Discussion Forum
Banksy in Hebden Bridge?

From Caroline Scott
Sunday, 27 April 2008

Can anyone verify if the grafitti on the bus stop opposite the Nat West bank which seems to appeared overnight is the work of Banksy ...hope it doesn't get cleaned up!

Posted by Jonathan Timbers
Sunday, 27 April 2008

There appear to be a number of talented graffitti artists working locally. Just look at the boards at the back of the skateboard park or the wall of the old workshop by the canal next to the railway bridge which crosses the Burnley Road at the turning to Charlestown. It's remarkable work.

We spend a lot of time knocking young people in town - however, those responsible for these artworks deserve thanks and praise. The fact that they remain anonymous (to older people anyway) makes their contribution even more praiseworthy and incorruptible. The Situationalists would have been proud!

Posted by Jacob G
Monday, 28 April 2008

The graffiti is definitely not Banksy's work. The re-use of the Cartier-Bresson photograph (reversed) and overtly critical and personal slogan is far too crude. There is a re-used Diane Arbus picture near the bridge to the park too. These have been stencilled, rather than directly spray painted and, while re-contextualised in a vaguely witty way, these images are actually the work of other artists and, the graffiti, the work of a wise-cracking bricoleur (or copyright thief, depending on your point of view), rather than a talented artist in their own right.

Posted by Tim B
Monday, 28 April 2008

I'll leave the artistic merit to those better qualified than me, but I thought it an amusing diversion.

However my eight year old daughter was offended at being labelled an alcoholic. Label people and they'll live up to it?

Posted by Andrew Hall
Monday, 28 April 2008

The trouble with praising graffiti, as Caroline and Jonathan do here, is it's very hard to be selective about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

It sends out mixed messages to tell the perpetrators "Well done! Keep up the good work, but you can only do graffiti that we like!" That slightly begs the question , who are "we"? One man's accomplished art form is another man's eyesore. How do you distinguish between a work of art and vandalism? I suggest the line is less than clear.


My photo shows graffiti on a coach on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. This happened earlier this year and resulted in several coaches being taken out of service for many weeks and volunteers' precious time spent cleaning and repainting. I'm sure neither Caroline nor Jonathan would condone this sort of graffiti, but I repeat the question, where do you draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not?

If you start approving of, or even encouraging graffiti, you must be prepared to accept it, warts and all!

Posted by Jenny Shepherd
Thursday, 1 May 2008

I thought the "welcome to Hebden Bridge home to alcoholic children" graffiti on the bus stop was well executed, eye catching,angry and pertinent. I was sorry to see it'd been cleaned off by the end of Monday.
Having raised kids in Hebden Bridge I'm aware of and very worried by the widespread underage alcohol drinking here, as well as consumption of illegal drugs by vulnerable young people. The graffiti artist is raising a question that I think as a town and a generation of adults we need to look at squarely and seriously.

Posted by Janice S
Saturday, 3 May 2008

Although this was more artistic than the usual tagging and etching you get on bus shelters, the place for graffiti is one the graffiti wall in the park. If the artist had put his/her work on this wall, it would still be there, and it wouldn't have cost Metro however much it did cost to clean up the bus shelter. Yes, I realise that graffiti is supposed to be non-conformist and ephemeral but I like to be able to see across the road from the bus shelter.

Posted by Barry G
Saturday, 3 May 2008

Hi Caroline,

I actually really liked the imagery and irony of the message.

Unfortunately walking around with friends who had visited it just made our fantastic town look shabby, especially when their was a loud group of people in the park next to it sat drinking Alcopops. In addition, what I don’t like is the fact that it is ultimately vandalism on a public bus stop. I will have to pay more for my bus fare in order for it to have been removed.

Some of the other message threads pick up on similar points. Throughout Hebden and the Calder Valley there seems to be incessant graffiti with windows scratched, walls gouged and a disgusting lack of consideration for the quality of life for the poor souls who live, in this ‘art’.

What have the talented artists who use the graffiti art tags of 42, HOAX or random circular scratches got as their latent messages?

Posted by Paul D
Tuesday, 6 May 2008

I find graffiti art an interesting but see it as an illiberal form of expression. Forcing yourself onto the consciousness of the public may be art to some, but not to me. First we need to be quite clear about the ‘artists’ themselves. Most of the proponents of graffiti ‘art’ are disaffected males (or females mimicking them in a lackeyed and self-limiting kind of way), consumers of it tend to be slightly voyeuristic, getting off on the exploits of others as much as on the product itself. It remains an activity conducted mostly at night, on static (thereby vulnerable) targets.

The attendant risk also appears to be part of any status assigned to the completed work. Public property is favoured over private property, front doors don’t get tagged and range rovers don’t get etched, so it’s largely an attack on the collective, not on the individual.

