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‘Welcome To Kentish Town’ mural faces whitewash

Kentish Town Road Action group say street art is distracting and broke planning rules

14 June, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

WHEN is a piece of art an advert – and how do you judge whether it brightens or blights public spaces?

This is the question Town Hall planning chiefs are grappling with after a civic group called for a mural which has appeared in Kentish Town to be removed. At the centre of the debate is an eye-catching piece of artwork in Kentish Town Road with the message: Welcome To Kentish Town.

The work was painted by artist Aroe and funded by Global Street Art, which pays for public artwork using a sponsorship model. It had used the space to create a temporary advert for broadcaster Sky before later adding the “Welcome” mural. But Camden Council say it does not have planning consent and must come down. The mural, which has been up for two months, has been met with a favourable response from some neighbours and has become a hit on social media. But civic group Kentish Town Road Action, who represents residents and businesses in the area, are opposed.

Chairwoman Caroline Hill said: “A large advert for a TV series on Sky appeared and we contacted the council and made a complaint. The Town Hall issued an enforcement notice to get it taken down and then the new mural went up almost immediately. We suspected it was a holding piece until another advert came up, so we have complained to the council again.”

She added: “We do not like it as we do not feel it is a suitable space for commercial use. It is distracting for motorists and we question its artistic merit. They should go through the proper channels if they want to use the wall.”

Global Street Art, who were responsible for a warmly received image of Nelson Mandela in Mandela Street, Camden Town last year, and have run non-commercial art projects on housing estates, say they have not broken planning rules as adverts of this type are allowed under permitted regulations for a limited amount of time.

Director Lee Bofkin said: “Our sponsored pieces help support other works. On this particular wall, we had been commissioned to create a piece by Sky, and, once it was completed, we thought, let’s do something nice here. We decided to create a piece saying Welcome to Kentish Town. We’d love this to start a conversation as to how we can create more artwork in Camden that has the support of the people who live and work there.”

Mr Bofkin added: “There has been a brilliant response to it, and we would like permission to continue to use this wall for art by Camden artists. To do so, we need to find sponsorship to cover costs. That means having something sponsored for around three months of the year and then using it for art pieces for the rest of the time. Street art itself often changes and that is part of the joy of it. We do not want to have to paint over something that has been so well received – and is not selling anything – and turn it into a blank wall. Instead, we would like this to be an ongoing community art space.”

A Town Hall spokesman said: “The council has been talking to the company about them obtaining the required permissions for the commercial advertising that they painted on the wall in question, before they then painted the ‘Welcome to Kentish Town’ mural. Appropriate permission for advertising is a requirement by law and we continue to talk to the company about the need to make the necessary applications so that we can properly consider any future advertising use of that site.”

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