Upset over plan to remove community paintings from West Bay and St Mildred’s Bay shelters

Art at the shelter Photo James Harvey

Plans to remove community artwork from two Westgate shelters while maintenance is carried out and then use a board to rotate pictures have been slammed by the former businessman who organised the displays and carried out works to repair the sites.

Mike Wiseman, who owned the Ivyside Hotel in Sea Road for many years before it was demolished, says the shelters in both West Bay and St Mildred’s Bay were dirty and derelict for years before he and his team of helpers set to work transforming them some three years ago.

The shelters have been used to display some 1,800 pictures created by isle children and adults but these are to be removed so Thanet council can carry out maintenance work.

The plan is for new display boards to be installed and for the stored artworks to be returned to the shelters and shown on a rotational basis.

Mike Wiseman Photo Philippa Wiles

But Mr Wiseman, 79, says he has carried out extensive works and can see no reason for the council’s ‘sudden interest’ in the shelters.

He said: “There are 1,800 pictures, all done by local kids. There has been no damage or graffiti in the shelters over the last three years.

“The end walls are completely damp so you can’t paint them, the stone balusters were broken and we replaced those and made the benches nice.

“I don’t think Thanet council wants the pictures there, they are just putting in an 8 by 8 panel and say they will do a picture change over every four weeks. These were by local kids and gave pleasure to parents and grandparents and the whole area and beyond.

Photo Carl Hudson

“I have been working with Thanet council a long time and wanted a deal to do as asset exchange to Westgate and rent the space.

“We put the stone balusters in, we made the area so wheelchairs can get down there, we painted . We have a superb seafront, it’s lovely, all we are doing is trying to keep things nice.”

Mr Wiseman says the shelters get regular visitors throughout the year with the pictures proving popular.

He added: “We put so much work in. The council need to work with local people as a team, no team no dream.”

Art at St Mildred’s shelter Photo Philippa Wiles

Resident Philippa Wiles says she was so upset to hear the pictures would be removed that she has written to council leader Ash Ashbee to ask for the plans to be reconsidered.

She said: “A few years ago, neither shelter was welcoming and I would especially avoid St Mildred’s Bay shelter due to graffiti, small fires being lit on the bench in the shelter, cigarette butts all over the floor and invariably rubbish deposited in it.

Photo Carl Hudson

“The placing of a bin for general use improved the situation – incidentally, placed there by Mike Wiseman as TDC had never put one in there.

“The wonderful paintings that have been done by children and adults have been put up in both shelters leading to so many people of all ages stopping to look at and photograph them. I have never sat in West Bay or walked past either shelter without seeing people admiring the artwork – in fact, I was told recently about some people from Deal who had come especially to Westgate-on-Sea to see the artwork. I am sure that this is not an isolated incident.

Photo Carl Hudson

“Imagine the sadness felt by many residents and non-residents when we were made aware of TDC’s decision to remove all paintings, decorate the shelters and to replace 10 or 15 paintings at a time to be rotated with others on a monthly basis by Westgate-on-Sea Council staff. The staff have difficulty in maintaining areas, emptying bins etc now so I can hardly imagine that they will be rotating the paintings.

“Since early 2020, the shelters have been looked after by Mike Wiseman and his team and all done with love and care for the area. Very few people know how many hours Mike has devoted to the projects and he has enthused and encouraged others to participate and enjoy the shelters.”

Photo James Harvey

A Thanet council statement published on social media says: “The shelters at West Bay and St Mildred’s Bay will undergo maintenance work from Thursday 15 December.

“If you have paintings or artwork displayed in the shelter and would like to take them, please collect them on Thursday 15 December between 2pm and 4pm.

“Any paintings that aren’t collected will be removed and temporarily stored at Westgate-on-Sea Town Council until work is complete.

Art at the West Bay shelter when it was first installed Photo Carl Hudson

“New display boards will be installed, and paintings that were removed from the shelter will be fixed on these display boards on a rotational basis.

“Please contact [email protected] for more information.”


  1. TDC are pathetic…truly awfully pathetic. Give grants and stuff to DFL “artists” but local kids can jog on..
    Rotate the pics… That can’t even empty a bin regular

  2. This is the best art in Thanet (seriously), which really represents the people, rather than just a handful of pretentious elitists. If TDC want to do something about a shelter with “art”, then why don’t they get on to the publicly-funded people responsible for the Cliftonville art shelter… if they haven’t done a runner with the money! This guy genuinely cares about the area, and has worked very hard to brighten it up.

  3. Another similar local shelter with amateur art done by local people similar to this , is the one at Epple Bay ,Birchington which is quite fun and will put a smile on your face

    • The Epple Bay shelter seating was put in place by Mike Wiseman before he put up the paintings. Prior to this, it was another shelter that had been left in a sorry and unusable state by TDC but is now used regularly. Thank you, Mike!

      • I well remember how it was before Mike Wiseman’s intervention , I think it got burnt down by vandals at one stage and now due to him it’s a lovely place to spend a few moments enjoying the art work

    • Another shelter that was falling into bad disrepair…the seating was replaced by Mike Wiseman (there had been nowhere to sit for several years) and local artwork by children and adults displayed and Epple Bay now has a shelter that is functional and enjoyable! TDC would do well to visit other areas that actually welcome and encourage community volunteers!

  4. Yet again voluntary work carried out by Mike Wiseman and his group being undone. Are WTC and TDC attempting to say that these volunteers are not putting their efforts into the right places. For goodness sake why not chase the new owner of Westgate Pavilion whom potentially purchased the property under false pretences i.e. as a community asset whilst potentially letting it deteriorate so much that it will become non viable to restore or reopen. Well done TDC for non due diligence.

