Anger over mural removal

The Heroes mural in Walthamstow Village
The Heroes mural in Walthamstow Village

Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

The removal of a beloved David Bowie mural has sparked outrage.

Waltham Forest Council publicly apologised after handpainted lyrics from the song Heroes were washed off the railway bridge in Orford Road, Walthamstow Village. The mural was reportedly removed after a complaint and because it was deemed “inappropriate” for a conservation area.

A petition calling on the council to reinstate it was signed by more than 500 times in just two days. The petition, by local artist Dominic Mandrell, argues that, despite its location within a conservation area, “the artwork was on an ugly old wall overlooking a railway”.

Dominic added: “If anything it cheered up the place and gave many people a much-needed boost.”

One signatory, Lydia Kivenen, wrote: “This piece of art has cheered me up so much during this unusual and difficult year. I felt like I got an energy boost every time I walked past it.

“Also, as a lifelong Bowie fan, I’ve been proud that we have this homage in our neighbourhood.”

However, others publicly supported the council’s decision to remove the mural, including art collective Wood Street Walls.

Thomas Ableman tweeted: “I may be an outlier but I’m glad it went. I loved it – it was beautiful and fun, but not in the right place.

“That spot is one of the only places in London with a view of two medieval buildings and the artwork didn’t suit it. Somewhere else please!”

Conservation areas exist to protect places with special architectural or historic interest by preventing the loss or alteration of buildings. There are 14 conservation areas in Waltham Forest.

Deputy leader Clyde Loakes said: “We are sorry for the removal of the much-loved David Bowie ‘We Could Be Heroes’ mural on the Walthamstow Village railway bridge.

“We understand residents’ concerns and are looking at how we can put this right as soon as possible.”