CamdenNewJournal

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Mural row bridge to become ‘open art gallery’

Artwork could be put up in West Hampstead on a rotation basis

19 June, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Ben Eine’s lettering

A RAILWAY bridge mural which has divided opinion in West Hampstead is to be replaced with new artworks in a Fourth Plinth-style rota scheme.

The West Hampstead Thameslink station wall is to become an “open gallery” in what is being touted as a compromise resolution to a vicious month-long dispute.

The Through Arts We Rise mural in West End Lane has been criticised after it was put up without consultation with people living nearby.

In the future, art – approved by a committee – will be put up on the bridge each year before being replaced with another work.

Labour ward councillor Peter Taheri and Cllr Shiva Tiwari said in a statement that “this compromise will help bring our community together in these troubled times”, adding that “post lockdown, a new apolitical local community group will be convened to meet, consider and decide on the next artwork”.

Last month, the two councillors insisted the mural was “advertising” for the organisation which created it and demanded it was taken down within a week.

One side of the rail­way bridge featured an image of John Henderson, who sold books outside the station for 20 years before his death last year.

However, many residents have expressed disapproval of the choice of artist on the other side of the road.

Ben Eine, a prominent figure in the art world known for his lettering, was convicted of assault after punching his girlfriend in 2018. More than 2,000 have signed a petition to save the mural, a reaction which led to a “pause” in plans to remove it.

The mural’s main objectors say they have felt “intimidated” and that arguments have been “vicious”. Camden Conservatives Ian Cohen and David Brescia, in a joint statement, said: “We are concerned that two Labour councillors appear to have attempted to override Camden’s non-political enforcement officers.”

Mural organiser Alketa Xhafa Mripa, who lives in West Hampstead, said: “I proposed the idea to Peter and Shiva, where the bridge becomes an open gallery and every year we come up with the concepts and themes that needs addressing to raise awareness about social injustices and human rights issues.”

A Network Rail spokeswoman said they would not take down the mural based on Mr Eine’s conviction, adding: “We are sorry that the recently installed mural on a railway bridge near West Hampstead Thameslink station has had a mixed reception from residents in the area. We are committed to working with Camden Council to find a suitable solution.”

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