Monday, August 15, 2011

Mural Walk

The recent London Mural Preservation Society walking tour of South East London murals was a success with 20+ people heading from Canada Water to Deptford on a Saturday afternoon (6th August).

The starting point was Surrey Quays shopping centre with its two 1980s murals developed by the Greenwich Mural Workshop. This one combines a representation of contemporary life with the history of the Surrey Docks - by showing people staging a modern day festival about the history of the docks:

Outside the shopping centre in the recreated Dockers shelter, there is a mural by Bermondsey Arts Group showing images from the docks.

I like the way that it incorporates images of items presumably found while researching it in Southwark Archives, including a 1950s flyer for the Dockworkers Social Club (Gordon Club) in Bermondsey Street.

We walked on down to the Sanford Housing Co-operative (Sanford Walk, SE14) with its 1984 mural 'Riders of the Apocalypse' designed by Brian Barnes with help from Ray Walker and others. This late Cold War classic shows Thatcher, Reagan and Heseltine flying around on nuclear missiles - there's also a Russian leader, not sure who it's supposed to be - Gorbachev didn't become Soviet leader until 1985, I think it's probably Andropov who died in 1984. The mural was funded by the Greater London Council via 'London Muralists for Peace'. Apparently the original design featured skeletons on missiles, but some of the residents objected.

A detail I hadn't noticed before is the fence at the bottom with images of people on it. This derives from a famous 1982 demonstration at Greenham Common cruise missiles base where protestors put personal effects and pictures on the fence. Anybody know who some of the people shown in the mural are? And note that one of the images shows a representation of part of the mural within the mural, a signature feature of murals by Barnes.

Incidentally while doing some research recently I stumbled across a report of a 1981 party during the Royal Wedding of Princess Di and Prince Charles - the Mercury reported '100 youngsters at Sanford housing co-operative in Sanford Street, New Cross, staged a Stuff the Wedding party'. A picture of a big Stuff the Wedding banner was included (Mercury 6 August 1981).

We saw some recent spray paint art on the Woodpecker Youth and Community Centre in New Cross, with some Alice in Wonderland-influenced imagery. Anybody know who did this?

In Deptford, the Pink Palace mural is on the corner of Frankham Street and Deptford Church Street. It was designed in 1983 by artists including Paul Pestidge and Mary Maguire.

Pulling back the dustbins we found some hidden details, like this Sony Walkman-wearing skeleton:

I was already familiar with the Love Over Gold mural in Creekside, designed by Gary Drostle with kids from local schools. It dates from 1989 and was partly funded by the band Dire Straits who were formed in the mid-1970s when most of the band were living in the adjacent Farrer House on Crossfields Estate in Deptford.

As Mark Knopfler of the band recalls, their 1982 song/album Love Over Gold took its name from some local graffiti: 'there was just some graffiti that was on the wall in Deptford really that stuck in my mind when we were living in this condemned estate. Someone had written "Love Over Gold" on the wall as an idea and it stuck with me'. The original 1970s graffiti is shown as a detail in the mural - in effect the mural is named after the song which is named after the graffiti!

Other details include 'love over gold' written in sign language:

...and St Pauls Church:

In Deptford market we paused in Douglas Way to view the scene of a recently departed mural. The 1988 mural by Christopher Ryland and Paul Pestidge (detail below) has now gone, but Lewisham have commissioned a replacement - so watch that space!

Finally we checked out two murals by Patricio Forrester/Artmongers. The first on the Deptford High Street was apparently at one point due to include actual necklaces hanging on from the chimneys rather than a painted one.

The other will be familar to people on Deptford Broadway, and indeed replaced two previous murals at the same location.


peter delaney said...

isnt that eric honecher on the bomb?? east german president?

peter t said...

that is erich honeker on the rocket

Monkeyboy said...

Bah! beet me to it! Yes, I'm sure it's him.

I would have been about 14? when all this was going on. I went to Creighton (run by Molly Hattersly) back in the days when the Labour party was a bit lefty and CND(ish) Some of the kids wore "No To Cruise" the rest of us were eating crisps.

Wern't the Soviet Union siting intermediate "tactical nukes" in East Germany? He could be bestriding one of those?

Monkeyboy said...

There you go, I wasn't dreaming. SS-20 missiles apparently.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I was aware of some of those murals, but hadn't realised how manuy others there were. Thanks for adding the extra context.

Anonymous said...

The Alice in Wonderland stuff at Woodpecker was done by the young people at the youth centre as part of the Brighter Futures project run by Lewisham Homes. There's a bunch of similar spray art on Pepys Estate in Deptford - including one photographic mural done with Artmongers. Also the wardens office in Honor Oak estate was painted as part of this project.