Despite the best efforts of a group of volunteers and Pulp frontman, Jarvis
Cocker, a unique artistic creation may soon be lost forever when the building
it is in goes up for auction on the 1st of March.
A one-of-a-kind flat in Birkenhead, Merseyside, is about to go up for auction. But this is no
ordinary living space. For 33 years until his death in 2019, aged 79, Ron Gittins obsessively
painted the walls, ceilings and floors of his rented flat, creating an idiosyncratic living
monument to his passion for ancient history. Visitors can experience walking into an
Egyptian tomb-like entrance hall, an aquarium themed bathroom, admire flamboyantly
painted walls and ceilings, and come face to face with a host of papier-mâché sculptures.
Ron also sculpted three massive concrete fireplaces, most notably, one in the form of a
roaring lion’s head and another a Minotaur, in which he cooked his ‘Roman army pancakes’.
‘Ron’s Place’ has the grandeur of a Roman Villa crossed with an eighteenth-century palace.
Much of the work was completed in secret and it was not until after Ron’s death in 2019
that the full extent of his creativity was discovered and began to attract attention from
around the world. Ron was an ordinary man with little formal training, a self-taught artist,
an everyman. People described Ron as having a fizz for life itself – those who have been to
his home can see that his art was the way he engaged with and enjoyed the world for his
own pleasure, rather than for artistic acclaim.
Over the last three years a team of volunteers has continued paying the rent on Ron’s Place.
They founded the Wirral Arts & Culture Community Land Trust (WACCLT) with the aim of
using Ron’s story and his flat to inspire creativity in others, to improve well-being and
empower communities. Pilot projects*1 have already taken place with service users and
community groups. A variety of artists and craftspeople have also visited Ron’s and been
inspired to respond to the immersive experience through their own work.
With Jarvis Cocker on board as patron, the team has been trying to find a development
partner to help buy the building, which includes three flats above Ron’s Place. But the £465k
asking price meant potential partners including housing associations could not proceed. In
order to demonstrate the creative potential of Ron’s Place, the team had hoped to lease the
whole building for a year in order to run a full programme of creative community events.
But now the landlord has unexpectedly issued an eviction notice and put the building up
for auction on March 1 s t (bidding opens 28 Feb) with a guide price of £325k.
So, in an attempt to stop any new owner from simply ripping out everything Ron spent years
creating, the group has launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and buy the building at
auction before it is lost to the nation forever.
Jarvis Cocker said:
“With environments like these, you get a complete work of art that somebody is living in and
that they’ve established the rules. It’s like a personal universe”.
“Everybody decorates their house in some way, Ron has just gone that extra mile. That lion’s
head fireplace is unbelievable really. I have always been interested in the art of people who
haven’t gone through the normal channels, they haven’t gone to art college and stuff like
that. They have an idea, and they follow it through. We all have creativity within us.”
Martin Wallace is an award-winning filmmaker and one of the volunteer group. He
directed the Channel Four series, Journeys Into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker, in which he
and Jarvis travelled the world looking at extraordinary places like Ron’s, built by otherwise
Martin Wallace said:
“Jarvis and I filmed at about thirty amazing sites across the globe, from Mexico to India.
Places where people had felt compelled to create something very personal and idiosyncratic.
Ron’s Place is up there with the best of them. I’d say it’s in the top five places of its kind in
the world and certainly the best in the UK, so we can’t let this go; it would be so short-
Jan Williams, Ron’s niece and founder of the campaign to save Ron’s Place said:
” It would be criminal to lose such a unique and special place that enchants and inspires so
many people. Ron’s Place is a testament to the power of imagination and resourcefulness
and proves you don’t need loads of money to be creative’’.
Another volunteer, Emma Baars said:
“Many people have visited historic sites, stately homes, or the preserved homes of
established artists for inspiration; but Ron’s Place is different – his home was private and only
discovered after his death, everything he created came from his fizz for life and enjoyment of
art – as an ordinary person who enjoys art and creativity as a way of understanding and
existing in the world – I find that hugely inspiring.”
*1. Pilot projects have already taken place with Wirral Mind’s Fountain Art Group; peer
support group, Hoarders Helping Hoarders; and residents of Damien John Kelly House, an
abstinence-based recovery living centre in Liverpool.
*2 Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale run The Caravan Gallery, https://www.thecaravangallery.co.uk –
a socially engaged arts project with a long track record of working with communities
nationally and internationally.
Website: https://ronsplace.co.uk/ and https://wirralartsandculture.org/
SAVING RONS PLACE FOR THE NATION campaign: https://gofund.me/1040014d
LINKS TO PRESS + TV: https://ronsplace.co.uk/news/ include –
Contact: Jan Williams 07808 160207 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Wallace 07831 832840 / email@example.com