Stockwell Memorial Mural Restoration by Ruth Miller

Apologies for the general quietness on the blog. We have been working away on lots of different things, trying to keep murals in their communities so that the next generation can enjoy them!

Back to the subject of the title! Spring and summer has been spent repairing and repainting the Stockwell Memorial Mural.  The mural is painted onto a rotunda that covers the entrance to one of south London’s deep level shelters. The last few years had seen an increase of deterioration particularly on the top part of the structure. There was also water damage from ineffective drainage causing the growth of moss and damage to the bricks and mortar. On close inspection it really was a sorry state.

Looking worn out (Photo:Ruth Miller)

So with a team of volunteers, original artist Brian Barnes and assistant Morganico, work started by removing flaking paint, filling holes and treating as much damage as possible. The first few sessions were in the snow as the end of March and proved to be exceptionally cold; we only lasted 30 minutes before we had to give up! Volunteers from the Friends of Stockwell War Memorial and Gardens were there week in, week out slogging away at all the work that needed doing.

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In the Snow! (Photo: Ruth Miller)

Spring turned into summer. Paint scrapers were swapped for paint brushes. A scaffold went up around the structure and Brian and Morgan beavered away at the top part of the mural. More paint fell away from the surface and large sections had to be re-drawn. Slowly the patterns, faces and colours reappeared around the top part of the rotunda.

Brian Barnes (Photo: Naomi L Klein)

Six weeks later the scaffold came down. And the workers continued on the bottom. We held a paint a poppy day where young and old painted a poppy. More volunteers arrived rallied by the call of Naomi Klein of the Friends of Stockwell memorial and Gardens. She was a huge assistance to this repair helping pick up the paint from the supplier, rally the team and support the London Mural Preservation Society in making sure it all ticked over.

Paint a Poppy Day (Photo: Naomi L Klein)

Lots of people popped down to visit the works as spring moved into summer and still the artists and volunteers pushed on with trying to finish the undertaking. From the extremes of the cold spring to the furious heat of the summer,  the volunteers were really asked to show their dedication.

Painting the large poppy (Photo: Saskia Walzel)

Catherine, Nicola and particularly Saskia turned up again and again to support the work being undertaken.  The last push to get the remaining work done was encourage by Saskia as the last weekends of summer started to go and it was now a race against the approaching autumn and the potential for rain!

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Nearly finished (Photo: Ruth Miller)

September came and Naomi and myself planned an opening event. The Mayor was invited to unveil a plaque to mark not just the repair of the mural but also the repair of the World War One memorial next to it. This was something important to local residents particularly to the families of those people listed on the memorial.

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Violette Szabo Panel (Photo: Saskia Walzel)

The finishing touches to the mural were added the evening before the event, the plaque was put up and everything was ready to go.

Saturday 14th September, the plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Lambeth Cllr Mark Bennett who gave an interesting speech about the local history of the area and the memorial. A small crowd turned up either linked to the memorial or to the work on the mural. The rain held off though we could have sheltered under the gazebo kindly lent to us by the Brixton Society who also supplied some photos of what the area originally looked like.

Speeches (Photo:Naomi L Klein)

It’s a good day when you know another mural enjoyed by the community has been repaired. Maybe it’ll even inspire some people to go and paint more murals.

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Stockwell Memorial Mural Restoration – Volunteers Day, Sunday 19th May, 9am – 3pm

Your Mural Needs You! Brian Barnes at work on the Stockwell Memorial Mural

Your Mural Needs You! Brian Barnes at work on the Stockwell Memorial Mural. Photo by Ben Kaufmann

Since that snowy Easter weekend preparing the Stockwell Memorial Mural for restoration much headway has been made. Whilst the walls were in fairly rough and crumbling shape, anyone who has headed down the South Lambeth Road of late will testify that the Mural is now shaping up; the restored colours adding a real punch to the original design. With the help of Morganic, French filmmaker Julien Ferdinande and a sprinkling of volunteers, Brian Barnes’ restoration of the 1999 mural is progressing well, but we would like to put out a call for volunteers for this Sunday 19th May, to help us progress with the lower rotunda and in particular the poppies.

