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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Monday, 11 May 2015

Paradise Lost: another little bit of Brixton's cultural heritage is demolished

No more rus in urge, though apparently this garden was based on a bit of Brockwell Park…but who will the new homes be for?
This small detail from the Mauleverer Road mural was
 still visible today (11 May 2015): but if you want to see
any of it you have to move fast,  as the demolition
seems to be starting up again.
For the last few weeks, locals  and visitors to Mauleverer Road in Brixton have been faced with a sorry sight: one the area's  biggest and best known murals, showing scenes from local history, has been half-demolished.

You almost wish someone would finish of this dirty job, and put the much-loved painting out of its misery.

The Mauleverer Road mural was painted by a group of artists in the early 1980s, and it has already survived one demolition attempt, thanks to prompt local campaigning. The story of its creation,  and its role in the local community, is told in detail on the excellent London Mural Preservation Society website.

This time, however, it seems the luck has run out. Demolition began back in April but for whatever reason, it seems the builders are stretching it out , removing one layer or two layers of brick every week or so.

The last time I dared to look (on Monday 11 May) the main wall was cut down to less than half its original height, so that most of the woodland scenes a had gone, as well as half the formal garden (above right) and half the Caribbean beach scene. The horses in their stables were still intact and apparently they might be spared, as this part of the outer wall is to be retained - or so I heard.

But even if they are, the integrity of this great work with its many hidden jokes and references, will be lost forever. To those who love this mural, myself included, this seems like a form of torture, or at least of unmitigated cruelty to works of community art. Why is this happening?

As so often with these community murals - many of which were created in the heady years of peak squatting and resistance to the the Thatcher government - the painting came as a complete surprise to any visitors to this otherwise quiet,  unremarkable street, a few blocks south of Acre Lane. It covers one of the huge brick walls of the old Tuborg brewery, which had a frontage on Mandrell Road and which closed, according to another blog (Painted Signs and Mosaics), over 30 years ago. This brewery had clearly occupied old carrier's stables, hence the horses and stable doors at the western end of the mural (these are still intact)*.

Discussion on the Brixton Buzz blog  forum reveals that he building was later used as a distribution depot for the yuppie clothing retailer The White Stuff, but that too has moved away. The whole building now looks set to be turned into apartments. Let's hope they are at least as visually pleasing and imaginative and become as much loved by the local community as the artwork they are replacing (opens sick bag, turns away).

Here are a few more pics of what we are losing:

Artists signed their names on the punch and Judy stall
Wgen they finished the mural in 1983, the artists - Jane Gifford,
Mick Harrison,  Caroline Thorp, Ruth Blench - added their
signatures to the Punch and Judy stall

The massive Mauleverer Road Mural in Brixton, is being destroyed to make way for new flats
The painted horses in their stables reflect the original use of this building - even before it was a brewery, there were stables here for carrier horses and donkeys serving all of London and its suburbs.

* Sad footnote - as of 19.05.15 it looks like the horses and stable doors are going to go as well - a glimpse of what's left of the mural last night suggested the whole length of the wall has now been levelled down to about 2m above pavement height.

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