Ron’s Place: Birkenhead outsider art apartment gains Grade II listing

A rental flat in Birkenhead has been transformed over 30 years into an extraordinary and extraordinary art palace that is now Grade II listed.

Apartments in Wirral are known as Ron’s placeis believed to be the UK’s only nationally listed example of outsider art.

From the outside, this is what it looks like: a charming but unremarkable Victorian semi-detached house. Inside, the late Ron Gittins created an extraordinary fantasy world with colorful historical murals, handmade costumes and fireplaces carved into the heads of minotaurs and lions. and Roman altarpieces.

Walking into the apartment is another story. People’s jaws usually drop. It’s not great art in the traditional sense, but that’s not the point.

Activists fighting to preserve the apartment bought the entire house last year. Photo: Historic England 2024/PA

Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker is one such fan. “A small percentage of people on the planet already know that Ron’s Place is a very special place – but from now on it’s official,” he said.

“A unique gentleman from the North of England is being recognized nationally and globally for his work. Hallelujah!!”

The interior of the apartment was demolished and survived A year ago, activists managed to buy the entire housethanks to Tamsin Wimhurst, who Read about it in The Guardian.

niece of gittings Jane Williams said the idea of ​​listing was initially a “strategy” to delay other bidders. To actually achieve it “is absolutely brilliant…it’s been a long process”.

Williams said she thought her uncle would be “absolutely thrilled. He just felt like he was onto something, that he had a mission to create.” He once said to my father, “I’m not going to be ignored.”

“It’s such a bold thing to install a giant concrete minotaur fireplace in your rental apartment. Others worry about blue nail stains on the walls.”

Gittins, who died in 2019 at the age of 79, was a complex figure who most people would consider eccentric.

The apartment is located in a Victorian semi-detached house and looks unremarkable from the outside. Photo: Historic England 2024/PA

Alison Bailey-Smith, a volunteer and neighbor, often bumped into him as she wheeled her children around in their prams. He usually wore a wig and leggings dangling from wellington boots he made out of newspaper. He also has a stroller.

“I never thought to look inside, but apparently he was going to the local DIY store to buy concrete or cement to build his amazing structures,” she said.

Like most people, she had no idea what Gittins was doing in his apartment. “I can see creative things in the garden and he has two totem poles outside his front door, which is fun.”

“His front garden was full of rubbish, but it wasn’t rubbish, it was his art shop, really.”

When she walked into the apartment after Gittins died, Bailey Smith said she couldn’t believe her eyes. “It’s incredible, absolutely unbelievable…those fireplaces, those colors, the proportions in the murals. You have to see it to believe it.” “Who would do that in a rental property? It’s important to protect it because there’s nowhere else to do it. make it happen.”

Inclusion on the list by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England (HE) recognizes “Ron’s creations as an example of large-scale outsider art in this country”.

It provides Ron’s Place with additional protection and helps open up new funding sources for the project. custodian The hope is to use the property to inspire creativity and improve well-being.

The apartments are not yet open to the public, but it is hoped that small guided tours will be available within a year.

Jane Williams, Ron’s niece, said, “It’s pretty audacious to cram a minotaur into your rental apartment.” Photo: Historic England 2024/PA

Catherine Croft, president of the Twentieth Century Society, said the Rowan House was “a twentieth-century heritage unlike any other and the first example of outsider art to be listed on the national register”.

The term outsider art is often used to refer to the work of those on the margins of society who create art for themselves rather than for an audience.There are many examples of this genre in British gallery collections, including the Tate and whitworth Located in Manchester, whole properties like Ron’s Place are more common in Europe and the United States.

Martin Wallace, Ron’s Place patron and film producer, produced External Arts Documentary Series with CockerWalking into the apartment was “a rare, strangely beautiful, immersive experience,” he said.

“I’ve spent time in many alternative art environments around the world, and the Ron House is one of the best,” he said.

Other examples of alternative art from around the world

Juncker HouseLemgo, Germany

Handyman Karl Junker (1850-1912) was considered a solitary, eccentric man who had few visitors.

The strange house he built, with its unique paintings and sculptures, was his life’s work and is known as “One of the strangest and most unique architectural sites in Germany, if not Europe”.

watts towerLos Angeles

In a poor suburb of the city 17 tower-like structures created by Saboto “Simon” RodiaA semi-literate Italian immigrant worked on these jobs alone from 1921 to 1954.

Rodia covered the steel frame with concrete as well as any items he found, including broken bottles, tiles and old pottery.Rodia came closest to explaining his work says: “I wanted to do something big, and I did it.”

ideal palaceOtribe, France

Ferdinand Cheval was a rural postal worker who built a dream palace out of rocks he found in his village.

The resulting structure is strange; Like “a Monet painting with little pebbles”According to one visitor, and “Like an insight into the archaeologist’s subconscious,” said another.

Garden of EdenLucas, Kansas, USA

Retired Civil War veteran and free thinker SP Dinsmoor began building his cottage and sculpture garden in 1907.

He hopes his art will last forever and call for a more just society. To this end, he built a pyramid mausoleum with a glass-fronted concrete coffin in which his embalmers guarded the body.

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