Brian Barnes at work on Stockwell Memorial Mural, May 2013

Brian Barnes at work on Stockwell Memorial Mural, May 2013. Photo by Ben Kaufmann

The Stockwell Memorial was erected in 1919 in memory of the 600 local men who died during the First World War. As Barnes explains in this recent film by Julien Ferdinande, his 1999 design for the Memorial Mural allocated one poppy to every two men killed in the conflict – with a total of 300 poppies across the mural. This Sunday, therefore, we would like to invite volunteers to come along and help us pay tribute to those killed in the war and paint a poppy.

Brian Barnes, painting Van Gogh's sky at Stockwell Memorial Mural, May 2013

Brian Barnes, painting Van Gogh’s sky at Stockwell Memorial Mural, May 2013. Photo by Ben Kaufmann

Please reply to stockwellmemorialfriends@gmail.com if you are able to help. Wear old clothes, bring paintbrushes (variety of widths if you can), some brush cleaner (if you can), and rags. Don’t worry if you don’t have all this – come anyway!

Supervised children are welcome.

Brian Barnes at Stockwell Memorial Rotunda, May 2013

Brian Barnes at Stockwell Memorial Rotunda, May 2013. Photo by Ben Kaufmann

The London Mural Preservation Society is delighted to see another mural repaired. We have been involved with Lambeth Council and Friends of the Stockwell Memorial from the beginning of the process and look forward to seeing the outcome of the repair work to both the memorial and mural.

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Links

For more information on the Stockwell Memorial Mural please see our website page or past blog post

For more information on Brian Barnes please see here

For more information on recent restorations please see the Great Wave Mural Restoration Video or our post on the Windmill Mural restoration

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Hands on Brixton! Windmill Gardens Community Mural, by Gillian Da Costa

The Brixton Windmill Gardens Mural, in progress. Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

The Brixton Windmill Gardens Mural, in progress. Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

If you visit the Brixton Windmill Gardens over the next few days, you’ll see Camila Cardenosa busy at work adding finishing touches to the Hands On Windmill Gardens Community Mural. She’ll welcome you with a smile, offer you a paintbrush if you’re willing to give it a go, and let you know that it’s easy and you don’t have to worry about making a mistake. All of these being things you want to hear when putting a brush to work; because it’s scary, and you’re obviously no good at this, and you’re bound to make a big mess (that’s what everyone says).

But Camila’s got a friendly convincing way about her, that will have you painting away in no time.

Windmill Gardens, Photograph by Owen Llewellyn

Windmill Gardens, Photograph by Owen Llewellyn

Columbian by origin, Camila is currently studying Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins and her focus is on examining how graphics can contribute to giving people a better sense of place and identity within public spaces. This mural is part of her final year project and has turned out to be an amazing collaboration, bringing together the Friends of Windmill Gardens and the members of the local community of all age groups.

Painting the Windmill Gardens Mural, Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

Painting the Windmill Gardens Mural, Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

While designing the mural, Camila and Stephen Lawlor, a visual artist and Education Officer for the Brixton Windmill, conducted several workshops with local schools and adult groups, so that the mural could be designed around the history of the windmill, how the local community relates to the it and their hopes for the gardens in the years to come. The final design for the mural comes from the fonts, imagery and text that emerged from these workshops, and added value has been worked into it so it can be used as a visual aid to tell the story of the miller and the historic windmill.

Painting, photograph by Camila Cardenosa

Painting, photograph by Camila Cardenosa

The mural is longer than it is taller, and has been designed in such a way that the parts closer to the ground are highly illustrative, thus giving younger people a chance to play an important role in the painting. At the same time, the fact that it is being hand painted ensures that everyone can be involved.

Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

Photograph by Camila Cardenosa

It has taken months of coordination, unpredictable weather, many painstaking hours of painting, and the ideas and efforts of over 200 Brixtonians, for Camila and her team to bring this project together. And finally the finish line is near.

