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Scrubbed out: Old Street knife crime art is painted over

'I’m sick of people defacing my artwork with negative words'

24 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

A MURAL dedicated to a young man who was stabbed to death has been scrubbed out by the artist after offensive comments were left on the artwork.

Tom Easton, 22, was killed in an unprovoked attack at a council-run music studio where he worked in Old Street in 2006. A 70ft mural near the studio is repainted every two years as a memorial for Mr Easton.

But its artist, Ben Eine, whose work is in the V&A permanent collection and is known for his artistic lettering, says he has now covered it in black paint after messages about him were left on it.

It is believed they related to his conviction for assaulting his girlfriend in 2018.

Artwork he recently painted on a bridge in West Hampstead has also been defaced.

Of the Old Street mural, he said: “In the last six months it has been vandalised so badly that I painted the whole wall black.

“I’m sick of people defacing my artwork with negative words. This was for an anti-knife charity – it was a 12-year-old ongoing art project, for the kids. It was something positive. But because of one thing, and a little bit of hype, it’s gone.”

He added: “It has been the worst experience I’ve ever had. On Sunday a few weeks ago I was walking with my two youngest children. Every time I turned a corner, I was shaking that we would see one of my posters with something bad on them.

“I had seen one saying ‘why don’t you kill yourself and do yourself a favour?’ It’s not what your children wants to see written on your artwork.”

Amid objections to his West Hampstead painting, the charity Women’s Aid questioned the choice of artist.

Its engagement manager Laura Dix said: “We are concerned that someone who has been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend has been given an artistic platform in a public space without any consultation with local residents.”

Mr Eine has since offered to work with charities on education projects to help prevent abuse.

The wall in Old Street has gone through several different iterations with the words “Worth More” painted in 2012, “Create” in 2014, “Engaging” in 2016 and, most recently, “Stop Knife Crime” in 2018.

Dolores Altaras, Mr Eaton’s mother, told the Tribune: “We are very saddened by the events that have led to the loss of Ben’s mural at Old Street. He offered us his support after I lost my son Tom. Since 2010 Ben has painted five different murals for us, each one drawing attention to ways we can stop young people carrying knives on London streets.

“Because of the lockdown we didn’t know the mural had been vandalised. We have always accepted the risk it could get tagged, but this has rarely happened over the 10 years they’ve been up.

“Now we’re not sure what we’ll do. We’d like Ben to continue, but we can certainly understand why he painted over such poisonous comments.”

Peter Sinclair, who helps run the Flavasum Trust which manages the Old Street site, told the Tribune that the Trust had an agreement with the council which meant writing could be put on the wall up until February 2021 before it has to be reviewed again.

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