‘No plans’ to replace David Bowie mural

Walthamstow artwork was scrubbed off last year, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

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

There are no plans to replace a much-loved David Bowie mural washed off a Walthamstow bridge last year, according to Waltham Forest Council.

In October, the council publicly apologised for removing hand-painted lyrics from Bowie’s song Heroes from the railway bridge in Orford Road.

The mural was removed because it was deemed to be in a conservation area but its erasure sparked outrage, with almost 1,000 residents signing a petition calling for it to be reinstated.

At the time, deputy council leader Clyde Loakes apologised, adding that the council was “looking at how [it] can put this right as soon as possible”.

More than half a year on – and with no sign of the mural returning – a council spokesperson said there is “currently no planning application submitted” for a replacement.

They said: “The David Bowie mural… did not have planning permission and was located in a conservation area that the council has a statutory requirement to preserve. 

“As the bridge is owned by Network Rail, the council would need to consult all parties concerned, including local residents and artists, if an application were submitted before any replacement could be created in this location.

“We recognise the vital importance of street art for our residents. We are proud to work with artists and communities across the borough to help create engaging and inspiring pieces that brighten residents’ lives and are in keeping with the surrounding area. 

“We would be pleased to listen to any suggestions for artwork residents would like to see in their neighbourhoods, and we are investigating potential projects in several locations for new artworks across the borough in the future.”

Following the removal of the mural, local artist Dominic Mandrell created a petition calling for its reinstatement. He argued that, despite its location within a conservation area, “the artwork was on an ugly old wall overlooking a railway”, adding: “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 Wood Street Walls itself, which painted the lyrics on the bridge.

Local resident 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.

Residents who want to suggest street art in their area can contact the council by emailing culture@walthamforest.gov.uk.