How did these people pop up in Dalston’s landmark mural — and are you or a pal among them?

Dalston peace mural on W wall of 15 15 Dalston Lane Lon E8 © david.altheer@gmail.com

Local historian Laurie Elks tells the stories behind the mural — and seeks your help to identify its immortalised faces

Above, marching for peace: Matthew Weir 19; George Oswald 16; Stephen Murray 20; Ray Walker 22; Jah Globe 24; Joni (?) Lockwood 25; Alan May 35; Daisy Carradice 37; Roland Walker 39; Dylan Lockwood 40; Anna Walker 41, and top, a section of the mural, which is on the west wall of 17 Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3DF

AS YOU RUSH ALONG Dalston Lane on your way to work or amble into the Curve Garden you probably sometimes wonder about the people in the peace mural.

Who are they and were they all on the same rumbustious ban-the-bomb march — or are they just artistic creations?

I looked into this with the help of saxophonist Alan May and we managed to put names to some faces. His very accurate likeness — no 35, is on the right of the mural. I got to know Alan when he played in the Chats Palace Arkestra in the great panto Robbin the Rich (I would say that: I was one of Robin Hood’s merrie men).

Chats Palace Clapton Hackney London 2012 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Known for its radical approach to contemporary culture: Chats Palace, Hackney E9 6DF

The mural was commissioned by community arts panel chairman Tony Banks (1943-2006) during the early glory days of Ken Livingstone’s leadership of the Greater London Council (reborn as the London Assembly.)

The theme was “peace through nuclear disarmament” and Ray Walker, no 22, one of the artists who had squatted derelict houses in Beck Road, Hackney E8 4RE, was commissioned to paint it.

To prepare for it, he went to the Hackney Marsh Fun festival in Daubeney Fields at Kingsmead Way E9 5PP, where the Arkestra was gigging. The band was due to perform at a peace march; and the legendary musician Jah Globe, no 24, composed Celebration Time Is Here for the day. 

Navarino©DA18: © DavidAltheer@gmail.com Navarino Mansions Dalston Hackney London E8 070518
Some locals see the Navarino Mansions development in Ray Walker’s artwork

Walker photographed the Arkestra and some other Chats Palace characters for his preliminary drawing.

I have read that the march is shown going along Dalston Lane with Navarino Mansions in the background, but the railway bridge more resembles the one in Beck Road. Does it matter? Not really — it depicts peace campaigners rather than precisely represents a particular event. 

Some of the themes referenced include the nuclear stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union, which was a constant and potentially obliterative refrain of the times. The Greenham Common anti-war movement was in its early days; Hackney council was campaigning (ultimately, unsuccessfully) to prevent trains carrying waste from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria travelling on what was then called the North London Line through Hackney, and the epochal 1984 miners’ strike (ultimately, the long struggle to keep coal mines open was also unsuccessful).

Ray Walker died suddenly in 1984 of a heart attack. He was just 39 and had not long completed his preliminary drawing, so the work was completed in 1985 by his widow, Anna, no 41, and friend Mick Jones. 

The illustration shows some of the people in the mural. If you can name any others, please email editor@lovingdalston.co.uk.

Rudimental©DA13: © DavidAltheer@gmail.com pop group poster depicting Dalston Lane mural 240313* The writer has lived in Hackney since 1972. He edited Hackney: Portrait of a Community for the Hackney Society and is custodian of St Augustine’s Tower in The Narroway, Hackney E8 1HT. The latest edition of the Hackney Society newsletter Spaces includes a longer version of this article

* Backstory: It’s rudimental: new muralist found; The peace mural loved by Boris Johnson; Dalston mural survey starts; People get ready; Hackney’s seaside; Ever-changing Dalston

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Links to articles in The Guardian do not imply any approval of that newspaper’s historic slavery links

This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. They may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, or for shortening. In the unlikely event that anything defamatory is posted, the sender’s details may have to be divulged. (Under UK law, this applies to any comment/discussion forum, eg, Twitter.) RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston Publicists, amateur and professional, should read http://bit.ly/ZnClKc Also relevant may be the note at the end of http://bit.ly/117GXmi Photographs © David Altheer unless otherwise stated and apart from supplied pictures

3 thoughts on “How did these people pop up in Dalston’s landmark mural — and are you or a pal among them?

  1. The surname of no 16, the trombone player, is Oswald. George Oswald was my husband and I have photographs of him playing with Chats Arkestra, and of the the watch and the trombone he is shown wearing, should you require further evidence!

    We lost George on 3 July 2021 and he is a much-missed husband, dad and grandad, who was for many years an inspirational teacher at Haggerston School, a joiner by trade,  from Leith in Edinburgh and a jazz musician all his life, largely self-taught, and a devoted fan of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and numerous others. Being married to George was an education in music history. Music took George to Denmark Street in Soho, and he was for many years a professional musician.

    In his later years George often played live gigs with a lovely band at The Globe pub in Morning Lane, central Hackney, led by “CB”. He passed away a while before George.
     
    I also have a photo of George with Steve Murray (no 20), a trumpet player, and a recent letter from him to George, thanking George for his advice and support when Steve was starting out.

    Thank you, Loving Dalston, for telling this story and remembering those amazing days when Hackney was a diverse and fun place to live in and to bring up our children. There were times we were all short of money and then we had Thatcher… we demonstrated and the bands played against racism; in support of the miners’ and gay rights and other issues of the day. Great times when Hackney was full of musicians and artists.

    There were also two women, wonderful singers, who sang at Chats Palace with the bands. Not forgetting the memorable Chats Christmas pantos.

    Thanks for your work investigating this Dalston landmark. I’m still in our house in Clapton and love to pass the mural when I’m on the 56 or 38.

    Kind regards, Elizabeth Racki

  2. I am Roland, Ray Walker’s son, now living in Australia, and I’m in the mural, no 39, as a child with my mother, Anna Walker, 41, in the bottom-right corner.

    Ray Walker later emailed editor@lovingDalston.co.uk:

    I’m now living in Far North Queensland, Australia, its probably easiest to get me via this email, or to carefully choose a time in the early morning in the UK to ring me in my evening.

    I grew up in Hackney and was at the opening of the mural, I also attended Chats Palace as a child where many of the characters in the mural are from, my phone no is +61407705138 if anyone needs to call.

    I recently contacted the band Rudimental about the usage on their album cover and after emails back and forth we managed to get a sizeable donation toward some well-needed maintenance and repainting of the mural. The artist hired was Paul Butler, an old friend of my dad Ray, as Loving Dalston reported

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