The Calthorpe project is a quiet oasis set off Grays Inn road, Kings Cross. It was initially established in 1984 after local people fought to save the land from development into offices.The gardens have now become the base for a range of community projects. It is also full of home grown public art. Mosaics, murals and sculptures are interwoven with the gardens.
The murals are located on a side wall and stretch 53 metres. At the left end, there are a couple of modern street art paintings. Next begins the painted murals. These were developed over the same period as the gardens. CSV (Community Service Volunteers), organised by local artist Dave Bangs, painted a set of murals which would incorporate gardens, arches and an international theme. Local schools and groups were involved in working on ideas for each arch and the Community Services Volunteers would do the painting.
The 6 additional artists involved were Gill Johns, Sarah Dewdney, Bruce Currie, Sineid Codd, Bridgid de Saulles, Dave Mulholland; we have yet to identify who did which section. The artists and locals also went to look at other murals in London such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs mural, Cable Street mural and works by Free Form.
The first arch of the mural has a creative input from the children of St George the Martyr School. Within the painted arches are images from the children's drawings. The next arch was inspired from a story created by Argyll School. At one point the story narrative could be seen in part of the arch but this has faded. The next arch was created with the help of the Bengali Workers Action Group. The next panels incorporate mosaic which in some instances still looks very fresh next to the faded paint.
Perhaps the most coherent designed section is the sepia arches which we do know were painted by Dave Bangs. They show three arches, each telling part of the story of the Calthorpe project. The first is a site full of rubble, the next is a scene of the rubble being moved, finally it shows the bridge over a stream which can be seen as you enter the garden. Standing next to the arches are portraits of local people. These are Robin the treasurer, Annika, one of the management committee, three builders who were working on the site and a lady called June who was the chair of Calthorpe Project.
After this section of mural are another few panels, one Egyptian, one Mexican and another Chinese. The last is obscured by a container. There is also a faded painted list of artists and the date these murals were painted.
The murals aren’t in the best state. There are cracks in the wall, much fading and mould growing over some sections. However, as the Calthorpe project is alive and well, there is a possibility that part or all of these murals could be restored one day! It would make a fantastic project for the centre and would really benefit an already beautiful little community garden.