Nuclear Dawn Mural: An Update

As many of you will remember, the London Mural Preservation Society (LMPS) was quite concerned about the proposed development affecting Carlton Mansions, the building on which the 1981 mural Nuclear Dawn is painted. We were informed that the plan was for the mural to stay but without this in writing we felt a petition was needed to show how much the mural was supported locally and further afield.  Over a thousand people responded to our petition proving the popularity of the piece.

The mural in its original state.

The mural in its original state.

We also applied to English Heritage to get it listed. Although it is considered to be an important artwork, it wasn’t seen to be at risk from demolition and therefore no listing took place. The mural is locally listed but this offers little protection as we have seen with the recently demolished Mauleverer Road Mural.

The petition and listing application took place in the spring of 2013. Since then nothing has been done to preserve the mural which is rapidly continuing to deteriorate. Carlton Mansions was emptied of its residents in September 2014 leaving the building at risk of becoming derelict or, worst case scenario, going up in flames.

The LMPS have been involved in meeting with key stakeholders working on the development of the site. They still plan to retain the mural and have it repaired but progress is slow. The focus is on trying to bring Carlton Mansions back into use as quickly as possible and once work starts on repairing this local landmark, we would hope that all would be in place for the restoration of the Nuclear Dawn mural to start.

We hope to meet with the architect who will be working on this project and will update you with any significant news.

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Mural of the Month! The Elephant and Castle Subway Murals

Catch them while you can! The Elephant and Castle subways are being buried; over ten murals by David Bratby will be buried. Others by Denise Cook will also disappear as a new crossing for the pedestrians of the Elephant evolves.

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 Many of the art works were started in the early 1990s. Denise initially worked on them, creating a sea scene, a look at old Elephant and Castle and a wildlife landscape. By 1991, Bratby and a team of artists did 12 murals telling the stories of local history and the local community.

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 Already the murals in the centre are gone, so if you are in the area, head down to see them. Otherwise watch Bratby in this video talk to the Save the Subways campaign about his artwork.

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Enjoy!

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Other Murals “of the month” local to this piece include:

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Hackney’s Hidden Mural

It is always exciting to hear about the discovery of a previously unknown mural or a recently uncovered one. So we were delighted when we received an email at the end of last year informing us that the remains of a mural had been discovered hiding behind some ivy in Hackney. We went and took a look!

We met up with Gerry Tissier who is involved in running the Daubeney Fields Forever project. He told us that a plant covered wall opposite some garages on Daubeney road was hiding a mural which had been discovered as volunteers worked to turn the space into a community garden. Upon arrival, it was hard to make out the mural but on closer inspection and with the removal of some overgrowth what was hiding behind was a scene of plants and birds.

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It was easy to identify as a piece of work by Free Form Arts who were working in Hackney from the late 1960s to 2012. This mural, called ‘Daubeney Garden’ was created in 1980-1 and involved the help of local residents from the  neighbouring Kingsmead estate. One of our LMPS’ volunteers worked on it as a child. The mural is executed in paint and has mosaic glass details which reflect the light and make the wall sparkle.

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Now the mural is being uncovered, the next question is what to do with it. From a brief examination of the render, it looks to be in a poor state. It might be possible to save certain sections  of the mural and either let the plant foliage dominate the  remaining parts of the wall or create a few new murals in the other spaces. We recommended that this is a decision for local people to make. We at the London Mural Preservation Society will let you know what they decide and keep you posted!

More pictures can be found here.

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The loss of the Mauleverer Road Mural

In February 2014, the fate of the Mauleverer Road Mural was sealed when it was decided at the planning appeal that the developers of the Mauleverer Road site could go ahead and remove one half of the mural. The retention of the locally listed artwork had been supported by Lambeth but at appeal level, the developers had a large team with a range of arguments that they could use against anything that the council or those attending the appeal could present as a reason to keep the mural.

Brixton Mural Walk 2012

The LMPS attended the appeal as we felt it was important to support the retention of the mural. The beautifully executed mural shows four different scenes: a view of woodlands, a bandstand with a Caribbean scene, a walled garden and some horses; most of these subjects are connected to the area’s local history. Compared to some of London’s better known murals of the period such as Brixton’s Nuclear Dawn mural, it contains no political messages. However it is a good example of a Community Mural; these artworks tended to involve community participation often in the design development stages.

Community Murals, which can be considered to be a separate artistic movement of the 1970s and 1980s, evolved from the practices of the Community Arts movement. For many community art workers, their job was to take art out to people, often in marginalised communities, to provide an opportunity for self-expression. There were varying degrees of input from local people, often dependent on the views of the artists leading the project.

