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HomeNewsRon's Place awarded Grade II Listing with support from Historic England

Ron’s Place awarded Grade II Listing with support from Historic England

A hidden gem of Outsider Art, Ron’s Place, located at 8 Silverdale Road in Birkenhead, Merseyside, has been granted Grade II listing by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

Concealed for over 30 years within an unassuming Victorian semi-detached villa, Ron Gittins meticulously crafted a striking visionary environment, which remained a secret until his death in 2019.

From intricate murals depicting historical scenes, to hand-crafted concrete fireplaces in the shape of a roaring lion’s head, a Minotaur’s head (a minotaur is a mythical creature with body of a man and the head and tail of a bull) and even a Roman bread oven, Gittins’ creative imagination permeated every corner of his rented ground-floor flat. 

The result is a compelling immersive space that reflects Ron’s intense character, combining his imaginative creative abilities and abiding passion for history, following a visit to Pompeii as a young man.

The listing recognises Ron’s creation as an exemplar of large-scale Outsider Art in England, a creative phenomenon by artists motivated by their personal visions and often working in a compulsive way, usually with no formal training and outside the influence of the mainstream art world.

About Ron Gittins (1939 – 2019)

The ground-floor flat on Silverdale Road was rented by Ron in 1986, and he spent the next three decades creating a visionary environment. With limited formal artistic training, he developed his own very particular world, articulated both through his flat and through the creation of historic costumes.  He would often wear his costumes when out in the local area, but he kept the creations within his home for his own appreciation, with visitors largely discouraged. Together these aspects sum up both the flamboyantly engaging and deeply private sides of Ron.

What is Outsider Art?

Outsider Art is an internationally recognised creative phenomenon that often transcends genres and goes under a variety of umbrella terms, including Art Brut (raw art), Folk art, Intuitive art or Visionary art and Naïve art.

Tate describes Outsider Art as “art that has a naïve quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production”. A key feature of Outsider Art, and the artists involved, is that the work is created without an audience in mind, and often purely for themselves.

Examples of Outsider Art can now be found in galleries in the UK and around the world, including the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Collection at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, and at the Tate Britain and Tate St Ives.

Sarah Charlesworth, Listing Team Leader North at Historic England, said:

“Ron’s Place is testament to the unique artistic achievements and vision of Ron Gittins over four decades. The extent to which Ron’s creations have inspired action from people in the local area to raise funds to purchase the building and secure the survival of his legacy demonstrates the value of this remarkable project and why it has earned its place on the National Heritage List for England.”

Jan Williams said:

“I believe Ron would be made up and very proud at all the attention he’s receiving, and thrilled his work is being recognised and appreciated –  he only kept it secret because you’re not really supposed to turn your rented flat into a Roman villa complete with epic concrete fireplaces are you?

“When I was sorting through Ron’s possessions following his death I discovered an incorrectly addressed postcard he’d tried to send me. He said he couldn’t wait to show me what he’d been working on next time I was home.

“I feel sad to have missed out on so much of my Uncle Ron’s complicated but intriguing story in the past but it’s good to know his creativity will inspire future generations.”

Martin Wallace, Ron’s Place patron said:

“To visit Ron’s Place is a rare and strangely beautiful immersive experience. I’ve spent time in many ‘outsider art’ environments around the globe and Ron’s Place ranks with the best of them. But it’s real potential lies beyond its idiosyncratic appeal.

Experiencing Ron’s Place can be an inspiration towards transformative improvements in wellbeing through creative activity for all kinds of people, from all walks of life, young and old. It’s fantastic that Historic England has recognised the unique value and potential of Ron’s Place and chosen to ensure it must now be properly protected for generations to come.”

Twentieth Century Society Director, Catherine Croft, said:

“This is twentieth century heritage unlike any other, the first example of Outsider Art to be nationally listed.

At Ron’s Place, one man’s extraordinary creative vision summoned creatures from Greek mythology and the architecture of ancient Roman to a humble ground-floor flat in Birkenhead. Proof, if needed, that great art isn’t confined just to established galleries and collections.

It’s also great news that the Wirral Arts and Culture Community Land Trust (WACCLT) will use the flat for creative arts programming to enhance the health and wellbeing of the people of the Wirral: what better end could there be to this amazing story.”

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