Mural Lettering

Mural lettering in Angus

In 2019, I embarked on a project which developed into regenerating exterior spaces with typographic murals. It proved to be a challenging and rewarding experience.

One location I’d identified during the project was a footbridge wall crossing the Dighty Burn. The burn (Scottish word for stream) flows into the River Tay at Monifieth Beach.

The old red brick wall is part of a rail bridge facing south across the river. The wall deserved a facelift and a life enriching message.

Wall Signs in Monifieth

Learning about the development

Initially, I contacted the local authority (Angus Council) planning department. I was informed the rail bridge was not a listed structure and subsequently learned of the owners – Network Rail. Discussions with planning consent officers, countrywide rangers and local councillors followed.

In late 2019, my enquiries led me to a public consultation regarding a multi-million pounds investment for transforming miles of paths parallel with the river.

Flood defences and upgrades of paths from Broughty Ferry (east of Dundee) to Monifieth were planned.

Wall graphics in Monifieth

The massive construction project included a new footbridge to replace the existing one attached to the old red brick wall. The project’s lead designer, Andrew Borthwick, informed me of a window of time when the new bridge would be built. The whole stretch of beach would be closed whilst the construction work was carried out.

This stage of development was planned for 2022-23 – around three years from then. The news wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but there was still an opportunity for the mural. I had to wait.

Mural painting in Monifieth

Planning a mural

With preliminary artwork quoting words by Robert Burns, I sent my proposal to two gentlemen at Network Rail and Scotrail. Both were enthusiastic about the mural. We arranged to meet on site in early March 2020.

Then the pandemic happened.

Signwriting in Angus

Whilst researching, I discovered a poem by Monifieth poet and author John Glenday. The poem is called ‘The River’. The second line caught my attention:

‘We come to a river we always knew we had to cross’.

I contacted John and explained myself and my proposal. I asked for John’s permission to paint his words on the wall. John replied and approved. He also explained the origin of his words.

The line refers to the footbridge attached to the old red brick wall. Never one to miss duality of meaning, I knew these words must gaze across the river.

Signwriting in Monifieth

Seizing an opportunity

Years passed. My murals adventure had well and truly ended. E-mails went unanswered. The waterfront development was slow and I didn’t think this project would ever happen. I felt rejected and disappointed, but a flame still flickered. I was on standby.

In March 2023, I chanced upon an article featuring Angus councillor Serena Cowdy. Serena is Spokesperson for Environment, Tourism and Active Travel. In Serena’s interview, she announced the new phase of the waterfront development. This stage included building the replacement bridge described to me three years previously at the public consultation in Broughty Ferry.

The opportunity was presented, so I contacted Serena. I explained my journey so far.

Signwriter painting a mural in Monifieth
Mural lettering across the Dighty in Monifieth

Serena introduced me to Gerry Conway. Gerry works for Dundee City Council as project manager for the Broughty Ferry to Monifieth waterfront development.

I e-mailed Gerry then he phoned me the following day. We chatted about the construction project and its benefits for the local community, as well as my mural ambition. I e-mailed the artwork to Gerry with John Glenday’s approval, as well as my process for painting and hand lettering walls.

In late June 2023, Gerry got in touch again with good news. The mural had been universally and favourably approved by all stakeholders. Stunned and elated, I scheduled my diary for a site survey.

Hand lettering in Angus

Surveying the site

Gerry and I met Matt Sharpe. Matt is contracts manager with McLaughlin and Harvey Ltd. Mc&HL are the main contractors for this stage of the construction and already begun building the new foot and cycle bridge. The whole area of the beach was being upgraded and quickly transformed.

Following our meeting, I wrote my risk assessment and method statement. I also included the list of materials required for completing the mural. Mc&HL kindly purchased the paints and sundries and donated these for the mural. We set to commence the painting on 24th July 2023.

The River by John Glenday

Painting the wall

Over two weeks, dodging rain clouds and absorbing rays, I gradually prepared and painted the wall.

One coat of sealer and primer was applied before three topcoats of masonry paint were heavily brushed and rollered onto the rough surface. The paints bonded well, and the graffiti was gone.

I’d made my transfer patterns for the lettering whilst continually checking weather forecast updates. I planned to begin hand lettering on 28th July 2023.

Signwriter in Monifieth

Hand lettering the wall

After levelling and transferring the patterns onto the surface, the mural lettering was carefully and accurately cut in. The mortar between the bricks is irregular and very uneven, making flowing lines tricky. Each letter was outlined on each brick before adjoining the mortar to stitch the letters together.

The lettering lasted three days and required patience, concentration and stamina. The weather was typically unsettled, and the river wind’s backlash bent my bristles.

Hand lettering in Monifieth

The rich cream enamel was coated twice to make the matt finish solid. The paint crept into every line of mortar and most of the nooks and crannies the letters lay upon. The project demanded my full attention for accuracy.

Following a long shift on the last day, finishing touches were slowly brushed around the edges of every letter, tidying furry corners and little cream dots on the mortar. With mixed emotions, I stood back and admired the words again. They resonated as strongly as ever.

Mural lettering in Dundee

Thank you

Andrew Borthwick at Dundee City Council, Jamie McLaren and Mark Henderson at Network Rail, Serena Cowdy at Angus Council and Matthew Sharpe at McLaughlin and Harvey Ltd. made this project possible.

Thank you.

The beautiful words were authored by John Glenday. It has been a pleasure to discover John’s work.

My special gratitude is owed to Gerry Conway at Dundee City Council: Gerry’s effort, support and shared vision made this project happen.

Choose Life Monifieth

Get in touch if you’d like to collaborate with me for mural lettering.