On the floor of a permanently raised drawbridge in Hull, a new Banksy has appeared! Now covered with the obligatory perspex it depicts a young boy wearing a colander for a hat and holding aloft a toy sword shouting ‘Draw the Raised Bridge’.
The piece has caused a lot of excitement in the city which has just spent a year celebrating as the 2017 city of culture. Having a Banksy appear has made the headlines and no sooner as it was announced that the small stencil on the bridge might be his, people were flocking to see it from around the city.
The Banksy Saga
Since then, the whole Hull Banksy phenomena has become a bit of a saga. First off the mark was a vocal killjoy local councillor called John Abbott who grumbled that Banksy’s art didn’t compare with “real art” and that it should be “cleaned off“. Maybe Mr. Abbott had forgotten that Hull has literally just been the City of Culture and it’s possible that the irony of suggesting that art from one of the world’s best known modern day artists should be destroyed, may well have been lost on him.
In any event the grumpy councillor got his wish and some local scallywag then did indeed attempt to destroy the Banksy, smearing the main stencil image with white paint. The uproar was instantaneous. Already embarrassed by the councillor, Hullensians were now having to contend with the fact that someone, probably from the community, had taken this new piece of public art away from them and they were furious.
Saving the Banksy
Enter stage left, the hero window cleaner! Appalled by the fact that someone would willingly choose to destroy the Banksy which the people of Hull were so excited about. Jason Fanthorpe, a local man, got to the bridge with his special cleaning chemicals and worked on trying to restore the piece. Having heard late on Sunday evening that the piece had been destroyed he went straight outside to work into the early hours in order to try to restore it and to remove the whitewash.
Now the piece, slightly faded, but back to being a recognisable Banksy was finally protected by a council, shamed into action by a vocal public who blamed them for not protecting the piece sooner. They slapped a piece of perspex on and surrounded the area with metal fencing. A slight overkill perhaps, perspex would have probably done the trick.
Meanwhile conspiracy theorists surmised that they had spotted Banksy himself lurking in a white van, wearing a cap and glasses near the mural. Based on little evidence other than the seemingly conclusive proof that the the man in the van was looking “shifty”. That didn’t prevent local sleuths from determining that Banksy was caught and from media outlets picking up the story. “I’m 95 per cent it was him” one man was quoted as saying having literally never seen Banksy before.
Other Street Art in the Area
Back to the art though and in addition to the definite Banksy, a few other pieces also appeared at the same time on streets near to the raised bridge. One piece on Cooper Street was text based and read:
“There must be more to life than writing there must be more to life on the wall”
The other on nearby Bromley Street was a stencil of a young girl sitting dispontant next to a dead upturned bird. A clear reference to Hull’s famous dead bod, the artwork is a copy of a previous Banksy piece which originally featured the girl with blue bird. Cue fevered speculation that one, if not both, of the additional pieces were also by the elusive mystery artist.
By the time we visited the area, the scrawled lettering had been protected by a piece of perspex. Whilst the girl with the bird had been protected by a massive van parked so close to the wall that you could barely sneak a picture of it through the gap. Sadly, neither are likely to be Banksy’s although judging by the amount of people visiting them, many people believe, or hope, that they are.
Wincolmlee and the Scott Street Bridge
All located in the Wincolmlee area of Hull, it was just over a week following the Banksy’s first appearance that we managed to actually visit. Intrigued by the furore and eager to get out of London for a bit, our last trip to the city was to see the Freedom Festival where we learnt about the amazing tale of Dead Bod which we wrote about on Inspiring City.
Wincolmlee though was an area we’d not seen before. Off the beaten track, I doubt that this area saw much of the benefits of the City of Culture. It is run down and in need of some care. The Banksy itself is located on the Scott Street Bridge. Permanently raised, it is exposed to the elements and decaying. It would have once provided a crossing over the River Hull which the whole industry of this area would have depended upon. Now, much of the area appears derelict, although looking at the river, overlooked by the cities industrial heritage, it is still strangely beautiful.
The irony of the words of the councillor John Abbot were not lost on me as I wandered around. Telling the BBC that it should be cleaned off and that “it’s graffiti and all graffiti is damage” he certainly set himself at odds with all the onlookers that were still visiting the piece when I was there. Although clearly if the council had cared as much about the rest of the area than it does about a bit of graffiti then perhaps it would be in a bit of a better state. As it is, it’s pretty clear to this visitor, that this area has been neglected for years.
One thing I did take away is that the people of Hull are highly enthusiastic about having a Banksy. From the volunteers in the information booth at Hull train station, to the many street art spotters I met near the bridge, they are proud to have Banksy in the city. What’s more they are embarrassed that anyone would want to destroy or get rid of it.
So what does the piece mean? There has been speculation that the message ‘Draw the Raised Bridge’ is a reference to the vote to leave the EU. Hull voted strongly to leave and Banksy has previously created seemingly pro- EU street art so we can assume that he is a remainer. Banksy himself however, is staying quiet on the subject and the likelihood is that he will remain so leaving it for others to guess at. Maybe he just wanted to have a little fun.
The Banksy on the Scott Street Bridge in Hull and the surrounding artworks were visited on Thursday 1st February 2018. All the artworks are in the Wincolmlee area of the city. For more Banksy related stories have a look at these posts: