West Hampstead bridge mural: Women’s charity questions choice of artist
Ben Eine says he made "one mistake"
17 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Ben Eine returned to redo lettering in West End Lane
A WOMEN’S charity says it is “concerned” that a mural on a railway bridge created by an artist who was convicted of punching his girlfriend has been allowed to remain, warning it is sending out the wrong message about domestic violence.
Women’s Aid said Ben Eine should not have been given an artistic platform in the public space in West Hampstead without consultation.
In response, Mr Eine broke his silence on the artwork in West End Lane and said he would be happy to work with charities helping women suffering from abuse.
His mural, which spells out “Through Arts We Rise”, had been partially blacked out last week and Mr Eine returned at the weekend to restore the missing letters.
But Laura Dix, national community engagement manager at Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse has a long-lasting impact which survivors can carry for the rest of their lives, and we hope that the collective that commissioned this work will listen to survivors’ concerns.
“It is important for society to send a message that domestic abuse is always unacceptable and for the voices of survivors to be listened to and believed.”
She added: “At Women’s Aid we are concerned that someone who has been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend has been given an artistic platform in a public space without any consultation with local residents.”
A row has been ongoing over the West Hampstead mural throughout the lockdown since it was organised by Alketa Xhafa Mripa, a West Hampstead resident and artist who won permission from Network Rail for the project and had raised hundreds of pounds from the community to make it happen.
Part of the project included an image on the opposite side of the road – not the work of Mr Eine – of John Henderson, a street bookseller who died last year, and his dog Sugar.
One of the mural’s critics, Jill Henry, who lives in West Hampstead, said: “The community were not consulted about the art or choosing Ben Eine. To see him actively invited to work on the bridge again is inappropriate and insulting.”
Two petitions – for and against the mural – have attracted hundreds of signatures.
Mr Eine pleaded guilty to assault by beating of a former girlfriend at an art launch in the Serpentine Gallery in 2018.
He said this week: “I made one mistake two-and-a-half years ago. For 25 years, I have painted positive, happy messages on walls all over the world. I have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities like Shelter, Big Issue, War Child, Amnesty, on knife crime – the list is endless.”
Mr Eine added: “If we are talking about abuse of women, part of the solution would be educating men. I am very open to having conversations with any charity, any group, that is helping women and engaging with them.
“I want to work out a way we can work together. We could use my Instagram, use my fame or whatever, and do something positive.”
The agency Jack Arts recently pulled an advertising campaign with Mr Eine after several posters were defaced.
Mr Eine said: “It’s been the worst experience I have ever had. I met with my two eldest children on Sunday a few weeks ago. Every time we turned a corner, I was shaking that there was going to be a poster that was going to say something. One said, ‘why don’t you kill yourself and do yourself a favour?’
West Hampstead councillors want the wall to become a revolving space similar to the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, with approved artworks appearing on the wall for a year at a time.