Street art inspired by a Dewsbury legend who has been praised by Royal couple

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Dewsbury street artist Trafford Parsons, who is turning the town centre into an art gallery, has painted a mural of one of its most famous faces.

Dewsbury based commercial artist Trafford is brightening up the town centre one shop at a time with his street art.

There are now more than ten of Trafford’s paintings scattered around Dewsbury, including a portrait of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, David Bowie and now local hero Eileen Fenton MBE.

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At the age of 22 Eileen, who was a school teacher in Thornhill Lees at the time, was one of 24 swimmers from all over the world to take part in the first International Cross Channel Swimming Race, sponsored by the Daily Mail, in 1950.

The artwork is located on Westgate in Dewsbury Town Centre.The artwork is located on Westgate in Dewsbury Town Centre.
The artwork is located on Westgate in Dewsbury Town Centre.

Only nine swimmers finished the race and not only was Eileen one of these nine swimmers, she was also the first woman to finish the race.

Eileen’s success made her an instant local hero and she continues to support Dewsbury at every opportunity.

Trafford has painted her image on the Phone Revamp shop shutters on Westgate, facing the Town Hall, as a reminder of the positive impact Eileen has had on the town.

Trafford said: “The mural means so much to so many people.

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Prince William presented Eileen with her MBE in November 2019.Prince William presented Eileen with her MBE in November 2019.
Prince William presented Eileen with her MBE in November 2019.

“Obviously it was a life-changing experience for Eileen but it was a life-changing experience for a lot of people and it's been a life-changing experience for me - it's made me more friends and it has started getting people thinking about what art can do in Dewsbury.

“I have done another piece since the mural of Eileen which is a world map with hands, which is still on that theme of identity of who we are and where we are - I think it is a really good thing for Dewsbury.

“Art can bring us together, it can make us happy and inspire us.

“It’s great to paint things that inspire me and that hopefully inspire others but I don’t think I could do this without the support of everybody.

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“I hope this gets the ball rolling. There are a few more Dewsbury heroes that I have got my sights on and I will be looking to paint those before the end of summer.”

Because of Trafford’s work, Dewsbury now benefits from famous faces of actors, sportspeople, flowers, animals, pop stars and nursery rhyme images, all intended to enliven the environment.

Elieen also recently found out that she has been praised by Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The couple highlighted Eileen as “remarkable” in a social media post celebrating four women who have touched their lives.

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The post shows a picture of Eileen being awarded an MBE by William in November 2019, with the caption: “Eileen was the first woman, at the age of 21, to complete the Cross Channel Swimming Race in 1950, and went on to train scores of first-class long distance and sprint swimmers.”

Eileen said: “I received the MBE in 2019 and it was Prince William who gave it to me and we talked quite a bit in the palace about swimming.

“That is the only time I have spoken to the prince, apart from that this has come out of the blue.

“Someone recently showed me that they had seen it in Hello Magazine and they said that this was almost as good as meeting the prince.

“I am thrilled, it was a wonderful thing to be recognised by Prince William.”