An array of local life scenes greets central London tourists.
Kristina O'Donnell talks about what it's like to have family portrayed in the Fitzrovia Mural.
When I was young, the Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens was part of my family folklore. I couldn’t quite believe that my father and uncle were two of the figures in the picture, looming large in the streets of London – seen by millions of people over the years, and part of the fabric of the city itself. It was the nearest thing we had to having celebrities in the family!
As I grew up I would always make a friendly visit to the mural when I was in the area. My Dad often told me stories of Fitzrovia at that time, tales of other characters in the mural like Simone, a charismatic Italian who worked in the cafe next to my Dad’s newsagents (He is one of my favourite characters in the composition, holding a ‘menu’ with information about the mural), or Charles Saatchi, who worked around the corner and would ask my dad and uncle to walk his dog Lulu. It must have been a really vibrant and interesting community back then, and the spirit of this is captured in the mural.
It has been wonderful to be involved in trying to restore the mural, now a little weather worn and graffiti damaged. I have had the opportunity to meet many mural artists from the 1980s – including Mick Jones, who painted the original Fitzrovia Mural – and to work with the Fitzrovia Neigbourhood Association. In some way I have reconnected with the area and the local community, restoring the link my family had to the area all those years ago. As an artist it would be an honour to be able to restore and repaint the mural and to bring it back to life for the community.
I think my Dad sums it up nicely when he says: ‘Now whenever I drive by in my taxi, I always look over and remember a happy time. It always brings a smile to my face, and in these tough times we could all do with a bit of cheering up. I was very proud to be included in the work. It’s a glimpse of ordinary Londoners – part Beryl Cook, part Samuel Peyps. It is a heritage spot – not as grand as the art in the Tate, but vibrant and fun and well worth saving.
Do you remember this mural being painted? What does it mean to your community? Do you or one of your neighbours appear in the mural? We want to build an archive of interviews, audio and video of people's memories of this mural. Please get in touch to share your story.