Many people driving up from Vauxhall towards Brixton will probably pass the colourful mural in the middle of the Stockwell roundabout. This little piece of land is the last bit of South Lambeth common. After the First World War a war memorial was built and the land became the Stockwell Memorial Gardens. Then during the Second World War, a sequence of deep level shelters were built in south London with the opening of one appearing in the middle of the gardens. It is the top of this shelter which the mural has been painted on.
The mural was painted in two parts. The first part was developed in 1999 by Brian Barnes and Myra Harris and was based on the the ideas of the children of Stockwell Park School. The mural reflects much of the local history. There is a picture of James Bond, a reference to the fact that actor, Roger Moore, who played Bond in seven of the movies, grew up in Stockwell. Artist, Vincent Van Gogh is included as he spent six months living in the area. There is a picture of the MV Empire Windrush boat; many of the people who came to the UK on this boat settled in the area. A London Underground tube train also features on the mural as Stockwell is one of the earliest tube stations. These ideas were bought together into a unified design.
For phase two of the mural, a tribute to local resident and war hero, Violette Szabo, was painted by Brian Barnes onto one side of the deep level shelter. Originally the mural showed a gun pointing at Violette Szabo's head however there were some complaints about the image so it was changed. The mural opened on 26th June 2001 by Szabo’s daughter, Tania, and Virginia McKenna who plays her in the film “Carve her name with pride”.
During the summer of 2007, the mural was to hit the headlines when a picture of Jean Charles De Menezes was added to the mural. He had been shot in Stockwell Tube station when the police had mistaken him for a terrorist. Some of the people who had been involved with the mural had seen it as a war memorial and did not like this recent situation to be included in the painting. So although other things associated with the area are part of the mural, this most recent piece of history had to be painted out.
It’s nearly ten years since the mural first appeared and the sun has faded the fresh colours of the piece but it still stands out and offers a flash of colour to the passing drivers and a lesson in local history to all who pass by.