One for the future. Photograph by Camila Cardenosa.

One for the future. Photograph by Camila Cardenosa.

The Hands On mural will be officially launched on Monday 6 May with a special celebration and everyone’s invited. It isn’t every day that a mural is created from scratch, using such a democratic process (albeit some artistic direction from Camila). It will definitely be interesting to see in the months ahead, how the project and the mural itself impacts the community around it.

To see images of Camila and the others at work, check out the Hands On Windmill Gardens website. A project that started out with one idea, this has grown into one that has drawn many in.

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Links

For a video of another recently completed mural please see our video of the Great Wave Mural restoration

For information on last years nearby Windmill Mural please see here

For information on nearby Brixton murals please see here

Posted in Brixton Windmill Gardens Mural, Brixton Windmill Mural Restoration, Mural Events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mural of the Month! Royal Oak Murals, by Ben Kaufmann

Royal Oak Murals, by Ben Kaufmann

Royal Oak Murals, photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

In a month that has seen much thought cast on the pre-Thatcher state of affairs it seems worth paying a visit to two of the most forceful and controversial murals of the 1970s. Tucked away beneath the Westway, just to the North of Royal Oak tube station, David Binnington and Desmond Rochfort’s Royal Oak murals were completed in 1976-77 and stand as testaments to a not so distant (but rather short lived) age of large scale, ideologically charged, political murals. Heralded by Richard Cork as ‘an object lesson in how publicly sited murals can gain great resonance in their surroundings’ and by William Feaver as ‘a large dose of social realism [that] has done wonders for the grey desert of Royal Oak’, they were dismissed equally vehemently. Sarah Kent saw them as pathetic examples of pseudo-Socialist Realisms and Peter Fuller as a ‘montage book of art clichés’. Shrouded in controversy from the off, therefore, the murals provide a microcosm of the ideological dissonance of their time, and reveal the extent to which murals once played a forceful role in these wider polemics.

Royal Oak Murals, photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Royal Oak Murals, photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Arriving at the murals today you might be forgiven for missing their once iconic status. Buried in graffiti to a height of six feet or so, and now partially obscured by the hoardings of a Crossrail generator site, they – like the debates they touch upon – have not escaped the hands of time. With this said, above the height of eight feet they remain in remarkably good condition – no doubt owing to the fact that they were some of the first murals in London to be executed in the laborious but highly durable Keim silicate paint.

Office Work, by Dave Binnington, photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Office Work, by Dave Binnington, photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

On approaching the murals from Royal Oak station (a right out the station and a swift left under the shadows of the Westway) the first thing one notes is a giant cog, which looms illusionistically over the Crossrail hoardings. It is only with the sight of the eagle which perches to its left, however, that you notice that the cog is in fact a part of Binnington’s cycle – stretching across the concrete pier of the motorway. Whilst the upper portion of the mural reveals something of the overall statement – the driving mechanisms of the Capitalist system, the strange offering made to the glass enclosed emperor figure, and the media workers dissolving into the apparatus of their trade – the current obscuring of the lower section hides the long benches of office workers – passively awaiting missives from above – who lie at the heart of the mechanical system. We can only hope that the completion of the Crossrail construction will reveal them once more to the public gaze.

David Binnington, Office Work, Detail, Photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

David Binnington, Office Work, Detail, Photograph 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Des Rochfort, Work, photo by Ben Kaufmann

Des Rochfort, Work, photo by Ben Kaufmann

As we move round the pier to the right Des Rochfort’s homage to construction workers hovers above. Stretching out across the diagonal slant of the pier it is as impressive and engulfing as it is difficult to photograph. It was Rochfort’s panel that seemed to draw the more favourable comments in its time – and has survived the best. It portrays what William Feaver described at the time as ‘Herculean’ figures at work upon giant scaffolds and cranes. Utilising the multiple perspective schemes pioneered by David Alfaro Siqueiros it commands the space below – our attentions shooting off into the blue skies via the monumental figures of the workers. Sitting, as it does, on one of the largest scale urban constructions of its time (and, indeed, right next to a present day one) it seems a fitting tribute to the human labour which is, after all, the engine of such projects.

