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Council u-turn in row over ROA graffiti rabbit in Hackney Road

11:46 10 November 2010

Managing director Julia Craik (centre) stands with musicians from Strummerville charity The Premises workers in objection to Hackney council

Managing director Julia Craik (centre) stands with musicians from Strummerville charity The Premises workers in objection to Hackney council's threat to remove ROA's graffitti rabbit on Hackney Rd, 26th October 2010

Olivia Harris, (+44) 7881 810 878, www.oliviaharrisphotos.com

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Town hall chiefs have been forced into an embarrassing U-turn in the row over a giant graffiti rabbit on the wall of a world-renowned recording studio in Hackney Road.

Hackney Council has officially withdrawn a threat to remove the 12-foot-tall painting on the side of The Premises Studios and Café after more than 2,000 people signed a petition in protest.

The rabbit, painted last year by Belgian street artist ROA with the studio’s consent, was facing the same fate as the Stoke Newington Banksy mural which was blacked out by council workers.

The owners of the studio, used in the past by artists including Chaka Khan and Amy Winehouse, had received orders to either “obliterate” the artwork within 14 days, or apply for planning permission.

If not, the council would paint over the wall and send the bill to the studio.

The owners refused, saying that the artwork was an asset rather than blight on the borough – and challenged the town hall to entirely rethink its policy on graffiti due to the popularity of their petition.

Among the campaign’s supporters was Newington Green-born poet John 
Hegley.

However, Brian Bell, chairman of the council’s regulatory and audit committees, said it was “self-indulgent attention-seeking”.

“This whole debate is artificial,” he told the Gazette.

“They have created the situation and then escalated it by refusing to investigate whether permission was even needed – a classic sign of people with too much time on their hands.”

Studio owners Julia Craik and Viv Broughton, who defended their efforts to raise awareness of the graffiti rabbit’s plight, welcomed the turnaround.

“We’re delighted that the council has recognised our campaign and we’d like to thank everyone for all the amazing support and work to help save our rabbit,” they said in a joint statement. “It’s a beautiful piece of street art that everyone loves and we’re very glad it’s here to stay.”

A council spokesman said that, after reviewing the case, it had decided not to take action because the rabbit had been in situ for some time and had not provoked complaints.

“Throughout this entire process, we have made every effort to work with all the concerned parties to try and resolve this matter and are pleased that we can now put an end to this matter,” added the spokesman.

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