Street art has become a ‘blossoming sense of hope’ throughout Leeds - Gabby Mercer

In this week's column, Gabby Mercer looks at the increase in issues that Street Artists in Yorkshire are facing.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 11:45 am
Burley Banksy.
Burley Banksy.

As things slowly begin to fade back to normal, the valued hobby of taking part in daily walks, and viewing large-scale murals or smaller art pieces has worked to aid the outdoor experience. Street art has become, what I would call, a ‘blossoming sense of hope’ throughout Leeds over the past year. Unfortunately, the legality of street art has been an ongoing issue since its first appearance in the 1960s.

Leeds City Council introduced a ‘Graffiti Strategy’, in order to tackle any form of non-legal street art - using both the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the Highways Act 1980. The proposal itself further states that “by reducing the number of incidents of graffiti we can reduce the likelihood and fear of more serious crime happening.”

With this in mind, projects such as East Street Arts, Meanwood Street Art, Chapel Allerton Spaces, and many more have been created to allow local artists the chance to present their own works of art with council permission on a vertical surface.

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Lockdown gave artists the chance to get outside and paint, in a safe, socially distanced manner - and has drawn more attention than could ever have been imagined. However, many issues still arise with the introduction of these schemes.

Meanwood Street Art especially has suffered a large amount of vandalism to their pieces within the past year, especially in areas such as Headingley, causing artists to unfortunately avoid the area in favour of lower-risk spaces.

Burley Banksy is a Leeds-based Street Artist, who works with Meanwood Street Art to repaint old broadband boxes. His art has not only suffered a large amount of vandalism on his Headingley pieces late last year, but he has recently had recurring issues with large-scale company BT.

One of his latest pieces in Rothwell, was repainted by BT; they covered up a creative mix tape design, in favour of a mere dark green colour.

It certainly is a great shame. The recognition of legal street art over non-legal graffiti is something that I feel will always be an ongoing issue. Hopefully, projects like the ones mentioned above, and the outdoor exhibits/displays of work from many Leeds art students, will hopefully bring some well-deserved recognition and acceptance to Leeds' growing outdoor gallery.