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Christchurch vagrant to be immortalised in National Portrait Gallery
THE spirit of a well-known Christchurch nomad, who passed away last year, has been captured in a life-size portrait.
Vagrant Cliff Cunningham, who died September last year, has been immortalised in paint by local artist Peter Castle.
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Mr Castle, who specialises in portraits – pencil drawn and acrylics – has completed his picture of the well-loved local homeless man, to be submitted to the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of the BP Portrait Award for 2013.
Cliff, 57, slept rough in the town, supported by residents and kind-hearted traders in Christchurch for years. Hundreds turned out for a memorial service at Christchurch Quay last year to remember the man fondly known for his flamboyant style, sitting in Saxon Square with his radio.
Mr Castle said: “I picked up the frame on January 2 and have been working on it ever since.
“I have to thank the Arts University at Bournemouth because that’s where I got it from.
“I didn’t know Cliff intimately but I’d met him at the Regent Centre when I was taking some photos for a local exhibition of Christchurch folk.
“I saw Cliff come into the centre and I knew immediately he would make a good subject.
“I asked to take his picture and he said it would cost me £1. I told him I would pay £2 if I could get two pictures.
“He told me he was only joking and that’s how it started.
“The newsagent in Christchurch – Keith Alford– said it was a good idea and he knew Cliff really well.”
Mr Castle added: “Cliff’s whole life was about being in space. I was going to do the background as the Priory but thought he should be free in the space. I don’t think Christchurch will ever see another character like that.”