Greenwich Council’s deputy leader has compared Woolwich’s “wall of hope” to having “flowers on lamp posts for years”, a day after the cherished landmark was painted over by contractors.
Locals were outraged when the wall on the side of the burnt-out Great Harry pub, created in the aftermath of the riot on 8 August, was painted over by building owners Powis Street Estates on Monday morning.
The wall contained messages of both hope and despair following the disturbances, but the messages were described as “graffiti” by both Powis Street Estates and Greenwich Council in press statements.
Asked by News Shopper reporter Mark Chandler to comment on the wall’s destruction, Brooks said today: “The only thing I can say is Powis Street Estates wanted to paint over it.
“I can understand why people would be upset but we have to move on. It’s like when you have flowers on lamp posts for years and years.”
A wall of Post-It notes in Peckham is being preserved by Southwark Council, and while another one at Clapham Junction is also being saved. There had been moves to preserve the Woolwich wall before its sudden destruction.
Brooks’ comment comes a day after council leader Chris Roberts said Woolwich did not need “a fixation with burnt-out buildings“.
He spoke as London mayor Boris Johnson visited Woolwich, saying he was “sorry” to hear of the wall’s destruction. He also visited the burnt-out Poundmart shop on Woolwich New Road.
Just when you thought the council leadership couldn’t come up with anything more boneheaded and oafish – one of them has to open their mouths again. Credit to Mark Chandler and the News Shopper for putting the question to Peter Brooks. Even if you think the wall should have been painted over, it could all have been handled so differently. People wanted to express their pride in Woolwich – but the council wanted to cover these sentiments up. Apparently photographs were taken first – but will any use be made of them? (How about an exhibition of photos of the wall taken by us all, not just the council?)
How on earth did Greenwich Council get into this mess? There’s plenty there fretting about this right now. The lack of public meetings and the painting over of the wall paints a picture of a council uncomfortable about dealing with real people. Chris Roberts’ barely-edited rant against the media in Greenwich Time pretty much destroys any recent argument that the weekly paper isn’t misused as a propaganda sheet. I’ve made the point here several times before that the council doesn’t like listening to people. But the council leadership seems intent on daily demonstrations that it’s more interested in governing and less bothered about serving.
Others, however, do seem alert to the anger felt over the wall.
It’s worth pointing out that while dissent is usually not tolerated inside Greenwich Labour – sycophancy is preferred – several councillors have quietly used social media to speak out about the wall’s destruction, whether in public or in closed accounts. That’s very rare, and hints that the leader and his deputy aren’t even speaking for their own party here. All this could rebound on them, because they face a re-election contest within the Labour group on the council in May 2012.
The Woolwich wall may have gone, but the consequences of its destruction, in their small way, might just be as much a turning point as the riot it sought to commemorate.
5:10pm update: One of the people behind the wall speaks out… (via Jellyfielders)