Family pay tribute to schoolgirl at West Hampstead bridge restoration
- Credit: Polly Hancock
A schoolgirl who died a year after painting a mural in West Hampstead will be forever remembered as the railway bridge is restored.
A restoration project is taking place along Mill Lane Bridge, involving 74 pupils from three schools.
The original murals were painted by school children as a Millennium Project in August 2000, led by Charlotte Gerrard, but have become faded, rusted and marred by graffiti over the years.
Gemma Watson was nine years old when she painted a Christmas tree on the bridge. Sixteen months later, in December 2001, she died from appendicitis, aged 11.
On Monday (June 25), the family members painted a mural on the panel next to Gemma's, which is being restored by Charlotte.
Gemma's younger sister, Hannah Kelsi, said: "Gemma loved Christmas. She would have campaigned to keep murals on the bridge, she would have been very much involved."
Family members said Gemma was loud, full of energy and very popular.
- 1 A Level results 2022 live: Camden, Barnet and Haringey schools as they come in
- 2 'Fragile' Highgate Hill raised road to be repaired
- 3 Coldplay at Wembley Stadium: Setlist and photos
- 4 Plumber found guilty of road rage murder of Deliveroo driver
- 5 'Opportunities in Camden as students receive their results'
- 6 'Incredibly kind and caring': Tribute to wife who died with brain tumour
- 7 London Assembly: TfL urged to rethink plans to cut 78 bus routes
- 8 Crouch End bar loses licence as court appeal fails
- 9 Five-bedroom house with garden and roof terrace in Kentish Town
- 10 Victim speaks out after Hampstead machete robbery
Her mum, who asked not to be named, said her daughter would have been "very proud" of the restoration and that the mural "keeps her memory alive".
"It's very comforting to have this here," she added.
Local resident Jill Henry is part of the team restoring the bridge.
"The bridge had got so rusty, with graffiti on the panels," she said. "I got in touch with Network Rail and explained the whole project and what it did for our area, how miserable it all was, and they agreed to help.
"It's been a labour of love."
Artist Charlotte initiated the project in 2000 and in 2006 led a campaign to have it restored, announcing the cause on Chris Evans Radio Show, but was unsuccessful.
She has given the pupils "heavy duty water based paint", and the panels will have a protective seal.
"I didn't get it for free this time but I was given a good price," she said.
Pupils painted panels with their own ideas including a cherry blossom tree, a man riding his bicycle while looking at his mobile phone, and a rabbit on a bench.
Charlotte said: "It's amazing, it is quite stressful but when we all started painting and seeing the kids and how they were embracing it, it was such a brilliant feeling."
Paramount Properties is supporting the project.