Thought for the Day by Clive Barrett (St Michael’s)
Headingley Street Art
I’m ambivalent about street art. Surrounded by graffiti, I feel threatened and unsafe. It’s me; I don’t understand the subculture. Do writers of indecipherable “tags” need to say “I was here” on every corner? I’m more annoyed with negligent absentee landlords, raking in rents but having no time for neighbourhoods, failing to remove graffiti from their walls.
Some graffiti, though, is the voice of the voiceless, often pre-planned, stencilled political messages. My own peace obsession is partly attributable to anti-war graffiti I saw years ago. Graffiti can make you think, even if you disagree with it. Around the Brudenells you can read “Rent is [expletive]” and “Eat out, spread Covid all about”; in Far Headingley, “Confinement breeds domestic violence”. Whether or not you agree with either the medium or the message, these make you pause and consider diverse viewpoints. Sometimes there’s humour and banter between graffiti-painters: I warm to the anti-anarchist on Ash Road responding to “Abolish the Police” with the question, “Then?”
More aesthetically pleasing is community-owned art. Drab grey pavement boxes transformed into uplifting decorative artworks. These enhance our environment, whether abstract, floral or commemorative (“Stokes 135, Leach 1”, at the Kirkstall Lane end). A Leeds United fanatic, I love the massive gable-end Bielsa mural at Hyde Park Corner. St Chad’s School’s graffiti-like mission statement reads, “In the light of God; we care, we share, we laugh, we learn”.
My favourite community art is the fantastic new mural at St. Michael’s Parish Hall. The angel is at the centre of colourful representations of Headingley, including, of course, the cricket and rugby ground. It’s for all local residents to own: “As one, we march on together”. The acrostic reads: Hope, Equality, Acceptance, Devotion, Inspiration, Nurture, Generosity, Love Ever Yours…
That’s the Headingley I want to live in. Superb.