Ashcroft nursery on Whitegate Drive has been transformed with Zoo-themed mural by disabled Blackpool artist

A pre-school on Whitegate Drive has been transformed with a colourful mural inspired by Blackpool Zoo.

By Lucinda Herbert
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 11:58 am

A disabled artist stepped in to modernise a nursery after she heard the bathroom was ‘stuck in the 1970s’,

Kirsty Rea, 48, started painting the bathroom of Ashcroft nursery, on Whitegate Drive, where her grandaughter, Wynter Sharp-Pace, 3, recently attended.

But the manager was so impressed that she asked her to paint the outside walls too.

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(l-r) Amelia Fairchild, Maisie Daniels, Daniel Martinez Inigo and Esmé Jones with artist Kirsty Rea and the zoo mural at Ashcroft Nursery in Blackpool. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

The wheelchair-bound mural artist lives on Durham Road. She paid for all the materials herself, and did it because she loves to paint.

Nursery manager, Shell Weatherby, said: “She’s done an amazing job, and didn’t ask for a penny. She even worked through the rain during the holiday, until it got too heavy. She needs some recognition for her work.”

She said the murals have brightened up the school - inside and out. And the themes are designed to inspire the kids to learn about their town and foster Blackpool pride.

The children helped to develop ideas based on Blackpool Zoo, and the bathroom mural is based on the promenade.

The zoo-themed mural at Ashcroft Nursery in Blackpool painted by Kirsty Rea. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“It was so grotty before and it really made toilet training hard because they hated coming in. I think soon we’ll struggle to get them out.”

Having given up art after high school, the mum-of-seven turned to painting as therapy when a rare illness left her in a wheelchair in 2012.

She has Cauda Equina Syndrome which causes sudden severe compression of the lower spine.

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Two donkeys are part of a Promenade themed mural in the Ashcroft nursery toilets

Surgery was unsuccessful and she gradually lost the ability to walk. But a successful neck operation meant she kept the use of her arms.

Shell said: “She’s so talented and dedicated and deserves so much recognition for what she’s done. She’s bought all the paint herself, and doesn’t want payment. She just loves to paint.”

Kirsty brightens up run-down parts of Blackpool, but would love the chance to do more projects like this one. She said: “This is the biggest project I have done, and the most tiresome being in the wheelchair.

But I loved watching the children smile and chatter about the animals.”

Artist Kirsty Rea in front of her zoo-themed mural at Ashcroft Nursery in Blackpool. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Kirsty self-funds her art projects but hopes to turn it into a job.

"I want people see my creativity and art and not my wheelchair.

I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.”

The zoo-themed mural at Ashcroft Nursery in Blackpool painted by Kirsty Rea. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
The Ashcroft Nursery outdoor wall before the transformation