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Above is the Banksy graffiti artwork ‘Spy Booth’, almost as it appeared when added last April (a little drawing next to the handle of the Telephone box is missing, plus large amounts of white paint, silver + red graffiti painted over the top, plus attempts to remove it from the wall + protective hoardings, etc. etc. are all also missing). The local council has attempted to give the artwork protection by retrospectively adding it (plus the satellite dish + Phone Booth) to the house’s listed status.
The Hewlett Road building has Grade II* listed status, which means that no alterations of any kind can be made to it--inside or out--without first obtaining permission. It is a criminal offence to make any such alterations without permission. In spite of that (and ignoring, for a moment, the Banksy itself) extensive alterations have been made internally + the external satellite dish + extensive changes to the external wall as the previous owner attempted to sell it to the Bankrobber Gallery, London, and they made preparations to remove the entire artwork from the wall. We then need to add that all the local community immediately took the artwork to their hearts after it first appeared, and many folks attempted by various means to stop it from leaving. The local council have now added muscle to that sentiment.
A Mr. Hekmat Kaveh was hoping to buy the house (and thus Spy Booth) and wanted to turn it into a ‘Spy Museum’ (the house, at the corner of Fairview Road and Hewlett Road, is just 3 miles (~5km) from the government listening post GCHQ). It is Mr. Kaveh that made the application back in September 2014, and which was approved on 19 February.
Robin Barton, from the Bankrobber gallery, says that he has spent £25,000 trying to protect ‘Spy Booth’, and he is obviously mighty miffed by the listing. Robin also said that the existing owner is so adversely affected by all the commotion & attention since the artwork appeared that he “now wants to paint it over and move on with his life”. Which, of course, the new listing expressly forbids!
--------- Alex Kemp