Lost mural of the ‘People’s Republic of South Yorkshire’ finally gets mainstream acceptance

At nearly six metres long and two metres high it was never going to be easy to lose.

And maybe that’s why the powers that be built a false wall to cover it completely when the politically charged Thatcher years made way for New Labour in Sheffield.

But then it was lost completely for over a decade and it was only the quick thinking of a local arts centre that saved it from being destroyed.

This weekend the true modern masterpiece finally received the reverence it deserved when it was put on permanent display at Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries.

‘With Burning Patience’ – which took nearly two years to complete – was the work of Chilean brothers Sergio and Daniel Bustamante who were given asylum in Sheffield following the Pinochet Coup.

The artists in exile completed the work as a thank you to the people of the city for giving them a future.

The mural took a staggering six months of research before work even started and depicted political struggles down the decades.

The jaw-dropping mural was unveiled – first time around – on Labour Day in 1987 in Sheffield Co-ordinating Centre Against Unemployment (SCCAU) on West Street with politicians and the media out in force to celebrate its installation.

The painting became a symbol of hope as the city’s ruling Labour Group rallied against the Thatcher policies of the time before it disappeared.

Debra Egan, who runs Dina Arts Centre on Cambridge Street, gave it a temporary home and saved it from being destroyed after being tipped off by Susan Atkins, a former director of SCCAU.

She said: “It really is an amazing piece of art and I’m relieved to say we were able to give it temporary respite whilst a permanent home was found for it. I’m glad to say it’s finally getting the reverence it deserves.”

Fellow Chilean exile Sergio Contreras, who came to Sheffield in 1973, spent years searching for the mural. He has become a spokesperson for the artists and said: “This mural was painted as a symbol to honour the unemployed, the homeless, the voiceless and hard working people of Sheffield. I think its significance is more important now than it ever was.”


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