Restoration work has started on one of London’s most famous community murals after Camden Council, who commissioned the original painting in 1980, agreed to fund the project as part of its Tottenham Court Road revamp.
On Thursday a cherry picker was parked on the piazza at Whitfield Gardens to lift a photographer to the top of the Fitzrovia Mural to make a precise digital record of the remaining original paintwork.
The plans to restore the mural — which has been partly covered in graffiti and in need of repair — were initially put forward by artist Kristina O’Donnell, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, and the London Mural Preservation Society in 2010, but failed to secure enough funding to start the project.
Now O’Donnell, whose own father and uncle appear in the mural, is working with Eazl a creative production company and the Fitzrovia Community Centre with funding from Camden Council, to recreate the original work to return it to how it looked when it was first unveiled.
Patricia Tulloch, director of the Fitzrovia Community Centre and spokesperson for the project, told Fitzrovia News: “Fitzrovia is a truly unique neighbourhood with an eclectic mix of architecture and open spaces which seems to fit well with the equally eclectic mix of people. The mural, although painted 35 years ago, visually encapsulates this mix and there is a real appetite from everyone in the area to save it.”
The photographs of the mural in grid sections will be used to plan the restoration and the images will also put on a website together with a special exhibition to raise awareness of the project.
“As part of the restoration campaign, we’re trying to identify and make contact with some of the characters in the picture. We’re appealing to anyone who has information about the people portrayed in the mural to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to help bring the story of the mural into 2015,” says Tulloch.
A series of community meetings and events will be organised around the exhibition to help identify the characters within the picture, as well as encourage discussion and debate about the future of the mural amongst local residents, workers and businesses.
The Fitzrovia Community Centre is taking responsibility for promoting the restoration project, as well as fundraising for a series of legacy projects.
Camden Council is initiating the tendering process to find a suitable contractor to carry out the restoration work.
Councillor Abdul Hai, cabinet member for culture, customers and communities, told Fitzrovia News that “Camden has committed the funds needed to restore the mural as part of the wider £26 million scheme to regenerate the Tottenham Court Road area, linked to the arrival of Crossrail in 2018.
“Camden is planning a phased approach to implementing improvements to Whitfield Gardens and a number of open spaces, including restoration of the mural as part of the larger West End Project with work expected to commence in 2016/17.”
The Fitzrovia Mural, originally painted by artists Mick Jones and Simon Barber, is a fascinating depiction of local life and Fitzrovian characters. Sadly, Mick Jones died in 2012.
In 2010 he told Fitzrovia News about how they set about creating the mural.
“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.”
Jones said the mural addressed 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.”