Once again, for a fleeting moment, Hull has the attention of global media. An artwork featuring a boy brandishing a wooden sword with a pencil attached to the end appeared on an unused, permanently raised bridge in the city. Alongside are the words Draw the raised bridge. Via his official Instagram account, superstar street artist Banksy confirmed the work was his. A Hull Banksy was born.
Almost immediately, a tagger defaced the artwork. A heroic local window cleanerdid his best to wash off the tag.
Local fans are campaigning hard to preserve the artwork. But opinion is divided. Seemingly along generational lines.
Conservative councillor John Abbott called for the artwork to be removed. Snootily declaring Banksy’s work could not be compared with ‘real art’ in the city’s main art gallery. The Hull Banksy, he said, ‘should be scrubbed off’.
Councillor Abbott would, I assume, use similar words to describe that other well-known urban artwork in Hull … the preserved, much loved, Dead Bod? Originally painted on a corrugated iron shed in the city’s Alexandra Dock, Dead Bod is now proudly displayed in Humber Street Gallery.
Surprisingly, given its shabby, uncared-for, condition, Scott Street Bridge is Grade II Listed. Recognised by Historic England as an emblem of Hull’s dying maritime tradition.
I say save the Hull Banksy. The Scott Street Bridge was already covered in regular graffiti. Now it has world renowned graffiti. Overnight the city has a new attraction. Hull City Council has recognised its significance and, building on Hull’s years as UK City of Culture, are looking for ways to preserve it. Bravo.
As for Councillor what-his-name, he may not like it, but his opinion betrays a lack of understanding of contemporary culture. Sir, take a look at the interwebs. Banksy is a significant international artist. A cultural phenomenon. This wooden-sword-toting boy is a gift. Embrace it. Banksy has put Hull on the map again. Surely that can only be a good thing?
Save the Hull Banksy. But save the BHS Mural Too.
The BHS Mural
Across the city, a different battle rages. Another, arguably more important, artwork is at risk. The Three Ships. More commonly known as The BHS Mural.
There is an enthusiastic, well-supported campaign to preserve the mural. According to the Change.org campaign site The Three Ships:
‘…has been a landmark in Hull since 1963. It was commissioned by the Co-operative Society and designed by Wolverhampton artist Alan Boyson. This large and iconic Italian glass mosaic mural immortalises the Hull fishing fleet. The face of the mural is composed of 4224-foot square slabs, each made up of 225 tiny glass cubes.’
The mural is part of the fabric of the city. For me, it evokes childhood memories of trips ‘to town’ with my parents. The mural regularly popped into view, between other buildings, as we zig-zagged our way between shops. To me, as a child, this imposing facade had real permanence. An immovable part of the landscape.
Unlike the Scott Street Bridge, the mural is not protected – no Heritage listing. Historic England deemed it not typical of the artists work and not specific to Hull. Yet the masts of the trawlers are recognisably Hull. What’s more the mural was specifically commissioned by the Co-Op to commemorate Hull’s long and previously prosperous maritime history.
Hull City Council are doing their best
Hull was one of the cities most devastated by the blitz. Innumerable cultural landmarks were razed during the German bombardment. In that context, its disappointing this iconic work of art is at risk. Sometimes in these situations, cultural treasures are lost because a local council kowtows to cashed-up developers. That is is not the case here. Hull City Council has, and is, working hard to preserve the mural. Proposals to develop this area of the city include a caveat to preserve the mural. I applaud Hull City Council for this. But heritage listing is also needed. Legal protection. Only that will preserve this important symbol of local cultural identity for this, and future, generations.
Sign the petition
Add your name to the petition to save The Three Ships, aka the BHS Mural, here.
You might also like How successful was Hull UK City of Culture? A view from Down Under