Published: 13:39, 26 October 2021
| Updated: 09:25, 27 October 2021
A two-year labour of love by one man to remember a Kent town's famous playwright in art form will be officially unveiled next month.
Graphic designer, artist and former art psychotherapist Ben Dickson has spent two years getting a mural of Somerset Maugham painted on a wall in Whitstable, where the writer grew up.
After raising funds through a GoFundMe project, and gaining planning permission for the mural in one site, he has finally created the mural of the writer of works including Of Human Bondage, on a second site in Oxford Street in Whitstable.
Although already visible, it will be officially 'unveiled' by Maugham's grandson, Nic Paravicini, and other family members on Friday, November 19.
Ben, who also produced the audience cut-outs for the socially-distanced seating at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, said: "It took the best part of two years to get all this done and many more grey hairs on my head.
"I originally was going to ask a mural company to paint the wall but it became so personal that I wanted to complete it myself. I filled and painted the wall then painted the mural. In all it took about three to four weeks, including adding the anti-graffiti paint after we got tagged by some graffiti artists. What a compliment!"
He said: "I have had so much positive support along the way I couldn’t stop, I think. I also have become a big fan of Maugham's work and he was an amazing character who led a very full and interesting life on his own terms. A lot of my own artwork is about interesting people and what makes them who they are, especially successful people who have flaws, succeeding in many ways often despite themselves."
Maugham had lived in Whitstable after the death of his parents with his paternal uncle Henry MacDonald Maugham, the Vicar of Whitstable, and attended The King's School in Canterbury. He was a popular writer of his era, reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s, and also worked for the British Secret Intelligence service.
Ben said he hoped the mural could add an extra interest to the town. "People are somewhat aware of Maugham and his connection with the town. He was such an important literary figure that I think its very important for the town to reconnect with his fame and memory. There are people that say he didn’t like the town he grew up here, but he wrote about it in some of his famous works and this connection should be celebrated. With my therapist head on I think he had an unhappy childhood because he lost his parents very young... nevertheless his childhood had a massive influence on his very successful adult life."
He added: "I’m very proud of the mural and have had so much positive public support."
Potential related projects he is considering for the future include a quote trail in the town, and some educational work with local schools.
Local businesses that have supported the project include The Whitstable Produce Store, Clague Architects, Samphire, Stocks, Valentines, ADH Scaffolding, Bruce Williams and B&Q. To find out more about Ben's work, which includes portraits and commissions, click here.