Artist Rich Thorne aka Richt, returns to his hometown of Barnstaple, North Devon England; for his latest on street project and educational program. The project initiated by Barnstaple Town council, pulls together iconic references from the area and surrounding natural land. Spearheaded by local councillor Ricky Knight, the mural has been in development for the past 18 months and will be the first mural in the town. 

An environmental advocate, UN award recipient and local teacher for over 30 years, Knight speaks of his pride in supporting the importance of art in the area.  “There is a historic cultural tradition here in Barnstaple, from the poet John Gay to the Queen’s Theatre, a legacy wholeheartedly supported by the community," Knight says. "It is such a pleasure to have Richt, who was born and brought up here, return for Barnstaple’s first mural; an integral part of our rejuvenation and regeneration of the town centre in welcoming new visitors.”

While the mural engages visitors old and new, the project most notably teams up with the North Devon Biosphere and UNESCO for an SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) aligned worksop for young people. Richt together with childhood friend and local teacher Robbie Keast, consider the fragile and spectacular natural beauty of the region coordinating visits to the mural and in person sessions with the children. Providing over 200 worksheets across 6 primary schools, they encourage important conversations around culture and sustainable attitudes. 

“Returning to my home town to engage young people through art feels very significant to me," Richt says. "Knowing how important the seaside and surrounding nature is, I hope this new mural can bridge a local conversation on the value of art in inspiring positive action and attitudes."

As a UNESCO world heritage site North Devon has biosphere status, a category reserved for places of great natural beauty, where different industries learn from one another to develop strategies for how humans and nature can interact more sustainably. North Devon was the first UK UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its unique ecosystem of nature and wildlife. “Art in the public realm is a great way to not only brighten a location but create a statement about our community," Andy Bell, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Coordinator, added. "Having a mural that showcases the values we have as a community in a UNESCO biosphere is a great conversation starter. Working with primary schools means we are having that conversation with the people who will inherit whatever we leave behind. We need more of this."