Published: 08 July, 2010
by DAN CARRIER
IT is a Beechey, not a Banksy: the mysterious appearance across the borough last week of a stencilled image of a lady apparently holding a light bulb and a tea pot sparked rumours that the work had been done by the famed guerilla street artist.
But while Banksy told the New Journal it wasn’t his work, another facet of the mystery – namely, who is the person in the picture? – has been solved.
And the answer is June Beechey, a retired shopkeeper who owned a popular hardware store in Regent’s Park Road for 50 years.
Mrs Beechey, who ran Welsh’s since 1956, was shocked to discover a life-size picture of her appearing on a wall in Primrose Hill on Thursday.
She said: “I first heard about it on Thursday morning after a friend called me and said: ‘You need to see the picture on the front of the New Journal’.”
What awaited her on our front page took her by surprise.
She said: “I was in fits of hysterics when I found out – it is just so funny.”
Yet she is in the dark regarding the identity of who her mystery admirer may be.
She added: “So many people came in and took my picture before we closed in April. I was asked lots of time to stand outside in front of the window for a photograph, so it may be some one connected to them.
“I suspected an artist who lives locally, but when I asked him he denied all knowledge.
“What amuses me most is my little shoes – I wear special shoes and the artist has got them just right.”
And she added the anti-war slogan accompanying it was an issue close to her heart. She said: “Make tea not war is something I’d agree with – although I prefer a nice cup of coffee.”
Whether the images of June – which have appeared in Belsize Park, Kentish Town and Primrose Hill – will last has also sparked debate.
In May, the New Journal featured a story on how work by celebrated street artist “Mr P” in Kentish Town had been destroyed by council workers – despite being commissioned and on private property.
It provoked a discussion as to who should make the decision whether a piece of street art should stay or go. The image of June in Belsize Park has already had a piece of perspex placed over it to stop any one trying to paint over it, but council workers routinely remove graffiti.
Town Hall environment chief Labour councillor Sue Vincent said she would back a move to establish a borough wide committee made up of artists, councillors, residents and critics to run the rule over street art.
She said: “Camden is about supporting and encouraging art and an art body to consider these issues would be welcome. It would be great to get people together so whether street art is kept or removed is a more open and democratic process.
“The difficulty is PCSOs and council officers have a duty to remove graffiti – they would also need to be part and parcel of making these decisions.”
Cllr Vincent added she hoped the images of Mrs Beechey would stay in place. She said: “It has captured an important moment in time. It is a tribute to someone who deserves it.”
Hampstead Conservative councillor Chris Knight, who lives opposite the image of Mrs Beechey in Belsize Park, said: “We need to have a more open process regarding how the council decides if a street art is vandalism or has a role to play in brightening up our streets.”
The celebrated Camden street artist known as Mr P agrees. He said: “In Kentish Town, there is some great street art. To remove it arbitrarily on the say so of a faceless council officer or policeman is plain wrong. We are all art critics in our own way – that should be recognised and used to decide what public art should be kept.”