My plea to Banksy – please come back to Clacton, and paint a mural this town can feel proud of
PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:13 23 January 2019
Back in 2014, the street artist Banksy came to Clacton and painted a mural on a wall in his typically satirical style.
The artwork was of a group of pigeons holding anti-immigration banners towards an exotic-looking bird, and as it was painted in the run up to a local by-election - which was won by UKIP - it was deliberately hammering home a political message.
Perhaps, had it remained, the mural would have led to thousands of people flocking, like birds, to Clacton for a chance to see a cool piece of artwork by the infamous Banksy, which perfectly captured the political mood of the time.
At the very least, it could have been sold for millions of pounds, which could then plug a hole in Tendring District Council’s budget, or perhaps could be used to pay to keep its West Clacton library or St Helena Hospice open.
But sadly, the mural was swiftly painted over by council workers, after someone complained that it was ‘racist’.
A source at TDC said that “lessons were learnt” after the Banksy clean-up – “it wasn’t a deliberate thing,” they added. So I am convinced that if Banksy were to return, the same error would not be repeated.
Last week, the garage mural Banksy had painted in Port Talbot in Wales, depicting a child playing in snow-like falling ash and smoke from a skip fire as a comment on the town’s steel works pollution, sold for a six-figure sum. About 20,000 people are thought to have visited the mural in the last month.
The man who bought the mural – John Brandler, who owns a gallery in Brentwood, Essex – has promised the artwork will stay in the town for a minimum of two to three years, and has suggested putting five or six more Banksy pieces on display in the town to boost tourism.
If Banksy were to return to Clacton to stencil a new masterpiece on its walls – and the council there were to provide assurances that they wouldn’t destroy it – imagine the much-needed boost it would give to Clacton’s ailing tourism industry.
As the EADT’s business writer, I have had cause to write many articles about Clacton in the last few months, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness each time that shops including M&S, Mothercare and Claire’s Accessories have closed down in the town centre.
To add insult to injury, Clacton-on-Sea’s struggling Jaywick estate became the brunt of Trump jokes recently when the Republicans used old images of its streets to depict deprivation, with the message “we can’t go back to foreclosures, unemployment and economic recession.”
Like many people, I had a giggle at the ridiculousness of that. But on a more serious note, it goes to show how woefully misunderstood Clacton is.
The town faces the same type of snobbery that led to a politician appearing to describe Ipswich as ‘that cesspit down the road’ during a meeting earlier this month.
I’m not from Clacton, but I am an Essex girl, and Clacton holds a fond place in my heart.
Walking our dog along it’s glorious beach, I’ve come to realise that Clacton is the perfect haunt for a spot of people-watching. Where else in East Anglia are you likely to spot a pensioner on a Hells Angels-themed mobility scooter, as I did last week?
Yes, Clacton has its economic problems, nobody is denying that. But you’d be hard pressed to find a more tightknit community who care more passionately about the future of their town than in Clacton.
Every business news story I’ve written about the town’s recent hardships has provoked impassioned debates on social media groups there on what can be done to give the town a lift, and residents have sparked up campaigns to try to save their library, to get Helena Hospice to stay and to get Primark to move into the town’s old M&S building. The thing is, people in Clacton really care about Clacton - they just feel very frustrated that they can’t fix some of its problems.
A glorious piece of Banksy artwork would be a great fit for the elusive Banksy, who likes to shine a spotlight on parts of the world that have suffered from poverty and hardship, and give people a reason to come visit.
He has done wonders for tourism in Bethlehem, for example, with his Walled Off Hotel.
Clacton already appears to have its own ‘fake’ Banksy artist, if the painting of a wind turbine that has appeared on the slope down to the seafront opposite Thoroughgood Road is anything to go by - leading some residents to question whether indeed the artwork really was Banksy.
Banksy, if you are reading this now, please - come to Clacton. This town needs you.
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