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West Hampstead’s new art mural to be ‘edited’ after planning dispute

Through Art We Rise project is an advert and would not get planning consent

01 June, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The artist says mural not an advert but a statement 

AN art mural sprayed on a railway bridge wall last week is to be “edited” after the council insisted it would breach planning rules.

The Through Arts We Rise mural, outside the West Hampstead Thameslink station, amounts to unchecked “advertising”, councillors say.

The project also saw an image of John Henderson, who sat outside the station selling books for 20 years until his death last year, put up on the opposing wall in West End Lane.

The project’s organiser and artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa said the Through Arts We Rise phrase was not an advert and was intended as a “statement” about the power of art.

But Network Rail said on Monday it had, following council advice, told her to change it to “make sure it doesn’t fall foul of advertising guidelines”.

Labour councillor Peter Taheri, in an email to residents, said that following representations from him and another West Hampstead ward Cllr Shiva Tiwari, Network Rail “now understand why Camden consider the lettering to be an advertisement”. 

The phrase is “the mission statement of the arts project” and therefore needed planning consent, he said, adding that the mural would be completely cleared and that “Camden have requested this is undertaken within seven days.”

Network Rail had originally agreed to the railway bridge being spray painted because the project was contributing to its national campaign on homelessness.

Mr Henderson, who died in May last year, was not homeless but spent a lot of time on the street selling books outside the station entrance with Sugar. He died of a drugs and alcohol overdose in the Black Path, by the station, in May last year.

Mr Henderson

But Cllr Taheri, in a statement to the New Journal,  said West Hampstead residents were “socially conscious, compassionate, indeed generous to a fault”, often giving cash to homeless people despite guidance not to, he said, adding: “West Hampstead is not an area where it is necessary or appropriate to raise awareness or visibility of rough sleeping.”

West Hampstead Cllr Shiva Tiwari added that the mural “irrespective of the cause being supported, should first and foremost seek to have buy-in from the surrounding community”.

The influential West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT) group has echoed these concerns about planning protocols.

However many passers-by have commented positively on the work, including Anna Bowman, who said: “I’ve seen lots of people photographing the artwork, which suggests it will be a popular part of West End Lane’s urban landscape.”

The Through Arts We Rise mural was spray painted by Ben Eine, a well known figure in the street art world whose work is in the V&A permanent collection and has recently been a guest editor of the Big Issue magazine for the homeless.

The New Journal has been contacted by several West Hampstead residents who, anonymously, say they would not have donated to the mural fundraiser if they had known Mr Eine would be the artist. He had pleaded guilty to an assault of his girlfriend at a Serpentine Gallery private view event in 2018.

This week, Ms Mripa said “we didn’t look into his personal life but focused only on his portfolio as an artist during this international crisis”, adding she did not believe the lettering was advertising and was instead a “powerful statement to what the mission of the arts is”.

Network Rail said: “We have asked the artist to edit one section of the mural to make sure it doesn’t fall foul of advertising guidelines and the subsequent consent which the council would then require.”

Mr Eine has been contacted for comment.


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