Man ‘targeted’ over opposition to legal graffiti left in fear

A man who says he was targeted by artists over his opposition to a legal graffiti zone in Nottingham said he feared for his property as tensions grew. National Highways approved the first legal painting on its sites near Lenton Lane and Thane Road in 2022, with the project organised by the agency and Beeston Street Art said to be one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

This led to the subway underneath the Clifton flyover hosting a wide array of paintings, including large cartoon illustrations and images of pop culture figures. In August 2023 the permitted area was expanded to include an area around Clifton Bridge, but National Highways recently confirmed the scheme would be stopped at midnight on October 21 after some artists allegedly used graffiti to “target an individual” in response to Clifton and Silverdale residents complaining about the expanding artwork.

Now the man who had the graffiti sprayed near his home, which took the form of his full name, has spoken out about how he became embroiled in the heated debate which ultimately ended the scheme. “I have been speaking to someone from National Highways since the graffiti started in the subway. We as residents hadn’t been consulted and we wanted to have some input on what would be painted,” the man, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

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“That didn’t happen and it got quite heated on social media pages for the estate. I had been away and then came back and all of a sudden it was plastered on the flyover under Clifton Bridge and you find out National Highways had released this as another legal site with no consultation again.

“This art was thrust upon us whether we wanted it or not. We weren’t told much about it and information wasn’t passed around or discussed.

“I had no response from National Highways, so I emailed the CEO and that’s when it went the way it did. They actually said it wasn’t through the complaints that they’d withdrawn the licence – it was because some of them had broken the terms by making it personal to me.”

The resident said the debate over the scheme got “out of hand” as he became more involved, with him claiming one of the artists visited his home, which had been identified in comments, and that he was insulted by some commenters on social media. “I walked out with my dog and saw the graffiti face on. It was on one of the bridge supports of the Clifton Bridge flyover near Silverdale Island. I could see it from my living room window,” he added.

“They knew where I lived and as it was getting personal I feared for my property and I’d had someone come onto my property. Yes, I can see the fun side of it but I could not initially. I just wanted to have a say on the graffiti, but it just got very out of hand on social media and I had to involve the police.”

The name graffiti and a follow up painting which added “sorry” was removed within 24 hours, the man said. He expressed sympathy for the loss of the original space used by artists in Brown’s Tunnels, which one described as a “godsend” in the face of the agreement ending, but said he was relieved the paintings would be prohibited again soon.

“I am very sorry that they’ve lost Brown’s Tunnels, as that was out of view and followed the rules. It wasn’t thrust in your face where everyone would have to see it.

“Some of the artwork in Beeston probably looks very good, but what we ended here with is stuff that looks like sprawled graffiti and unreadable words. What was being painted was unbelievable. It just means absolutely nothing, they must have been related to pop culture but I don’t think many people on the estate knew what they meant.”

Speaking previously, Ian Doust, West Midlands programme development manager for National Highways, said: “Concerns were raised about the street art by some members of the Clifton and Silverdale community and we were asked to reconsider a decision regarding the licence that permits the Beeston Street Art Project to use certain structures as a canvas for artists.

“We have since been made aware of a personalised response from within the street art community with artworks intended to increase tensions with individuals in the local area being applied to our structures. This is simply unacceptable.

“It has put us in an extremely difficult position and we have chosen to withdraw the licence at this time. It’s disappointing that this scheme, which was intended to make a positive difference in the community, has not been successful.”

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