Artist Burley Banksy overwhelmed by support in Leeds as petition launched to save artwork

Burley Banksy has been blown away by the support of the Leeds community as a petition is launched to bring back his artwork.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 12:58 pm

The street artist, real name Andy McVeigh, has been inundated with messages of support after BT painted over several murals in Rothwell.

Openreach the division of BT that maintains telephone boxes, says Burley Banksy did not apply for the correct permissions to paint its cabinets but wants to work with the artist to "find a solution".

It's sparked an outpouring of support for Andy, with residents sharing how his uplifting messages have impacted their lives. One resident said his art was a "ray of light" as they launched a petition to bring back his artwork in Rothwell.

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Andy McVeigh with his Leeds United mural of Eddie Gray's iconic goal against Burnley

"It's been lovely, I've been in tears," Andy told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"I paint these boxes and carry on with my life - I know people will see them, but I don't think about how many or the effect they have on people.

"Someone said their little boy was in tears on the way to school because the boxes had been painted over. People have said they were at their lowest ebbs, stuck in traffic, and seeing a box got them through the day.

"It's mind-blowing. I just painted a box because I was miserable myself and wanted cheering up.

"Social media can be a real bear pit and a platform for horrible things, but there's been complete positivity and kindness."

Many of Andy's murals have messages close to his heart, including a mural of a mixtape in Rothwell which has now been painted over.

The mural was dedicated to his sister - who sadly lost her baby daughter.

"My sister never wanted Grace to be forgotten," Andy said.

"When we grew up in Rothwell, I always made her mixtapes to get her into music. I painted the box for when she comes home to see my mum and dad, a nice bit of nostalgia for her.

"BT didn't know that, but you can see it took me hours to paint."

Andy says painting the murals has been a way to cope with his own mental health struggles and he continues to paint them for free.

He added: "At the beginning of the pandemic, I was a struggling supply teacher earning £80 a week. People started asking me to paint their kids' bedrooms, or put art on a canvas.

"Obviously I said yes and I'm entitled to make a small living. But the boxes are done for the community, for nothing.

"We're all proud of our city, but the support has made me realise how great our city is. People have been moved to action by the art and its destruction."

In a statement released to the Yorkshire Evening Post, a spokesperson for Openreach said: “We’ve already been in touch with the Burley Bansky to talk this through and we’re keen to continue that conversation directly.

"We’ve worked with many communities and groups in the past, all over the UK, who've wanted to paint our green cabinets to reflect themes important to them – and we have a simple permissions process which allows us to consider these requests in the context of our commercial, legal and health and safety obligations.

"Whilst we agree with any messages of support for the NHS and key workers, we weren’t asked if our cabinets could be painted and much of this artwork isn’t related to keyworkers but is instead being used for commercial gain.

"We’ve also received several complaints from local people unhappy with the artwork – which we have to take into consideration. We’re keen to continue the conversation with both the artist and the wider community to see if we can find a solution that works for everyone.”

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