Bristol City Council claims “FUCK ABOUT” graffiti offensive. Locals are less sure…
Whilst he was up a ladder cleaning off the damaged Banksy Mild Mild West, Chris Chalkley of PRSC was handed this letter from Denise James, Project Officer for Bristol Clean and Green.
These are pictures of the offending work.
This is our considered reply:
Thank you for your e-mail bringing to my attention the alleged profanity of a piece of work which appeared this week on the Ashley Road practice wall. I intended to take action this morning (24th June) to address the issue, but was delayed by events. As you may know, the Banksy Mild Mild West piece was attacked (Again), and we felt that its repair should take priority.
In the event no remedial action was necessary to the allegedly offensive graffiti, because another piece of work was painted over it in the afternoon; a natural course of events on a practice wall. The wall is heavily used, and locals report that tagging and random graffiti has declined markedly in the area, which is enormously positive, in my view.
Before forming an opinion as to whether the “Fuck About” piece was offensive, I went to the wall and conducted a straw poll. I spoke to 21 passers-by, including motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, asking the questions “Do you find this graffiti offensive? Should we remove it?”
For 73% of this admittedly small sample, the answer was that the painting was not offensive, and that it should not be removed… This sample included MaryAnne Kempf, Chair of St. Pauls Unlimited, and a local resident, Des Bowring who I had never met before. He sent me the following e-mail:
I was appalled to hear that the city council are threatening to vandalise the graffiti art on Stokes Croft/Ashley Road practice wall because they deem the word ‘fuck’ to be offensive.
The word in question is such common currency in today’s culture that it has long lost its power to shock. It retains a value in expressing anger in political and other statements, as well as in the service of humour. In the interests of freedom of expression there is absolutely no justification for demanding it to be removed. It is integral to the rest of the work on the wall, and is not particularly ‘in your face’ or used gratuitously – in fact I would go so far as to say it is a very discreet ‘fuck’!
I don’t think the council is in any position to lecture the people of Bristol about street art, given the former’s lamentable record on this issue in the past, and I hope you are successful in keeping the artwork intact for as long as you want it there, without interference from our moral guardians at Bristol City Council.
I would have been willing to modify this piece of work, because I agree that we do not want to offend. However, I think the reaction of the local populace suggests that they are less easily offended than you might think, and perhaps value freedom of expression a little more than you might think.
In the interests of openness and encouraging public debate, I have posted a sign on the practice wall and will copy the correspondence onto the PRSC blog. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
As you know, one of the declared aims of PRSC is to help the area to flourish. The Arts play an enormous role in this. And Stokes Croft is fast becoming an Outdoor Art Gallery of some repute. It receives a very positive mention on the City Museum’s flyer for the ground-breaking Banksy show. We fervently hope that you will get behind our project in a positive and meaningful way, since it seems to gaining support, and we do seem to be seeing positive change in the area.
Another piece of work was painted over the allegedly offensive graffiti in the afternoon ofthe 24th , as is a natural course of events on a practice wall.
In the interests of openness and encouraging public debate, we posted a sign on the practice wall for all to read.