London council removes painted murals
Southwark Council is under fire from community activists after removing murals painted in the empty Heygate estate, while leaving less artistic tagging including obscenities in place.
Bloggers and activists on the anti-regeneration site ‘Southwark Notes’ posted before and after images of the murals, which were clustered around the unofficial community garden in the centre of the estate.
The murals, some of which seem to comment on the council’s housing policy, included Pacman chomping a line of houses and giant chopsticks plucking houses out of the street. Another mural showed a pink elephant watering carrots with its trunk, presumably a reference to the garden, where local people grow vegetables and keep bees.
An anonymous blogger writingon ‘Elephant’s Backside’, said: ‘We think that the contractors must have run out of paint as once they had finished removing the artworks in the community gardens area of the empty estate they downed their tools and left. None of the graffiti anywhere else on the 24 acre estate was removed.
‘Indeed, what is more puzzling is that this comes after two years of not having carried out any basic estate cleaning and maintenance. The estate has been full of fly-tipped tyres and asbestos since 2009 and suddenly the council turns up to remove six pieces of non-offensive graffiti?’
Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for transport, environment and recycling, said: ‘Like most councils across the UK, it is Southwark Council’s policy to remove all graffiti where it occurs on council land, or with the landowner’s permission, and to continue to maintain regeneration sites before demolition. This will include further graffiti removal across the site. Overall, we’re really keen to get on with the serious business of the regeneration of the Heygate, which is what the majority of local people want to see happen.’
However, Mr Hargrove may be fighting a losing battle - local people have already partially restored some of the painted-over murals, including their take on the area’s iconic pink elephant.