For those working on the Mauleverer Road Mural, ideas were provided by the local residents and the artist, Jane Gifford, created a design which was approved by the community. The wall was repaired by Jane with the assistance of Ruth Blench, Caroline Thorp and Mick Harrison before work could be started on the painting. Once the wall was in a good condition, come rain or shine, the painting began.

The woodland area was perhaps the most complex to get right as it covered a large area. The design was divided into four parts, the artwork divided into a grid to correspond to grids drawn on the wall and the artists each worked on one section of the wall, square by square. As all artists have their own style of painting, they realised that if they each remained on just one section of the woodland scene, it would be obvious that there were four different artists painting the mural. To counteract this problem, they swapped the sections they were working on so that the layers of paint and brush strokes by the different muralists created a unified whole. The exceptional skills of these people as artists and muralists are identified by the quality of the finished work. The photograph below which pins together a series of photos shows the excellence of the artwork. Click it to get a closer view.

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When this work is finally demolished, not only will we lose an example of community arts but we lose one that is part of what has become known as the Brixton Murals. This group of paintings shows the work of eighteen muralists, mostly working as teams. It reveals different styles, approaches and contents and although many in the area are already gone, those remaining give a feel of what it must have been like to be surrounded by this type of artwork. Not only do these remaining murals tell us about art in the 1980s and the artists involved, they reveal stories about the local community, whether a reflection of the area’s general history or more specific requests for example, the wish of local people to see a picture of the River Effra in their neighbourhood.

There is an increasing interest in the work of community artists but by the time this is more mainstream, it will be too late for the Mauleverer Road Mural. Do visit the mural before it goes.

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Ray Walker’s Bow Mission Mural Damaged

Earlier this year we were informed that girders had been placed across Ray Walker’s Bow Mission mural. We took a trip into the East End last week to assess the damage.

The Bow Mission Mural was the first solo mural designed and painted by Ray Walker. Created in 1978, it shows the activities of the local community in their daily lives.

The mural is divided into different sections, each telling a different story, and is reminiscent of Renaissance church frescoes where each panel tells a separate tale. By comparing it to the Hackney Peace Carnival mural in Dalston, it is noticeable that Walker’s work moves from portraying many stories on one wall to creating a singular composition telling one story across the painted area.

This mural reveals something about the artist’s work and the local history of the area; however, its importance lies in the fact that it is Walker’s only remaining mural which he painted and designed as a solo artist. On visiting the mural, we can see two girders cutting across the top of the painting and the upper section has been painted out. Red filler has been used to seal the cracks on the render.

Although the damage is bad and it is unlikely that there is a simple solution to resolving the problem of having two girders across the composition, there is still the possibility of finding a positive outcome to repair what remains. We will investigate and keep you posted.

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Highbury Grove Mural Destroyed

Every year we know of two or three murals which are demolished. Most of the destruction happens because the mural is sited on a building which is about to be pulled down due to redevelopment. A few are lost due to circumstance; for example, the Tramshed Mural by Greenwich Mural Workshop was destroyed in the 2011 riots in Woolwich .

So we were sad to learn of the destruction of the Highbury Grove Mural in north London which was removed by the housing department of Islington council. This was in error as the arts department were to raise funds to repair the mural with the assistance of two of the original artists, Diana Leary and Karen Gregory.

The Highbury Grove Mural

The Highbury Grove Mural

The mural, painted in 1987, was created by Dave Bangs and featured wild plants and insects found in the surrounding Islington area. It also featured portraits of some of the people who were attending the school at the time. During the past few years, members of the local Highbury community have emailed the London Mural Preservation Society (LMPS) about the mural’s situation as they were aware that the painting was very faded and this could lead to its destruction in an attempt to improve the appearance of an area. However the local Liberal Democrats have been keen to see the mural repaired and last year we met to discuss plans for the painting’s repair.

Local residents are feeling pretty upset about the loss of this wonderful artwork but things might not be too bleak. According to the Islington Gazette, the council have vowed to replace the mural. Hopefully this means the repainting of the original design rather than the creation of a new piece. The artists would like a particular type of render to be used on the site so that the mural can be repainted in Keim paint which should keep it in a good condition for many decades.

We are hoping that funding can be found to make this happen and that the council fully understands the value of this particular murals. If you want to support the campaign to get it reinstated, please sign this petition.

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Review of the Year: 2013

Yes a little late but as I say better late than never! So last year was as jam packed as 2012. So let’s take a look at what happened!

