Outrage over gun toting graffiti art

A MURAL showing graphic images of gun-toting soldiers at a council owned playing fields has been slammed by parents as ‘disgusting’ and ‘irresponsible’.

Monday, 7th May 2012, 8:00 am

The artwork on the changing rooms at the Levellings playing field off Love Lane in Gainsborough was commissioned by West Lindsey District Coun David Dobbie, and paid for out of his councillor’s initiative fund.

But it was Gainsborough Town Council, owner of the building, which last year granted permission for the wall to become one of the first legal graffiti walls in Lincolnshire.

The new mural showed wanted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony and his child soldiers toting machine guns.

Coun Dobbie said he intended the art work to raise awareness of Kony’s regime as one of the world’s most wanted men, and the plight of his child army.

Artist James Mayle who runs graffiti studio iMAGESKOOL was asked to do the design on 20th April, which was hailed by campaigners as an international day of artistic action to promote the Kony 2012 campaign.

But no sooner had it gone up, complaints prompted Gainsborough Town Council to do a cover up job.

Angry parent Amanda Wilson-Hale called the Standard to say her children would not be allowed on the park until the graffiti was gone.

“I think it’s disgusting and wholly irresponsible to put an image like that next to a children’s play park,” said Amanda, whose sons aged eight and 11 play on the Levellings.

“I have lived in multi cultural London and never seen anything like this, let alone in Gainsborough.”

“I understand the cause it is trying to promote, but there is no explanation on the wall, and kids will just think the guns are cool.”

“I like to think I’m a socially aware person and I raise my children that way, but am I really expected to explain to my eight-year-old that there are nasty men with guns out there who recruit little boys to fight? It would terrify him.”

“A child would not be allowed to buy an age restricted computer game with guns in it but I send them to the park and these are the images they are exposed to.”

Comments flooded onto the Gainsborough Captain’s Facebook wall about the graffiti.

Former Town Mayor Tim Davies said: “The story behind it is worth reporting but the image is inappropriate for its location. Maybe something to do with the Jubilee should be displayed on there.”

Coun Dobbie said he trusted the artists’ integrity that they were not trying to promote guns to the young, but to make people question what was going on internationally.

He accepted ‘shock tactics’ had been used to do this, and that some people might not have understood the campaign.

Town Mayor Harry Clarke said: “We are sorry it has happened but it was done without us knowing.”

“I have instructed our staff to paint out the guns until the artist can come back and cover the wall with something else.”

“In future the designs will have be approved by the council before they go ahead.”

But artist James Mayle told the Standard this would not be appropriate.

“I turn up with my team and do this artwork as a gesture and something for the community to benefit from. Having to get designs approved isn’t part of the deal - it takes the creativity and spontaneity away from it,” he said.

“It’s a shame it has come to this.”

“We’ve never painted anything intentionally offensive and we never would.”

“We thought the Kony campaign was a good cause. I had heard about the global movement to stop Joseph Kony and felt it was an issue worth publicising.”

“And now such a fuss has been kicked up about the mural, it has served to bring it into the open even more.”

James said he didn’t think his painting glamourised gun crime, and that children would simply see it as an impressive piece of art.

“I sometimes think it’s the parents with the problem,” he said.

“Guns, knives and drugs exist in our society and they need talking about not hiding away.”

“The town council, by covering up the guns, have done just that.”