  5. On the flipside of the argument, if a t long last the shelter is to receive some decent maintenance and repair you don’t want lots of holes and fixings punching through the new finish, so a board or boards put up as sacrificial surfaces make perfect sense, protects the structure and allows the art to be displayed /cycled.
    The shelter most certainly needs work on it.

        • I remember that the Nayland Rock shelter a few years got painted due to Former Mayor Iris Johnson being on TDC & it was/ is on her constituency and cost an eye watering £200,000 to paint .
          This is yet another example of TDC spending money and not maintaining the maintenance of a building

          • I remember that. Just a couple of weeks later, a drunk collapsed in a nearby side street where I lived at the time, so the police were called. They got him on his feet, and told him to go and sleep it off in the shelter! Kinda made me wish they’d spent the 200 grand on something else.

      • Because they need doing , it’s hardly as if they are in good condition. I’d hazard a guess that a condition survey has indicated that without work they’ll possibly end up beyond economic repair and have to be demolished / boarded up .
        All part of the internal reviews at TDC in the wake of the removal of the old senior leadership.

        • Good that you have confidence in TDC and just a shame that they did not put their efforts within the past few years into maintaining the shelters. Thankfully there were people who cared sufficiently (and continue to do so) about their local shelters and have tried to make them pleasant places to visit. We shall see…

          • I don’t think that anyone who’s read my opinions on TDC would believe for 1 second that i have confidence in them. But if they have a plan for the shelters as ever we’ll have to wait and see what’s done. At least they’re not being gifted to some obscure body and will remain in the public realm.

  6. Thanet needs more people like Mike Wiseman. Shame we are losing old values like he has provided, never asking for a thank you or pat on the back, just does it.

  7. First thing I’d like to know from TDC is exactly what maintenance is required and their cost for doing it. Then contact Mike and find out how much he thinks it would cost him and his team to do the same work, which I am sure would be a quarter of TDCs cost, and then give Mike and Co the money for doing it themselves.

    I would also ask TDC what are their plans for the maintenance and repair of all other shelters in Thanet. Or is it just this two in which case there is obviously more behind it.

    I love the artwork in these shelters and have stopped and looked at them a few times this summer when different friends and relatives have come to visit and we’ve had lunch at West Bay and then gone for a walk to St Mildreds or v.v.

    Thank you Mike and team.

  8. Mike Wiseman and his team have stepped in and done a fantastic job making these shelters a lovely place to sit for residents and tourists. The paintings are very popular and such a good idea. I would hate to see the shelters go back to the way they were when TDC had ‘care’ of them.

  9. It is about time TDC did some maintenance work on our shelters. Not just these ones but all of them.
    I love the children’s artwork in the two shelters but the shelters themselves are in need of renovation.
    I also think that having boards to put the artwork on would be a good idea with regularly rotations. This would keep it tidy and keep it interesting.
    I understand Mr Wiseman’s concerns, but he should be proud of what he has done and glad that the council are finally taking an interest in these shelters.

  10. I understand that in each shelter, there will be two 8’x4′ boards that will be covered in paintings by Westgate-on-Sea Town Council and rotated each month. The shelters will be redecorated by TDC. I understand from the Westgate Lovelies that they will be watching to ensure that these procedures are adhered to as above.

  11. Why doesn’t Westgate Council take over its shelters, like Birchington Council has, then it or Mr Wiseman or anyone else who wants to can maintain, stick posters, mess with and do whatever they like?

  12. I have written to Joanna Cornford the Chairperson of Westgate Town Council about this news. She immediately passed my email on to the Town Clerk and will respond fully to my email later. Also, although Westgate isn’t his ward, I sent the same email to TDC Cllr Reece Pugh in the hope that he will pass it on to the person in the TDC responsible for this situation. He is usually responsive.

    In my email to Westgate Town Council I asked if they are going to protest about the situation and also said;

    Can you honestly see the TDC;

    a) Store all 1800 paintings safely.

    b) Put someone in charge who will make the decision as to which paintings should be hung each month on a rotational basis.

    c) Then, after the rota is decided, send a council worker every month to hang them.

    I think not. They will be put away in boxes in a room somewhere, forgotten about and left to degrade.

    Many children (and adults) will be deeply upset that their contribution to the community is in danger of being cast aside and many people in Westgate will be upset about losing something which miraculously has never been vandalised but is now in danger of being destroyed by the council.

    Before Mike Wiseman and his team intervened, the shelter was extremely dangerous with several balusters on the upper terrace missing and that part of the balustrade held together with rope!!! Even though it was a serious Health and Safety risk the TDC did nothing at all about it before the volunteers made it safe. I believe I am correct in saying that the TDC did pay for the balusters which support the balustrade but all the labour was provided by volunteers. I walk past there every day with my dog and witnessed the fact that the project took many weeks of exhausting work.

    There is no doubt that more maintenance is still needed on the shelter as there was only so much that the volunteers could do but the paintings should be carefully removed and stored in a safe place during the process and then ALL of them rehung and protected. Also, it is important that before work commences a time scale is put upon it or we will have another Winter Gardens situation where over a year has been wasted whilst the TDC procrastinated. If work is to be done it must be totally completed with all the paintings back in situ by Easter 2023 at the latest or it will disrupt the important holiday season, especially for the Westgate Bay cafeteria.

    Mike and all the many local artists who contributed have created a rare, artistic environment, a unique ‘gallery’ that is greatly admired by locals and visitors alike so it MUST be treated with great respect by the TDC.

    Please forgive my lengthy rant but having witnessed this unique environment evolve over a period of many months I am horrified by the news I read today.

Comments are closed.