'I never expected this' - Pontefract artist's surprise as NHS tributes are shared across the world

A Pontefract artist has attracted global attention following a series of murals she has painted around the town.

By Nick Frame and Olivia Hale
Thursday, 9th April 2020, 2:37 pm

Rachel List has completed several pieces of work over a matter of days on walls and fences in dedication to frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic, drawing comparisons to the notorious street artist, Banksy.

Like the subversive artist, her work has been completed in the small hours with minimal attention and purposely avoided taking credit for the work, initially anyway.

But after news spread through the town and beyond, the 29-year-old owned up.

A second painting appeared the next day on the side gates of the Hope & Anchor pub on North Baileygate.

She said: “I was purposely vague about when I was able to do it, I didn’t make any promises.

“With the current situation, if too many people knew, I wasn’t sure if they’d come to watch, which wouldn’t be ideal with the social distancing.

“What I wanted to do was not post anything and see how long it would take to start appearing on social media.

“It took about three hours to get back to me.

Rachel List has completed several pieces of work over a matter of days on walls and fences in dedication to frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic, drawing comparisons to the notorious street artist, Banksy.

“It was my one chance to create a little bit of mystery. I’m known in the community as an artist so it was never going to be kept a secret.

“Some people even said they knew it was me straight away.

“I wanted people to find it a bit fun and get people talking, but I never expected this.”

The married mother-of-one first caught national attention in the early hours of last Thursday morning, when she painted the first mural on the side wall of Horse Vaults pub on Horse Fair.

Her latest work adorns the side wall of Fitness Base gym on Northgate, depicting a giant face mask with a superman shield on the mouth cover, reading stay safe.

It shows a young girl dressed as a nurse, complete with face mask and dripping brush and tin in hand, after painting the NHS logo on the wall.

The ‘S’ from the logo has been replaced with the badge of Superman, as an obvious nod to the heroic efforts by frontline workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

A second then appeared the next day on the side gates of the Hope & Anchor pub on North Baileygate.

Again it shows the NHS logo and nurse with a paintbrush in her hand, but this time painting a rainbow - which has become a symbol of support for front-line NHS workers in recent weeks.

Since then others have appeared, including a rainbow in Chequerfield, St Giles School, which her and her daughter, a pupil of the school, both painted together.

Her latest work adorns the side wall of Fitness Base gym on Northgate, depicting a giant face mask with a superman shield on the mouth cover, reading ‘stay safe’.

It also includes the words ‘It wasn’t Banksy’.

The self-employed artist explained: “Among it all, I began trending on twitter, but with the hashtag #banksy.

“It was a bit annoying at first, I’m not a graffiti artist yet people online were still confusing me with Banksy, so I painted the hashtag #itwasntbanksy underneath this mural.”

And unlike Banksy, Rachel painted her murals freehand, rather than using stencils, and was asked to carry out the work.

Landlord of Horse Vaults, Gary Stocks, 53, explained: “I put on Facebook if anyone could do an NHS banner at cost for the outside wall, because it’s such a big wall.

“I was put in touch with Rachel who said she did painting.

“And then I woke up that morning and there it was. I didn’t even realise - I saw it on Facebook before I saw it for myself!

“She has done such a good job. It looks excellent.

“Everybody has been talking about it and leaving really nice comments, it’s just gone mad. I’m going to keep it if we can.”

Rachel has not ruled out creating more murals either, saying: “I don’t just want to keep doing them because they will lose their impact. If I come up with a new idea and it would fit perfectly in a spot, then maybe.

“It’s nice to put your mark in your home town.”