Saving public Banksy
THE most important thing in Wood Green right now is getting back their Banksy. On Saturday, protesters stood next to the wall where the artist’s Slave Labour stencil had been swiped from the brickwork and told of their outrage that it had been listed for sale at an auction in Miami. Haringey Council had been right in the mix demanding a gift for the community was returned. The government should intervene, the council’s leader insisted. BRING IT BACK. Later, when the Banksy was dramatically withdrawn from sale at the eleventh hour – hey, we can all write Banksy’s PR for him… – councillors were thanked for their strident response.
Compare that with Camden, which sometimes seems like it doesn’t really know what to do with Banksy. It framed its Banksy rat on the side of its annexe building in King’s Cross and went further by enquiring whether it could be insured. That’s the annexe which Camden plans to sell and will almost certainly be demolished in the future. Nobody, nobody, NOBODY, suggested that the picture of the rat had appeared as way of suggesting the building was full of them.
More interesting was the response when Banksy left his bubble-blowing boy on a wall in Jeffrey’s Street, Camden Town. This was at a time when Banksies (if that’s the right spelling for more than one) all around London were being destroyed. Artwork around Camden Lock was defaced and the sneaky one of a convict on the run in Archway was ruined. People with longer memories will remember how his maid in Chalk Farm Road was blotted out so often it could no longer be rescued. With all that going on, the owner of the wall in Jeffrey’s Street put a frame over it to protect against further vandalism.
For this particular gift to the community, the council ordered the frame to come down. The Banksy was later whitewashed after vandals, surprise, surprise, splatted it from all sides. Camden insists it was ruined beyond retrieval but the owner (and others) felt the council had essentially signed a death warrant for the artwork.
Two contrasting stories, with one common thread. Last night, ‘a friend’ of the owners of Poundstretcher wall said they wished the Banksy had never appeared, given the publicity it had led to. The friend told the Evening Standard how it had all compared with the normal procedure of being threatened with fines if they did not remove graffiti left on their property. The quote: “The last thing they ever wanted was this. They wish it had never arrived.” That sounds pretty much the sentiment of Bhupen Raja, the owner of the Jeffrey’s Street wall, who after lots of to and fro and battles with the council, said with a desperate wheeze: “I’ve had enough now.”
For the original winners of the Banksy lottery, it hadn’t turned out as beautifully as first imagined.