Former mayor shocked after St Albans station bridge mural painted over
PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 November 2019
A former St Albans mayor was horrified to discover a community mural she commissioned during her tenure has been destroyed.
Cllr Annie Brewster's final mayoral project in 2014 was to oversee the creation of artwork celebrating the history of St Albans for wooden panels on the north side of Victoria Street Bridge near the city station.
At the time Cllr Brewster described the project as an attempt to transform "a previously blank bridge saying very little about St Albans" into an emblem of all that is great about our city.
Devised in collaboration with Larry Hayman of First Capital Connect, Lynn Howarth of bridge owners National Rail and graffiti art company, OnTheLevel Productions, the mural chronologically depicted key moments in the city's history, including the building of the Roman Theatre of Verulanium, Saint Alban and the Alban Bun.
But this week she was shocked to discover the mural had been painted over without warning or consultation: "I am dismayed that the panels have been removed and destroyed. It was my final Mayoral project in 2014 and it was immensely challenging to deliver, requiring approval from an endless list of stakeholders.
"The Wedgewood blue paint colour on the bridge was inspired by the walls of the Mayor's Parlour and the panels were designed to celebrate our unrivalled timeline of people, places and events, incredibly important as we do not have many actual artefacts to exhibit that are relevant to these amazing stories.
"Our main railway station welcomes tourists from all over the world so the Victoria Street Bridge was an ideal gateway to showcase our 2,000 years of remarkable history. The opening ceremony attracted a relevant representative for each panel including Christiane Kubrick who unveiled the Space Odyssey artwork dedicated to her husband, Stanley.
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"It is unbelievable that the panels were not once defaced in five years.
"As they were the original artwork commissioned by a professional artist, the corners had started to weather. However, they were not beyond repair and we planned to take high resolution photographs of them to then be touched up digitally and finally reproduced on metal, a much longer lasting material.
"The plan was to replace the Butterfly World panel and create a new one for of the Duchess of Marlborough, our 1553 Royal Charter Market, the Railway Signal Box and our new Museum and Gallery. I do not know when the change in direction happened and was not party to the decision."
Portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism, Cllr Mandy McNeill, explained the mural had been painted over because exposure to the weather had resulted in it becoming chipped and worn, but the panels could not be repaired.
"Several years ago, Cllr Annie Brewster paved the way for art in public spaces. Sadly, the project which Cllr Brewster championed was severely damaged over time by the elements and was removed in early September. I look forward to working with Cllr Brewster and the St Albans Museum + Gallery to see how the photographs from the original project may be able to be preserved and displayed so that the legacy remains.
"I am also excited to be working with the bridge owner, Network Rail, and with Govia, on a new concept, being a public 'art gallery'.
"We are working with the Civic Society on the first exhibition, and with professional photographer Steve Else, who is generously giving his time to help showcase the amazing Conservation 50 Schools Art & Design project.
"I look forward to the launch of this exhibition and other community focused arts initiatives as we celebrate the Herts Year of Culture 2020.
"Thank you to all of our district businesses and residents who assist with funding/ resource/volunteer hours for championing local art projects and helping to make our city more vibrant."