Unheard cut of 20-year-old forgotten interview with ‘Banksy’ appears to confirm his name

A 20-year-old BBC interview with a man claiming to be street artist Banksy has been unearthed, apparently confirming his name. 

However, there are still doubts about whether the name is genuine or if it was an alias. 

In the audio, the man is asked if his name is Robert Banks, to which he says “it’s Robbie”. 

It was recorded by Nigel Wrench in 2003 before the opening of Banksy’s exhibition Turf War. 

Wrench dug up the recording after listening to a BBC podcast The Banksy Story and played it for host James Peak. 

Peak then recorded a bonus episode of the 10-part series, which was published on the BBC Sounds website yesterday. 

Who is Banksy?

That’s always been a mystery, but there’s been speculation his name could be a variation of Rob Banks. 

If the person in the audio recording is really the artist and telling the truth,  that theory may be true. 

Here’s the exchange, as recorded by Nigel Wrench in 2003:

Wrench: “Are you happy for me to use your name? I mean, the Independent has.”

Interviewee: “Yeah.”

Wrench: “Is it Robert Banks?”

Interviewee: “It’s Robbie.”

A graffiti image of a person in a gas mask

A mural on a building in the Ukrainian town of Hostomel, which was heavily damaged by fighting in the early days of Russian invasion, appeared a year ago. (Reuters: Gleb Garanich)

Is Banksy’s name really Robbie Banks?

We can’t be sure. 

“Banksy gave me permission 20 years ago to use a name — no one has ever contacted me from the Banksy empire, no one ever contradicted that,” Wrench says in the podcast. 

However, it’s important to point out that Rob Banks does sound like the punchline to a Christmas bon bon joke about a thief who stole money from a bank. 

So, of course, there’s speculation that this name is actually an alias.

Especially because the idea of nicking cash from a profit-driven financial institution speaks to the anti-establishment, somewhat anarchical vibe of Banksy’s work.

And, later in the interview with Wrench when he explains why he isn’t going to the opening of the art show, the supposed artist seems mindful of creating mystique:

“If you never show up and people don’t know who you are, then you’re a character, aren’t you really?

“And you can mean different things to different people.”

Peak played the interview to Steph Warren, who agreed to be interviewed by Peak about working in Banksy’s print house Pictures on Walls in the early 2000s. 

Warren, was a key figure in the podcast series.

She tells Peak the recording made her “miss” the artist, but wouldn’t confirm or deny if it was actually the artist’s voice. 

Peak: “Do you think he is really called ‘Robbie Banks’?”

Warren: “Robbie Banks? Do you think he is really called Robbie Banks? Rob Banks?”

[chatter]

Peak: “As in, it’s a silly pun?”

Warren: “It’s a clever pun, isn’t it?”

He goes on to ask her if she’d say that his name isn’t Robbie Banks, to which she replies “I would never say that”. 

However, Wrench seems to be convinced.

“If it wasn’t his real name, why didn’t he just go ‘yes, it’s Robert Banks’?”

What does Banksy look like?

“I don’t remember,” Wrench says. 

“He was a young bloke in a hoodie.”

What was Banksy like?

Wrench says he was “incredibly relaxed”. 

In the 2003 interview, the man is asked about street art, putting it to him that, if it’s vandalism, it’s illegal. 

“If it’s done properly, it is illegal,” he says. 

“I just think it’s my right to go out and paint it and it’s equally somebody else’s right to go and paint over it if they don’t like it.”

Where can I listen to The Banksy Story?

The whole series is available on the BBC Sounds website, where it was first published earlier this year. 

The bonus episode, called the Lost Banksy Interview, is also available online. 

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