Working with the rich history of one of South Wales’ market towns, illustrator Jack Skivens has engaged with local community groups to design a series of shop jackets for vacant building in Pontypool. Each shop jacket represents a valuable part of Pontypool’s vibrant heritage and culture. As a town built on the iron industry, it quickly grew into a thriving centre for commerce, leisure and culture in the Eastern Valley.

Jack was commissioned through the Town Centre Enhancements project, an innovative collaboration between Llantarnam Grange, Torfaen County Borough Council and local art group ArtRegen, which aims to improve the presentation and appearance of the town.

Jack will also be exhibiting some of the original drawings that can be seen on the high street, along with other works and prints, in our café from 25 June – 20 August.

The first work, E Fowler & Sons, has been installed on the Lion House building, and other shop jackets have been designed for more vacant properties in Pontypool Town Centre.

E Fowler & Sons celebrates a well-loved local shop in Pontypool by the same name. Its window displays were well known and attracted attention from the community and visitors. Jack’s illustration is an exploration of this history and the community surrounding it. A cat, from the Japanware mosaic mural, can be found in front of the window, having followed a butterfly through town, stopping to browse in the window. There are also posters in the windows that act as nods to the Pontypool Hill climb, Eisteddfod and Opera in the Park.

Other work, including Match Day will be installed later in May.

Match Day depicts fans of Pontypool’s infamous Rugby team, showing the town at its busiest as fans celebrate a win by walking through town victoriously. Jack’s illustration aims to celebrate rugby through the local community that supports it. Two more cats can be found among the busy scene, wandering through town from the Japanware mosaic mural, to join in the celebrations. There is a local busker who is sporting a Manic Street Preachers t-shirt inspired by James Dean Bradfield, singer of the band who was born in Pontypool. There are also many other characters passing through the scene including a man on his way to the dry ski slope.

In the far right of the picture, three boys re-enacting scenes seen Pontypool’s famous front row performed at the match. These three characters can also be seen throughout the piece as they grow into men, still a part of their community and team.

Jack Skivens is an illustrator living in and inspired by Wales. He illustrates everything from Children’s books to artwork for musicians. Jack loves illustrating moments in time that can tell a story, paying particular attention to the smaller details.

Torfaen County Borough Council has funded the works through its Covid Recovery Fund: a £1.2M fund created by the Council to help communities across the borough recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid has hit town centres hard with the loss of some high street chains and declines in footfall, but it has also highlighted how much communities still rely on their town as a hub for essential supplies and services, and as a focal point for social and leisure activity.