By News Reporters

Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens, Tottenham Court Road
The mural depicts speculative building, lack of open space and amenities, and celebrates the people living in Fitzrovia. Pic: Peter Whyatt

The Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens could be restored next year to the condition it was when it was completed if plans by local people are realised. The popular mural depicts the history of Fitzrovia, its residents and workers, and was painted by two artists commissioned by Camden Council and unveiled in 1980.

Recently the mural has deteriorated badly and has been daubed with graffiti. Now an artist, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, and the London Mural Preservation Society are exploring ways to fund not only the restoration work but also projects to raise awareness of conservation, heritage, and the residential and working community.

The mural project will be promoted as an alternative to the commercial plans being put forward by property developers. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate a grassroot event in contrast to the elitism of the London 2012 Olympics and tourism agenda. Taking inspiration from the Fitzrovia Festivals of the 1970s, the project will be part of “People Live Here!” celebrations of Fitzrovia, its people and its places.

The Fitzrovia mural, originally painted in 1980 by Mick Jones and Simon Barber, is a fascinating depiction of local life and Fitzrovian characters. It is one of London’s most famous and iconic murals (Time Out rates it as London’s number 1) and is seen and passed by thousands of people every day.

Muralist Mick Jones remembers: “In close consultation with local people we took inspiration from local life: newsagent workers, a butcher, builders, office workers, nurses, a pub and local school children all found their way into the composition”. The Mural addresses the wider themes affecting the area at the time. “The skyline reflects the speculative building of the time (which continues today), the young boy hemmed in behind a fence is a comment on the lack of open spaces and amenities in the area and so on. We developed a kind of highly figurative, narrative cartoon style which contains humour and hopefully wit as a way of highlighting the themes and issues. The final result was well received and praised locally and eventually became a well known and popular local landmark”.

Over time the paint has faded, the render has cracked and graffiti has taken over. With artist Kristina O’Donnell, The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association aim to restore the mural to its former beauty.

“The mural holds special significance for me” says Kristina. “The two quarrelling figures in the centre of the painting are my father and uncle, who worked in the newsagent adjacent to the mural in the 1980s. But graffiti now masks their section of the painting and it would be wonderful if we could restore the mural to bring all the characters back to life”

The Neighbourhood Association are applying for funding which would enable the restoration work to be carried out in the summer of 2011, and are in talks with other organisations to work in partnership. The project aims to involve many local people: volunteers would learn new conservation skills, workshops with local children to involve them in their heritage, an exhibition by local artists, guided tours and a celebratory event at the end of the restoration project. In addition to this, a booklet would be produced containing collected oral histories of the people involved. A trust will also be set up to ensure that the mural is well maintained in the future.

The Fitzrovia Mural is one of only a handful of large scale works remaining from the 1980s. It is vital that these murals and the stories they depict are preserved now before they are lost forever. With strong support from the local community, The London Mural Preservation Society and Mayor Boris Johnson, The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association hope to work together to repair and conserve the artwork for this and future generations to enjoy.

There will be a public meeting about the project at 7.30pm on Tuesday 21 September, at the Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street W1T 4RX

Bid to breathe new life into the Tory Dracula – Camden New Journal, 9 September 2010

Top ten London murals – Time Out, 5 July 2006