshall
Artist Helen Marshall looks at her work at Royal Victoria Place

After the unveiling, on April 21, Helen Marshall said: “Royal Victoria Place did a tremendous job on presenting the work at its best, I am very grateful for all their support and clear commitment to their local community.

"I really appreciate too the warmth and open minds of the participants and how they have recognised the value of such an artwork and I hope they enjoy it for many years to come.”

"I had a lot of fun working on the Victoria at 21 project and although the final piece has a serious grandeur to it, it can also be touched and interacted with in a way we had always intended.”

Victoria at 21 will now be on permanent public display at Royal Victoria Place located on level 2 between BHS and Ernest Jones.

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