HACKNEY COUNCIL is to privatise its Dalston mural, loved by locals and praised by Boris. The three-floor-high painting, inspired by an anti-nuke carnival and completed in 1985, is a local landmark, features in ads for local pop band Rudimental’s hit album and was the subject of an affectionate Boris Johnson article in The Spectator in the 1990s, years before he became Mayor of London.
The mural is in surprisingly good condition but the emptied terrace building, 15 Dalston Lane, on which it has been painted, is not.
Council officers have recommended that Hackney let No 15 to a little-known property company to maintain it. The company took over Antic, a London pub chain, when it collapsed this year. It wants to revive Antic’s plan to open a pub-restaurant near by.
Hackney has not consulted the public and if its cabinet approves the proposal when it meets on 24 June 2013, the mural will be put in the care of a recently formed company that has no record of conservation.
The officers’ objective is to save the council money. Their report states that “the building [No 15] as a whole is in a very poor state structurally and this will, if not repaired, eventually necessitate demolition. A lease to a commercial operator will enable the council to repair the building and secure the future of the mural at no cost to the public purse and provide an income.”
The council report does not say whether any conservation bodies have been consulted. The London Mural Preservation Society, which has published a detailed article on the mural, is not mentioned.
Hackney Liberal Democrats told Loving Dalston the mural was probably the most important piece of public art in the borough.
An independent public body, perhaps similar to a civic trust and including members of Friends of the Mural, should be set up to supervise the artwork.
The party said: “While we recognise that the mural can be safeguarded as part of a lease, the council’s record both on protecting public art and on enforcing legal agreements is not good.” Hackney LibDems had no confidence that the council alone would protect the mural.
Mustafa Korel, founder of the Hackney First pressure group, comments: “The council is set on selling off anything that has cultural value and by destroying all things Hackney.
“It wants to create a new Hackney that has its soul hulled out.
“It’s curious that in the cabinet recommendation it has not explored saving this mural by seeking heritage status, which it is eligible for when it turns 30 years old.”
Hackney council declined to comment but later announced that the developer would be required to spend £420,000 on repairs to the mural.
The council cabinet was due on Monday 24 June 2013 to vote on the proposal to lease the building and its mural.
* Since the story above was published, the council Cabinet has voted for the proposal.
Karen Alcock, Hackney housing policy councillor, said: “Dalston Peace Mural is an important part of Hackney’s cultural landscape. We [Hackney council] know how much it means to people and it is not going anywhere.
“We purchased 15 Dalston Lane in 2010 to make sure that it could not be sold to anyone who would not commit to protecting the mural and we intend to stand by our commitment.
“Currently the property is in a very poor state of repair and requires more than £420,000 of urgent structural works; but Dalston Lane Property LLP are willing, under the terms of the lease, to carry out this work and protect both the building and the mural.
“We have also commissioned a firm who are experts in conservation and restoration to carry out a full audit of the mural and set out what work needs [to] be carried out in order to preserve it.”
* The council privatisation plan is on line If you wish to comment, write to Hackney council at Town Hall, Mare Street E8 (020 8356 3000), email email@example.com or press on this link to learn how to contact your ward councillors.
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