Desmond Rochfort, Work, Panorama, 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Desmond Rochfort, Work, Panorama, 2013, by Ben Kaufmann

Funded by Abbey Harris the murals were, at the time of their completion, the largest exterior murals in England. They followed from extensive consultation with the local community (which had been torn in half by the construction of the Westway some half decade previously), and were intended to offer a focus to their thoughts and concerns and to animate the desolate wasteland created by the Westway’s construction. It is difficult to gauge the extent to which the murals succeeded in the first regard – for the raw cut of the Westway through the area continues to obscure any overt signs of community embrace. To this day, however, they offer a focus of contemplation and symbol of conviction amidst the concrete expanses of the underpass.

Desmond Rochfort, Work, Detail from Royal Oak Murals, Photo by Ben Kaufmann

Desmond Rochfort, Work, Detail from Royal Oak Murals, Photo by Ben Kaufmann

More concrete is the influence the mural scheme had upon other projects – serving as a rallying point and mark of ambition for a new generation of mural artists who were coming to the fore. Most specifically, in their wake Dave Binnington became involved in the planning of the Cable Street Mural. Whilst Binnington eventually desisted from work on Cable Street, Paul Butler – who had contacted him and Rochfort during their work on Royal Oak soon became involved – and encouraged Rochfort (and Ray Walker) to help him see Cable Street to completion. Des Rochfort was to go on, in the 1980s, to write two seminal studies on the Mexican muralists whose influence is so discernable in both Royal Oak and Cable Street.

The murals remain a startling reminder of the ideological convictions of the 1970s mural movement, and their message resonates strongly to the present day. It seems unlikely that Crossrail or the Mayor of London could be tempted to see the murals restored to their former glory as a compensation to a community once more disturbed by a heavy development project which will do little for local residents. It is to be hoped, however, that in dismantling their hoardings the murals will at least be left in as good a condition as they were found. They remain some of the iconic works of the era.

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Links

For more information on The Cable Street Mural please see our website or blog post

For more Murals of the Month see here

For more political murals please see our website entries on Cable Street, Poplar Rates Rebellion, Nuclear Dawn, Riders of the Apocalypse, Floyd Road and  Tolpuddle Martyrs

For a set of photographs of the Royal Oak Murals (before the Crossrail hoardings) please see our set on Flickr

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Stockwell Memorial Mural Clean Up Day (Part 1)

Welcome to the wonderful British weather! Last weekend saw our first attempt to give the mural a clean and to scrape away peeling paint and vanquish the moss and mold.

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However the snow came and sent us packing to huddle in the warmth of a cafe. But we did get at least half an hours work done!

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Thanks to those who came along!

So we have arranged another day – Friday 29th March – 10pm to 3pm.

Wear old clothes and gloves! Drinks and refreshments will be served!

For more information:

Email stockwellmemorialfriends@gmail.com or londonmuralpreservationsociety@yahoo.com

In the event of bad (that is really really bad) weather, phone or text 07738 552 516 to check that the clean-up is going ahead.

See you Friday!

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The Great Wave Mural Restoration – Video, by Larissa Alves

Following the successful restoration of the Great Wave Mural in Camberwell, we have a video interview with Vinnie O’Connell (of New Leaf), who helped oversee the restoration. Video by Larissa Alves.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Vinnie, Solo One, Morganico and all of those of you who turned out to make this project such a resounding success. A big thanks also to Dulux Let’s Colour, for their supply of paint!

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Please click on the below links for further information

For more information on New Leaf

For more information on Solo One or Morganico

For more information on the Windmill restoration or our a link to the If Walls Could Speak Documentary

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British Murals 1920-1960: Book, Exhibition and Conference Reviewed, by Ben Kaufmann

Murals seem to be enjoying something of a Renaissance in popular consciousness at the moment. From our very own Nuclear Dawn Restoration campaign (petition here) or the attempts to save the Chartist Murals in Newport, to the recovery of a Gibbs mural in Nottingham and the unfolding of a new mural campaign in Swansea – newspapers, campaigners and the wider public seem increasingly aware of the importance of, and the difficulties facing, murals in this country.