Nuclear Dawn Mural

The beginning of the year was met with concerns about the preservation of the Nuclear Dawn Mural on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. The mural is situated on the side of Carlton Mansion which will be repaired for use as part of the Somerleyton Road development. The car park next to the mural will be the new home for the Oval House Theatre. It is part of the site’s brief that Lambeth would like to retain the mural.

Nuclear  Dawn, Coldharbour Lane

Nuclear Dawn, Coldharbour Lane

Although they are keen to keep it, the language of the Lambeth’s proposal has always been loose and makes no promise that the repair and retention of the mural is a definite. With this in mind, the LMPS decided to create a petition to show local public support, something that was felt key to deciding whether the mural is preserved, and an application for listing was also handed to English Heritage who are still thinking about listing it. The proposal was supported by the Centre for British Archaeology and the 20th Century Society.

The petition attracted over 1000 signatures and can be found here. While we wait for decisions to be made, the condition of the mural is getting worst. Let’s hope a clear action plan is developed.

Mauleverer Road Mural

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Last chance to see the Mauleverer Road Mural

In the summer, it came to our attention that a planning application had been put in to demolish half of the Mauleverer Road mural to create a row of houses. This was campaigned against with the help of original artist Jane Gifford, Mick Harrison and Caroline Thorp, local residents, Nicky Bradbury, Charlie Ward, Keiran, Vivienne and the Brixton Society. An article in the South London Press, the Brixton Bugle and the Brixton Buzz hi-lighted the situation and the planning application was thoughtfully opposed. Lambeth planners recognised this and refused planning permission. The site developers put in an appeal which was heard in 2014. Unfortunately, the developers won and we await to hear when demolition starts.

Hackney Peace Carnival Mural in Dalston

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Paul Butler at the Battle of Cable Street Mural in 2012

A decision was made by Hackney Council to get the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural repaired. Hirst conservation and Paul Butler are currently working on the repair. Although this is great news for the mural, the lack of local community involvement exploring the heritage of the mural and encouraging local care of the piece is likely to mean that the graffiti at the bottom will continue to grow.

The Great Wave Mural

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What an excellent repair!

Damaged in 2012, a plan was hatched to repair the Great Wave Mural in Camberwell. A dedicated team led by Vinnie O’Connell from New Leaf, braved the cold weather to repair and repaint the piece, returning it to it’s former glory. Dulux donated the paint and many artists gave their time.

Stockwell Memorial Mural

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

Brian Barnes at work on the Stockwell Memorial Mural

Repairing the mural at Stockwell took up much of the summer. After some discussion with Lambeth and a plan and budget put forward, we were given the go ahead to repair the mural with the assistance of the Friends of Stockwell Memorial (FSM). Artist Brian Barnes was employed along with artist Morganico to do the repair work. The initial start of the project was delayed due to wintery weather. Once it was warm, the surface was repaired, holes filled, walls cleans and flaking paint removed. This did mean that vast areas had to be taken away as the paint was about to fall away from the mural. Much of this work was done by the volunteers. A scaffold was erected to repair the higher parts of the mural and construct a safe place to work from.

Several different volunteer painting days were held as the artists continued to work on the highest part of the mural. Volunteers continued to spend their weekends working on the mural. A date was set for an opening, which was organised, along with a plaque, by the LMPS and FSM.

Mural Walks

Two Brixton Mural walks were carried out in 2013. One was part of the Lambeth Local History forum walks which appears as on a leaflet available in local libraries and handed out by local societies. The other walk was part of the Lambeth Heritage Festival. Both were very well attend though we were also lucky enough to have good weather.

Lost Murals

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Crossing the Red Sea when it was originally painted.

Train from the Battersea Mural Puzzle

2013 witnessed the end of the Battersea puzzle mural, Plough Road, Battersea and the Crossing the Red Sea Mural on Old Ford Road, in East London. Both sites were marked for new development. This is the biggest threat to London’s remaining murals over the next few years.

So, as you can see it was busy! So many murals to look after, so little time! A huge thank you to all those involved in 2013 : Ben, Gillian, Hannah, Hilary, Hilary, Sylvie, Reuben, Saskia, the Friends of Stockwell Memorial and Gardens especially Naomi, the many people who gave their time to repair Stockwell, Brian Barnes and Morganico, Brixton Society especially Vivienne and Bill, Jane Gifford, Caroline Thorp and Mick Harrison, Nicky Bradbury, Keiran and Charlie.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer to help record the murals, save the murals, find the murals, promote the murals and anything else, then please get in touch.

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