The £40,000 Cann Hall side-wall ‘artwork’ is cancelled, artists Mathew Raw and Abigail Holsborough depart the scene, and LBWF scrambles for excuses – its a big victory for local residents

As the linked posts (below) describe in some detail, for the past few months, and as part of its Making Places programme, LBWF has been intent on putting an ‘artwork’ made of tiles and costing an extraordinary £40,000, on the dilapidated side-wall of a private property in Cann Hall Rd. – a private property that coincidentally happens to be owned by a prominent family of Labour supporters, the most eminent of whom is Dawn Butler, the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary.

Meanwhile, large numbers of residents have expressed their displeasure, citing everything from the ‘artworks’’s flawed aesthetics, to the almost total lack of consultation about what was to be done and where, to the morality of spending a large sum on an obvious luxury when the surrounding area has so many significant social problems.

Indeed, the scale of opposition has been such that an online petition calling for the project to be abandoned quickly attracted around 450 signatories, while after every house in the ward was leafleted by dissenters, a well attended public meeting unambiguously came to precisely the same conclusion.

Faced with this scale of opposition, LBWF at fist prevaricated, but in the last few days has finally caved in.

The artists employed to produce the ‘artwork’, Matthew Raw and Abigail Holsborough, have departed the scene, and LBWF is currently reviewing ‘the Making Places programme for Cann Hall ward’ and will ‘confirm [the] next steps shortly’.

As all of this suggests, in general terms, what’s happened is unarguably a triumph for local residents.

But the victory is also tinged with sourness.

For one thing, LBWF seems not to have learnt any of the obvious lessons. Thus, in a statement to the press, the Humpty Dumpty of the story, junior cabinet member for culture Cllr. Paul Douglas, blames the project’s demise on ‘extended delays…and [Raw and Holsborough’s] long-standing work commitments’ – an explanation that not only begs obvious questions (who exactly caused the ‘extended delays’?) but also conveniently overlooks the sheer unpopularity of what was proposed, thus repeating the unpalatable hubris which has marked councillor and officer involvement from the start.

In addition, the cost of the shenanigans in terms of public money is substantial. In November 2018, LBWF revealed that, of the original £40,000, £7,000 already was spent, roughly half on ‘public engagement’ (apparently ‘workshops’ to make the tiles), and half on ‘creative fees’, while more recently, it has emerged that – inexplicably – closing down the project will require a further £5,000.

That’s a total of £13,000 which could have been used on something more deserving, but is now lost forever.

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