Opinion: Deface ‘Bay and we all turn into Miss Marple

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Earlier this month someone daubed large graffiti in many prominent places in Robin Hood’s Bay.

Naturally, the villagers went full pitchfork and flaming torch over the search for the culprit. This is Britain’s prettiest village, they might as well have scribbled on the Mona Lisa.

Graffiti on the sea wall at Robin Hood's Bay - enough to turn the whole village into sleuths, says columnist Mark Holtz.

Graffiti on the sea wall at Robin Hood's Bay - enough to turn the whole village into sleuths, says columnist Mark Holtz.

It looked awful.

But is graffiti ALWAYS a blight? In many cities dismal concrete areas have been brightened up, where councils have turned a blind eye or even encouraged it.

Not all of it necessarily of the highest quality, but some most definitely so.

Ben Eine is a graffiti artist whose talent is so respected that David Cameron gifted Barak Obama a work of his.

I’m kind of guessing an advisor told him too, but still.

It can be funny too. The rather pompous ‘There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy’ posters all round Whitby, have had added ‘Unless we all BELIEVE!’.

Across the pond ‘Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted’ are often defaced with ‘Bill Posters Is An Innocent Man!’

In the 80s and 90s collections of (alleged) graffiti were turned into books and posters for student bedrooms.

They can make powerful political/cultural statements too. The Berlin Wall was described as ‘the largest canvass in the world’, as it became covered in slogans and artwork. On the west side that is, anyone on the east side trying to get withing 100 yards of it was shot.

Here today, Banksy is the most famous unknown person in the UK with his satirical and subversive work.

So, graffiti CAN be attractive, funny and culturally significant. But...usually it isn’t.

For every bright and beautiful mural there are a dozen obscene stick drawings. For every ‘This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness - NO WE WON’T’ addition there are countless ‘5s’ in multi-storey car parks that confused racists have tried to turn into swastikas.

For every Berlin Wall there are infinite toilet walls covered in bigoted conspiracy theory twaddle.

That’s it you see, graffiti is yesterday’s internet. Because posting is free, wide-reaching, potentially anonymous, and poorly regulated, it attracts those who cannot express themselves elsewhere. Not because ‘mainstream media’ is silencing them, but because their work is too poor, too witless or too hateful to do so.

You can bet that the bridge any troll lives under, has walls covered in crude drawings.

It sorts itself out in the end. Good graffiti in a drab location, nobody will object.

But deface our sea-wall and the whole of Robin Hood’s Bay will turn into Miss Marple’s and Father Brown’s to find the culprit.