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

Alketa Xhafa Mripa's mural on West Hampstead's Thameslink bridge features John Henderson. Picture: T

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

Network Rail has asked the artist behind the controversial mural on West Hampstead’s Thameslink bridge to remove a “portion of it” featuring lettering which says “Through Art We Rise”.

But Alketa Xhafa Mripa who came up with the idea for the mural – which also features a portrait of John Henderson, the popular local bookseller who kept a stall on the bridge before his death in May 2019 – did not say whether she would alter the mural but said it was a “statement, not advertising”.

She added: “The lettering on the mural represents a response to the climate of anxiety, defeat, and desperation that London is experiencing during these uncertain times, it is a vital reminder to maintain an attitude of empathy and kindness towards our neighbours – the rough sleepers, who are growing in number.”

A Network Rail spokesperson told this newspaper it had given permission for the mural, but after discussion with Camden Council had asked the artist to remove the portion of the artwork featuring the lettering.

Camden’s planning chief, Cllr Danny Beales, said that because the lettering was the “name and mission statement” of the group, advertising consent was required. He added: “We have been in contact with Network Rail, who own the bridge, to seek resolution of the planning breach through removal of the lettering, alternatively it would be open to them to make an application for its retention which would be considered on its own merits against planning policies and any representations made by the community.”

The mural has divided the West Hampstead community, with some considering it either unpleasant or an “appropriation” of the memory of John Henderson.

One woman told this newspaper that “the whole thing is a farce” and made the point that it was incorrect to conflate John’s memory with homelessness, as he was not homeless.

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But John’s daughter, Rosie Henderson-Mcgirr, said she was “in love” with the mural of her dad, adding: “The art work is outstanding and I couldn’t be any happier!”

David Brescia, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate, said it was “divisive” and that “almost everyone agrees that local residents should have been consulted”.