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Editor’s comment: It’s good to see council taking a second look

PUBLISHED: 15:30 11 October 2017

The Banksy, which was unveiled on October 5. Picture: GLOBAL STREET ART

The Banksy, which was unveiled on October 5. Picture: GLOBAL STREET ART

Archant

I wonder what Banksy would make of Hackney Council – the organisation that plastered over one of his paintings – being guest of honour at its restoration.

It’s tempting to believe the whole thing was an elaborate wind-up that has Banksy cackling away somewhere (or, alternatively, will end with the revelation that Banksy actually is Phil Glanville).

But it wouldn’t be the first time this year the council has endorsed a piece of art it had previously consigned to the scrapheap.

In February I heard graffiti artist Stik talking at Hackney Museum about the famed “queer squat” in Dalston Lane, whose occupants were evicted by the council so the building could be demolished. In 2011, Stik, who had lived there, painted a mural on the wall in protest.

Five years on, he produced a similar image to be used at Pride 2016 – by the council itself. Stik, now recast as the town hall’s guest, gave us a history of both images while we all stood in a council-run building. It was odd.

I was at the launch of the Hackney Society’s book last week, which also took place in a council-run building. The Society, it was said, is a “critical friend” to the council. At times, this friendship gets extremely critical, as anyone who heard Lisa Shell’s talk will attest, but it is to the council’s credit that it is willing to have friends like these and Stik.

The Gazette’s primary loyalty may be to its readers (and inevitably to my own meandering personal ethics), but I hope the town hall agrees that a thriving independent press is vital to a healthy democracy.

And like the erasure of Banksy and Stik’s work, and some of the planning decisions dissected in the Society’s book, I hope the council’s propaganda paper Hackney Today may yet prove to be an initiative that has not aged quite so well, and is ripe for some critical friendship of its own.

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