Give him the sign

Nick with his controversial John Prescott pub sign

Nick with his controversial John Prescott pub sign

First published in News by

An artist who paints pub signs for a living might have been fuming over the controversial smoking ban.

After all, hostelries all over the country - including Yates's in Chapel Road, Worthing - have closed due to the clampdown on cigarettes.

Nick Hallard's earnings could have been hit but the ban has spawned an unexpected and lucrative sideline.

More people are setting up plush bars in their garages, sheds or spare rooms to get round the ban.

And many call on Nick to paint a pub sign as a finishing touch.

So far he has completed about 20, often featuring favourite pets.

The wife of a former paratrooper ordered a sign complete with dogs in red berets dangling from parachutes.

Nick, who runs Eyebright Traditional Inn Signs in Downlands Avenue, Worthing, said: "I am a smoker myself and used to love a cigarette and a pint.

"One customer said he just wanted to have a pint and a fag, and the only way he could now do it is to build his own pub.

"A lady in Oxford had a sign done as a wedding present for her husband."

Nick said another client had a first-floor extension put on his garage so he could turn it into a bar.

He has even had an order from Colorado, from an American who lived in Cumbria for a time and fell so in love with English pubs he decided to build one on his ranch back home.

Nick said: "It's a massively growing trend and forms around half the work I now do. Several home-bar websites have also sprung up.

"This pub smoking ban was like taking betting out of horseracing."

Several years ago, Nick painted a picture of former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, perched in a medieval ducking stool, on the new hanging sign outside The Broadwater pub in Broadwater Street West, Worthing.

But the brewery ordered him to change the character's facial features at the 11th hour amid fears the image of Mr Prescott being dunked might cause offence.

Nick also painted Quasimodo for the Bell Inn at Henfield, a warship for the Royal Oak in Brighton Road, Worthing, and scores of signs for bars in England, the US and Sweden.

He was keen to avoid giving any offence when asked to design a new image for the Black Boy Inn at Sidcup, Kent.

Nick said: "I researched the original sign which showed a black drummer boy leading an advancing British Army regiment.

"That particular regiment, the 29th Worcester and Sherwood Foresters, encouraged black youths to join up as drummer boys between 1759 and 1843.

"They bravely led charges and were even tasked with whipping white soldiers who had incurred a punishment.

"A researcher from the Worcestershire Regiment museum pointed me in the direction of George Wise, the son of two North American slaves, who joined the British Army in 1805 and served our country for 30 years.

"He saw action in four battles during the Peninsula War and so we dedicated the sign to him and I made sure we got the period battledress correct, right down to the last shiny button."

Nick has also done murals for London's famous Great Ormond Street Hospital, to the delight of the children, but due to his workload had to turn down offers to hand-paint liveries on a classic Southdown bus, a quarter-scale steam engine and a custom-built Harley-Davidson.

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