Newport’s threatened Chartist Mural, by Kenneth Budd, 1978. Photograph by Chris Downer, under Wikipedia Commons License

Last Friday’s conference at Morley College could be seen as part of this wider moment. Organised by the 20th Century Society the conference coincided with an exhibition at the Fine Art Society and the release of an impressive 351 page hardback book, published by Sansom and Company. All three ventures took as their subject British Murals from 1920 – 1960, and taken together they offer some long overdue insights into the historic evolution of mural painting across the early 20th century.

LMPS Nuclear Dawn Restoration Campaign makes the billboards. Photo by Leo Johnson

LMPS Nuclear Dawn Restoration Campaign makes the billboards. Photo by Leo Johnson

Shining through the conference and book, however, was a lingering question – addressed by Alan Power’s catalogue essay under the title of ‘The Mural Problem’. For despite the efforts of the eight speakers and multiple catalogue writers it is perplexing that murals remain so popular with media and public yet so excluded from the realms of Art History. It was interesting to learn that this is a fate that has befallen not only the Community murals (on which the LMPS has focussed much of its attention owing to their public engagement of the London community) but also a great deal of their precursors. If dealt with at all much of these (often institutional) murals have tended to be considered in relation to the wider work of an individual artist – rather than on their own merits.

Paul Peter Rubens, Banqueting House, Whitehall, London. Photograph by Michael Wal, 2008, under Wikipedia Commons license

Yet as Friday’s conference showed, there is an untapped wealth of mural painting in this country. From Medieval churches and the Baroque schemes of Thornhill and Rubens, through the pre-Raphaelite cycles at the Oxford Union and the Manchester Town Hall right through the last century and into our own, the Mural format has provided a rich interaction with architecture, place and the spectator which has marked it out from its more esteemed relative; the panel painting.

Clare Willsdon and Alan Powers introductory speeches did much to flesh out this historic ancestry to the 20th Century Mural, focussing on the faltering civic status of the mural across the 19th century and leading us towards the murals of Rex Whistler, Frank Brangwyn and those of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious at Morley College across the early 20th. (These latter works were unfortunately destroyed by bomb damage in the Second World War – very shortly after their execution). Clare Willsdon’s book on Mural Painting in Britain 1840-1940 will surely make a fascinating read to any interested in this pre-history with the newly published book now taking us through to the 1960s.

Duncan Grant (left) and John Maynard Keynes (right). source Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography (1967), Volume 1, p. 344. under Wikipedia commons.

Moving through the day Jonathan Black moved from the avant-garde mural practice of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant (whose Borough Polytechnic Murals were relocated to the Tate collection in 1931) and Wyndham Lewis, and on through Frank Brangwyn (whose controversial Rockefeller mural was overshadowed by Diego Rivera’s contribution, but is the subject of a fascinating chapter in the new book). Black culminated with reference to the mural scheme devised to brighten the walls of the ‘British Restaurants’, set up across the country to provide affordable meals to the British public during the Second World War. This extensive scheme included hundreds of murals by the likes of John Piper, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant – among others. The work has been largely lost and remains overlooked by historic records.

Visitors to the Festival of Britain in front of the Dome of Discovery. (Southbank Centre Archive/Mrs Holland).

Dr Margaret Garlake ushered us into the post war era, focussing on the mural work of panel painters like Peter Lanyon, John Piper and Victor Pasmore as well as the evolving hand of the Arts Council and other civic bodies in the commissioning process of murals. Her reminder of the fact that the Arts Council was established in 1949 owing to the belief that artistic production was an essential part of civilised society and should thus be supported by the welfare state, seems a timely one in this age of the unflinching fiscal axe. In many senses the highlight of her talk was the focus upon the enormous quantity of murals produced for 1951’s Festival of Britain (well into the hundreds). Whilst John Piper’s contribution has survived and was a highlight of the Fine Art Society’s exhibition, the Festival’s murals remain largely overlooked, and once more most of the work has been lost or destroyed. Alan Powers notes in his catalogue essay that it was one of Winston Churchill’s first acts on the Tory return to power in 1954 to rid London of the ‘three-dimensional Socialist propaganda’ of the festival site. It is unfortunate that much of the historical record seems to have followed suit.

