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West Hampstead mural: Councillors come up with compromise and artwork will stay for now – but then be replaced by community art

PUBLISHED: 18:31 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:31 15 June 2020

Alketa Xhafa Mripa's mural on West Hampstead's Thameslink bridge features John Henderson. Picture: Through Arts We Rise

Alketa Xhafa Mripa's mural on West Hampstead's Thameslink bridge features John Henderson. Picture: Through Arts We Rise

Archant

Two of the area’s Labour councillors have reached a compromise with warring members of the West Hampstead community over the future of the “divisive” mural.

Network Rail gave local cafe-owner and artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa the go-ahead to paint the sides of the Thameslink bridge in West End Lane as part of a charity initiative to raise awareness of homelessness, but members of the community were split as to the art’s merit and whether or not it should have been allowed.

Now, Cllrs Peter Taheri and Shiva Tiwari (both Lab, West Hampstead) have brokered a compromise.

READ MORE: West Hampstead mural: Network Rail ask artist to remove lettering on controversial Thameslink Bridge street art

The mural will now only be the first of many art installations to take pride of place on the bridge, with a “new, apolitical” local panel – including the Through Arts We Rise group set up by Ms Mripa convening to commision art – which will replace the current mural.

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The current design will remain for a “fixed period” pending the anticipated resolution of a planning issue as advertising on the bridge is not allowed without council consent.

In a statement the councillors said: “We have been focused on the importance as councillors of listening to and serving the local community and creating a space for conversation and the reaching of a consensus when – as here – local views are divided.

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“We appreciate that through the subjective medium of art, this project sought to create something beautiful with a powerful message inspiring positivity compassion and solidarity. We also appreciate the local community should have a say in how their public spaces should look, which of many worthy causes are promoted, and also by whom.”

Ms Mripa said: “I am really happy with the outcome of the bridge to become an open gallery and give voice to the voiceless by raising awareness about social injustices together with West Hampstead community.”

But former Conservative councillor candidates David Brescia and Ian Cohen said it was “vital” that there was “a full and transparent consultation”, and not an “obscure process steered by the Labour Party”.

The mural – which features the late local bookseller John Henderson and his dog Sugar was criticised for co-opting John’s memory and a lack of consulation.


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