‘I repaired cows for my dad,’ says artist behind concrete skeletons

Piewaste poses with the skeletal concrete cows
Piewaste poses with the skeletal concrete cows

THE man behind the concrete cows’ new skeletal look said he did it to save art in Milton Keynes.

The Bancroft bovines were subject to the paint job last Tuesday and yesterday the son of community artist Bill Billings contacted the Citizen to say he did it.

The Peartree Bridge dinosaur after it was reppainted by 'piewaste'

The Peartree Bridge dinosaur after it was reppainted by 'piewaste'

Asking to be known only as ‘piewaste,’ he spoke to us via Facebook to say he made the changes in honour of his father, who died in 2007.

Although the original concrete cows – now based at Midsummer Place – were created by Milton Keynes artist in residence Liz Leyh in 1978, it was Mr Billings who was responsible for the replicas at Bancroft.

Mr Billings, MBE, was also the man behind a number of other city art projects, including the Peartree Bridge dinosaur, the Beanhill toadstools and the Wolverton train mural.

His son told the Citizen he had set about modernising these works of art ‘the way my dad did it’ after approaches to Milton Keynes Council and the Parks Trust were ignored.

Peartree Bridge Dinosaur being repainted

Peartree Bridge Dinosaur being repainted

This work included giving the dinsoaur its own skeletal look earlier this year.

He stated: “Recently, I have been restoring some of the artwork that my dad, Bill Billings, created in Milton Keynes... I have been trying to get permission since my dad passed away, as they were going to ruin and not being looked after, but I have never been successfull in getting through to the Parks Trust or MK Council.

“So I did it my way, the way my dad did it – like not even having permission to build the dinosaur in the first place.

“I saw it (the dinosaur) smashed to bits with bricks, so I sourced some cement and fixed it. I then painted it as a skeleton – because it was dying! I did it on my own, at night and without a ladder. I used scrap materials and paint donated by people from the community and I climbed all over that thing to get the job done. This was the first time I felt his presence since he passed, he was laughing!”

The dinosaur is currently subject to a new paint job, courtesy of Peartree Bridge based community arts group Interaction MK. School children are working with designers to give the dinosaur the new look.

But this work has not gone down well with ‘piewaste’.

He added: “Now I’m upset to see two random odd jobbers re-painting it badly with no one from the community taking part.

“They have been sitting in their van for a week now, watching the paint run and making a messy job. I did it in two and a half hours. Many local people have been taking an interest and it has had many visitors.

“It is now more alive than ever.”

The custodians of the concrete cows, Milton Keynes Parks Trust, has said it could cost up to £2,000 to repair and repaint them, but ‘piewaste’ said his work on the cows and the dinosaur cost nothing.

“I did both the cows and the dinosaur with nothing,” he said.

“Local news reports have shown people visiting the cows with their kids.

“Last year, I restored the Wolverton train mural with people from the community. Since then, I have tried to get work restoring my dad’s other works, I was not successful. So I painted the cows like skeletons.

“Not because of Halloween, but because of the dying public art... I have helped my dad do community art since I was a kid and I do it to this day... Ironic, now that the cows are skeletons they look more alive than ever,”

The estimate of £2,000 for the cows’ repair bill covers everything from stripping the paint from the cows, doing any minor repairs, the purchase of the paint, applying the paint and protective coating, supervising the contractors and administration work.

It is not public money as the Parks Trust is a self-financing charity.

The full comment from ‘piewaste’ can be found on the Citizen’s Facebook page


Main picture: ‘piewaste’ poses with the skeletal cows

Below: The Peartree Bridge dinosaur painted as a a skeleton and, bottom, undergoing its latest paint job