This mural by William Mitchell, is located at the Three Tuns pub, Bull Yard, Coventry. It is designated at Grade II listed building structure. Image source Wikipedia Commons user RobJN

As the afternoon beckoned we moved more firmly into the territory of the LMPS with Lynn Pearson’s fascinating study of the Public Art and Murals since 1950 (largely those across the North of England) and Dr Jeremy Howard’s introduction into his Decorated Schools Project.  Whilst the fantastic Brockley School Murals had been on my radar before, we were presented with a wealth of slides of murals from Huddersfield to Edinburgh, and by artists including William Mitchell, Fred Millet and Patricia Tew.

The day culminated with talks by Henrietta Billings of the 20th Century Society, Dr Roger Bowlder of English Heritage and Andy Ellis of the Public Catalogue Foundation. Through these talks became apparent the extent and importance of the work to be done in preserving, protecting and celebrating murals across London, and throughout the country. Murals –owing to their direct engagement with public and architectural spaces, and their resistance to the commodity principle, which governs so much of our values system – remain consistently under threat, be it from developers, damp or simple neglect. The dangers of the threats are plain to see – murals bridge a gap between the hallowed ranks of art and public consciousness, they enrich our public spaces and institutions and they constitute a rich strand of our historical commonwealth.

Floyd Road Mural, by Greenwich Mural Workshop, 1976. One of London’s first Community Murals

The fate of murals following 1960 would in itself make a fascinating conference: one which would have to include the towering influence of the community mural movement and perhaps move us further into the realm of art historical neglect. Friday’s conference though, gave many positive signs of a growing interest in the fate of Britain’s murals amongst institutions and the Art Historical establishment and this is undoubtedly an important step in the right direction. The Public Catalogue Foundation’s, (as yet loose), plan to document the Murals of Britain would provide a fantastic resource for those seeking to extend their knowledge of murals across the country. In the meantime the newly published book offers a precious record of those produced between 1920 and 1960 – with good historical surveys, many previously unpublished photos and case studies of fifteen mural cycles.

It was wonderful to see the work of the LMPS credited on so many occasions throughout the conference and to perceive the extent to which other organisations and scholars are working along similar lines. As the multiple examples of lost murals across the day emphasised, however, much work remains to be done – extending the case for, and understanding of, Britain’s murals. We look forward to continuing our work along these lines.

Brixton’s Nuclear Dawn, by Brian Barnes, 1981. Help us to save and restore it by following the below link.

In the meantime Paul Liss’s Preface to the new book suggests a wealth of murals in London, which may be of interest to those tracking down the rich history of the mural movement across the early 20th Century. In Central London alone there are murals by Edward Bawden, Jean Cocteau, George Clausen, Edward Halliday, Alfred Kingsley Lawrence, Colin Gill, Charles Sims, William Rothenstein, Rex Whistler, D.Y. Cameron, Hans Feibusch, and Ivon Hitchins. To that list can be added the 50 or so murals that are documented on our website and which have transformed the face of our city and mural history across the last 50 years. These are by artists including Brian Barnes, Dave Binnington, Paul Butler, Jane Gifford, Greenwich Mural Workshop, Mick Harrison, Des Rochfort, Christine Thomas, Caroline Thorp and Ray Walker. There are many more besides! Happy hunting!
And don’t forget to voice your support for the future of the Nuclear Dawn mural here

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Links

For More information on London’s murals and our work please visit our website

For more information on the 20th Century Society please click here

For more information on the book ‘British Murals &Decorative Painting 1920 – 1960 see here

For more information on Nuclear Dawn restoration campaign click here

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