Nonetheless, the public isn’t just there to provide the blank canvas, we have two other crucial roles; to provide the audience and; to pick up the tab – so it’s also parasitic to a degree. I may aslo be alone in finding graffiti ‘art’ a little bit creepy, because essentially it gets ‘done’ to us, whether we like it or not. We can say no, we can say stop, but these boys will keep banging away all the same.

Despite what is essentially an illiberal expression of anger and impotence, Hebden Bridge remains a quite liberal and tolerant community. However, our policy response appears to involve wringing our hands and providing a space for these individuals to practice on. Those who support and even reify this form of expression also appear oblivious to the hurt it may cause others. How does an elderly resident feel when such ‘art’ is thrust upon them? Do they in fact matter? Can the six year old child discern the postmodern irony in the stencilled images, see hope in those angry slashes of colour, pick out the needy individual in the tags gouged into glass? Perhaps, but for me we should stop giving these individuals the credit of calling their work ‘art’, stop giving them places to practice and recognise the intolerance, hate and civic loathing in their work.

It’s time they dealt with their ‘issues’ in private. We live in one of the wealthiest towns in one of the wealthiest places on earth. Some of our population feel hurt, we need to deal with that. But how pathetic that when some individuals throw their creative talents into defacing our civic infrastructure – assuming either that we don’t mind or that we don’t matter. How very illiberal, that those destroying our town are granted status as ‘artists’ – a get out of responsibility card so they neither have to explain or clean up. But in the warped worldview of some, to complain is to restrict, so it’s us that ‘don’t get it’, we’re not clever enough to see the joke, can’t discern the quality, so we should shut up and put up with it – take it and then take it again, Keep taking it until they’ve had enough. Submit to their aesthetic superiority and then, when they’ve finished, let them laugh in our face. Who dares wins, as they say.

Posted by Jonathan Timbers
Monday, 12 May 2008

Terribly offended older people ... what next, stricken puppies .... wailing babies?

This 'discussion' about about graffiti art is an expression of prejudice about young people, with no evidence to support it, although I admire the use of the word 'reified'.

The 2 examples which I focussed on were (most likely)

imho entertaining

(as opposed to the defaced train carriage Andrew sent in).

Accordingly, they are not strictly speaking graffiti, nor indeed was their creation in any sense illegal.

BTW, here's a photo of an older version in the Charlestown rail bridge site - this has since been replaced by something better. Given the state of the site, this is a civic improvement.


It's worth bearing in mind that even 'The Daily Telegraph' recently ran an article on Banksy, approvingly calling him 'middle brow'. There's also something in this week's Observer, so I'm hardly putting forward a new, daring argument. In any event, collectors are beginning to stump up huge sums of cash for 'street art' now (or the 'street art' they can capture), so these objections will be flattened by the market.

As Marx said (approvingly of Capitalism), 'all that is solid melts into air'.

Posted by Paul D
Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Apologies Jonathan, but I wouldn't say that my concern with the views of others marks me out as an enemy of young people. I also find your assertion that any objections to graffit art will eventually be 'flattened by the market' a bit strange, it's something a Tesco executive might say about objections to a proposed new store. But you could very well be a neo-liberal, or hold such sentiments, so I'll leave that one.

Anyway, the point: you appear to assume that if something has fiscal value, or has made the pages of the popular press, we must all bow down before it. This is not sufficient and cannot be used to define something as art, or even as popular. I feel that selling graffiti for profit when most of the world lives on a dollar a day says more about our excessive consumption than art. This almost voyeuristic obsession with activity on the margins seems to me to be an antidote to our inactivity where it really matters. Graffiti art changes hands for amounts that would provide clean water to half a million people and yet wants to retain its subcultural status? At least we know where the fools are.

Banksy wrote: "The people who run our cities don't understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit". He wrote it without a hint of irony (see Wall and Piece), but he hit the nail on the head with the existential issue - most graffiti art says "I'm alive" very loudly and then what? Not much.

Marx also had intelligent things to say about art, specifically that exploitation is at its greatest in what he termed such 'transitional forms' of non material production. I don't think he'd define graffit art as an act of working class resistance - although it's often mistaken as such. To me it's too self-absorbed, like a depressed teenager's diary. But that again is just my opinion, I know some people quite like it. I just wish they'd stop foisting it on those who don't. Creeping around at night painting bus shelters to draw attention to the prevalance of teen drinking - yeh right. Portfolio padding more like - look out Pepsi here I come.

Posted by Tom S
Friday, 4 July 2008

In reply to Barry G, regarding the 'latent message' of '42', I have seen several pieces of work by those artists which portray a valid and important political message. I remember seeing a 'No War' piece around the time of the Iraq invasion and, more recently, a 'Free Tibet' piece on the wall at the Skate Park.

Such work may serve to raise awareness of such issues amongst the young people using the skate park.