In early June, two murals appeared on the Thameslink bridge at West Hampstead, commissioned by Network Rail. One, by Alketa Xhafa Mripa, depicts faces during lockdown, including that of John Henderson and his dog Sugar, who used to have a book stall outside the Thameslink station. One, by Ben Eine, has the words “Through Arts We Rise” in large coloured letters.
Residents have expressed many different views about the murals, but most people, including many who like the murals, have told us they think it would have been better if Network Rail had consulted the local community before the murals just appeared. The latest communication (9 July) to residents’ groups from Camden Council confirms that the murals are considered to be public art, and therefore do not need planning permission.
For the future, Network Rail, the artists and the council have suggested to local groups such as the Neighbourbood Development Forum (NDF) and West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT) that the bridge should be the venue for works of art on a rotating basis, with a local community group established to meet, consider and decide on the next artwork.
The next stage appears to be to have a public meeting to discuss this suggestion, and agree how the local community group will be set up. There’s a debate about whether this should happen online soon, or whether it should wait until it is considered safe to hold a physical meeting. Some are arguing that it would be good to get the group up and running soon, and others are suggesting that a physical meeting is needed to have a proper discussion. We’d be interested in your views. Email the team on [email protected] to have your say.