Lend us your council estate walls, urge graffiti artists
Tenants leaders get offer of free street art - and it could cut vandalism
15 March, 2019 — By Tom Foot
Before and after on the Chalk Farm Estate
STREET murals can help tackle elderly isolation and youth trouble on council estates, according to an artists’ collective looking for “legal walls” for artists to work on.
A collective of graffiti experts, Global Street Art, will pitch the idea to tenants’ leaders in the north and north west of the borough this evening (Thursday) in the hope of being handed permission to get painting.
It has already put up large murals – which are more complex and aesthetically artistic than tag-style graffiti “pieces” – in Webheath in Kilburn, the Tybalds in Holborn and the Chalk Farm estate where the project has been credited with wiping out vandalism. Depressing sheds and walls already defaced are transformed with large thought-provoking images by respected artists.
Global Street Art’s chief executive and co-founder Lee Bofkin said: “What happens is that it creates a nicer environment, it enables people to slow down. It gets people out and talking to each other. It gets people talking to their neighbours who might not do otherwise. People stop and talk, they share opinions when they are standing in front of the mural.”
Past project in Chalk Farm
Global Street Art will be making their presentation at the regular meeting of the Hampstead District Management Committee. It insists that all work would be approved beforehand by residents – and that there would be no cost to the council.
Mr Bofkin – a former scientist and breakdancer for the United Kingdom team – added: “We are not saying it solves all problems, but what we are saying is art should be normalised for kids. Especially on housing estates, where there may be anti-social behaviour issues and where kids often don’t have access to this type of thing. They should grow up around this colour – it becomes a nicer normal for them. We would rather housing estates had positive stories coming out of them.” T
he pitch comes a week after parents of a 19-year-old from Hampstead, who died spray painting railway tracks, warned that stigma and hostility towards graffiti was pushing young people into taking risks.
Alberto Fresneda was killed by an oncoming train while hiding in pitch black darkness on a dangerous stretch of south London railway last summer.
Mr Bofkin said his organisation works by finding artists around the world who want a wall to create a lasting project. Funds for projects on estates come through separate advertising or developer-funded murals. The company also uses social media to publicise these murals.
Mr Bofkin said: “We do work with property developers on some hand- painted designs. We have to make money to keep the thing going. But we didn’t get into this job to advertising. I want to live in painted cities. When I’m an old fart in a rocking chair, I want to have left a legacy for London. “We founded the project in austerity, we’ve never had access to public funds, grants.”
Neil Davis, treasurer of the tenant management organisation at the Chalk Farm estate, where several large murals have been put up over the last few years, said: “The estate had graffiti and a low-level vandalism problem, so I decided to take our open space back – teamed up with Global Art and invited artists to create murals on the walls of the open space. If we didn’t like it we could paint over it, we left the artists to engage with the space as they saw fit. “We made a film with the residents giving their views on the art. Result, we have had no graffiti and zero vandalism.”
At Chalk Farm, residents asked for one mural to be taken down and it has been painted over with a new mural.
Eddie Hanson, vice-chair of the Hampstead District Management Committee (DMC), said: “We have not yet identified particular estates for the project as we feel it is right for residents to have the option and make their own decision.”