The Independent London Newspaper
24th April 2017

‘Make tea not war’ mural tribute to shopkeeper ruined by graffiti vandals - debate opens into preserving street art

    The painted-over mural in Primrose Hill.

    Published: 21 April 2011
    by JOSIE HINTON

    A POPULAR piece of street art in Primrose Hill has been trashed.

    The stencilled image of retired shopkeeper June Beechey – something of a local celebrity for her years running a hardware shop – has been covered in paint.

    The vandalism has reignited a debate over the preservation of street art.

    The image of Mrs Beechey appeared last July at the corner near Regent’s Park Road, close to Welsh’s shop, where she worked for 50 years. 

    It shows her holding a light bulb and a teapot, alongside the slogan “Make tea not war”. 

    The same stencil appeared in Belsize Park and Kentish Town.

    But to the dismay of residents and traders, the Primrose Hill painting was attacked overnight last week and replaced with giant letters spelling “Kush”, referring to a strain of cannabis.

    The Kentish Town image in Dartmouth Park Road has already been whitewashed, so the vandalism in Primrose Hill means the stencil mural in Sharpleshall Street, Belsize Park – which has a protective covering – is the only one in Camden left intact.

    Town Hall environment chief Labour councillor Sue Vincent is backing the formation of a borough-wide committee of artists, councillors, residents and critics to rule on the future of individual pieces of street art. 

    She said: “That would definitely be something I would support. Some of the graffiti artwork is wonderful, it’s memorable and it’s in good taste, so it would be wonderful to be able to preserve it. 

    “It would be up to local people how to carry that forward.”  

    Conservative councillor Chris Knight, who lives opposite the Belsize Park stencil of Mrs Beechey, said the ruining of the Primrose Hill image was an example of “good street art being replaced by bad street art”. He added: “It’s a terrible shame. It was a lovely image breaking up a bland section of wall.”

    A spokeswoman for Camden Council said it did not have a specific policy relating to street art. 

    “Graffiti can have a profound negative effect on the perception of an area, particularly if the message is offensive,” she added. 

    “We remove graffiti from public spaces so residents can continue to enjoy a cleaner and safer environment. This in­cludes removing graffiti from private properties at the request of residents. 

    “Some exceptions have been made when permission has been given, or an attractive addition has been made to a building.”

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