AN iconic mural was launched today of Arthur Wharton, the first professional black footballer in the world, in Darlington.

Shaun Campbell, who has spearheaded the campaign, officially revealed the artwork on Widdowfield Street with mayor of Darlington, Chris McEwan.

Today is the 155th anniversary of Arthur Wharton who was born on October 28, 1865.

Speaking at the event, Mr Campbell said: "I'm the founder of the Arthur Wharton Foundation, as we all know today is a fantastic day, we've come to mark a bit of history with the mural of Arthur Wharton.

"It's gone absolutely superb, I'm so happy, I was very nervous this morning. Obviously we've got Covid restrictions so you have to be compliant, so we have small numbers and things, but wow, what a day and to see the joy on peoples faces and people learning about Arthur's story that's what it's all about.

"From now anyone who wants to see it can come and have a look and take their own pictures. We want people to use this centre, we want them to want to be here, because it's a bit like a gallery inside but it's not meant to be a museum or gallery, it just happens to come across that way."

The artwork was commissioned by BT Sport who were filming today.

Danny Howes, marketing manager for BT who helped organise the mural, said: "I'm a supporter of the Arthur Wharton Foundation. I was aware of Shaun Campbell and his work in regards to the erection of the statue in St George's Park, as part of the Black History Month celebrations in focus in BT, I decided to reach out to Shaun because I believe my colleagues in BT would be interested in hearing about Arthur Wharton's story. So I contacted Shaun about five weeks ago on Twitter met him down at the Foundation and realised quite quickly that there was an opportunity for BT to get involved.

"So, we pulled together some details and sent them to BT Sport and they were all in, basically, and here we are."

Spanish graffiti artist Jay Kaes painted the mural over three days. There is also graffiti artwork by local Darlington artist Nick Raine in the yard of the Foundation adjacent to the mural, saying 'Kwame' one of Arthur Wharton's names which means a boy born on a Saturday in Ghanaian, where Mr Wharton was born.

Mayor of Darlington, Chris McEwan, said: "I would struggle to say that it was unveiled as it's been the worst kept secret in Darlington, but it's just great to be here for the formal launch of this mural paying tribute to Arthur Wharton, who is iconic in terms of football and athletics, not just in the town but in this country.

"I want to thank Shaun Campbell for his efforts to raise the profile of Arthur Wharton and his achievements in a move to make us more accepting in this town and country."

The Foundation hopes to become a hub for the community.

  • Tomorrow's Northern Echo will feature a three page spread on the event