Thursday, February 16, 2017

Artist Walter Kershaw Was Britain's First Graffiti Artist

Walter Kershaw who lives in the town Rochdale, close to Manchester, England, is considered as the first graffiti artist in Britain.

Kershaw studied fine art at Durham and, while his star may have dimmed, he was a fairly regular presence on TV and radio in the 70s and 80s, interviewed by Russell Harty, Sue MacGregor and Janet Street-Porter. He has had murals commissioned in Sao Paulo, Mexico, Sarajevo and Los Angeles, but it's unlikely any of these could have had the shock value of his technicolour guerilla work on red-brick Lancashire back streets.

He tended to start work early, at 5am in the summer, and travelled with a friend on a motorbike just in case someone objected vehemently. Hodkinson marvels "about the guts it took – these were quite rough neighbourhoods. But people were really encouraging. They used to bring tea and butties out for him and his assistants. It was like having your house tattooed. He had a queue of people asking him to do their house next." Local councils were less keen, and Kershaw received a string of cease and desist letters, though no one ever pursued charges.

Watch the documentary "First Graffiti Artist" (1976) directed by Ian Potts who made it as a graduation movie from the Polytechnic of Central London Film School, today known as the University of Westminster.

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