Pop star Jarvis Cocker has lent his support to a bid to save an extraordinary Birkenhead home that was transformed into a unique work of art by its late owner.

Ron Gittins' endeavours were only discovered after his death as he rarely welcomed visitors into his ground-floor flat.

When his niece Jan Williams entered the Oxton semi-detached house she found he had painted murals inspired by Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt on the walls, floors and ceiling, and had built gigantic fireplaces in the shape of a lion and a bull.

His other creations included a life-size papier mache model of Egyptian queen Cleopatra, a series of papier mache heads and cardboard Roman armour.

An artist herself, Jan was determined to save her Uncle Ron's work and open it as a space to inspire others.

Now the ex-Pulp frontman has signed up as patron of 'Ron's Place', to help it gain worldwide recognition as a unique example of 'outsider art'.

Meanwhile Jan and her partner Chris Teasdale have launched a Patreon appeal, to which people can sign up to donate a small amount of money every month to help fund its restoration.

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Jarvis said: "Art from the usual channels has become so entwined with commerce. The rush that you get from creativity has kind of got a bit obscured.

"That's one of the things that attracted me to Outsider Art, it feels like it was seeing it in a purer form.

"They are 100% committed to whatever vision they have got because they are in it - they are sleeping in it, they are eating in it. And that's quite a thing to behold."

Oxton artist Ron Gittins dressed as 'The Minstrel'
Oxton artist Ron Gittins dressed as 'The Minstrel'

Ron died in September 2019, a month away from his 80th birthday. Although he had always displayed unusual behaviour, he had become more eccentric in his later years.

He was a familiar sight in Oxton Village, where he would walk along the streets dressed in a series of homemade military costumes, pushing an old-fashioned pram filled with the bags of cement he used to build his enormous fireplaces.

Jarvis Cocker was introduced to Jan and Chris by award-winning Liverpool-based filmmaker Martin Wallace, who describes Ron's Place as the only example of Outsider Art of its kind in the UK.

In 2016, they created a series of three one-hour documentaries, Journey's into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker, which explored the artistic concept across the globe. Martin is now working on a film about Ron's life.

Ron Gittins' Oxton flat is a fascinating example of Outsider Art
Ron Gittins' Oxton flat is a fascinating example of Outsider Art

So-called 'outsider artists' usually work outside the mainstream art world and often, unlike Ron who studied at the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead, have no formal training. Their work is very rarely preserved as those who discover it don't understand the value of what they are seeing.

Martin said: "Jarvis' involvement will make a massive difference because it brings a national and international credibility to the place.

"Otherwise there's a risk it can be seen as parochial when it's something really important.

"We went all over the world looking at these sorts of places and there's nothing like it in the UK. It's a rare thing generally to find such an alternative environment that's been built in secret."

Papier mache heads created by the late Oxton artist Ron Gittins
Papier mache heads created by the late Oxton artist Ron Gittins

Jan and Chris, who work together as the Caravan Gallery, are keen for Ron's Place to become an inspiration to other artists and visitors. But first they need to ensure Ron's art work is preserved.

An advisory board has been appointed from Merseyside's arts and higher education sectors to oversee the vision for the space.

Work is also being done to document and archive all artwork, written material and other items found in the flat.

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Jan said: "We're thrilled about Jarvis getting involved. His song Common People really resonates with us as our work is all about celebrating the extraordinary achievements of ordinary so-called common people.

"Having limited means doesn't mean having a limited imagination. Ron was one of the most resourceful people we've ever known and had the most fantastic imagination."

To sign up to the Patreon for Ron's Place click here.