More than 1,100 people have so far signed a petition backing Burley Banksy after BT painted over his artwork on several phone boxes in Rothwell.
The artist – real name Andy McVeigh – is a teacher who lives in Burley and he says he has been overwhelmed by massages of support on social media, the petition and also from Leeds United Football club.
Openreach, the division of BT that maintains telephone boxes, says Burley Banksy did not apply for the correct permissions to paint its cabinets, but has stressed that it wants to work with him to find a solution following some local complaints about the artwork.
The petition, created by ‘Julie Rothwell’, said:
“After a tough year (to put it mildly) most residents of Rothwell have been over the moon to see local artist, Burley Banksy, creating artwork on BT boxes around the area. It’s a wonderful gesture of kindness that has been bringing a smile in difficult times.
“It’s our understanding that a small number of complaints has led to BT painting over the boxes. We want to get the box repainted.”
The boxes include one that reads “you look nice today, Rothwell” and another cassette tape inspired box that he painted for his sister:
Burley Banksy first posted of his disappointment at the boxes being painted over yesterday on Facebook. He said:
“BT have started painting over my art boxes in Rothwell, after a few people, a tiny minority, complained that “they should be green” and not colourful.
“I personally find this incredibly mean spirited, unnecessary and quite staggering, especially as we have lived and are living through the darkest times in our lives. I was just trying to cheer people up through colour and positive/ funny (hopefully!) messages.
“They have made a vague statement that they may paint over all of them throughout Leeds and charge me for doing this too. I’m presuming this would include the “Thank you NHS” ones outside our Leeds hospitals too, which would be an extraordinarily unpleasant thing to do in my opinion after nurses etc have literally died for us.
“Maybe the box remembering [late Leeds legend] Gary Speed too. I thought I had permission from both BT and Virgin Media (Virgin have been great, they can’t see a problem with it) but BT are saying they didn’t give it and therefore must paint over it all, even though they accept the art is not offensive and doesn’t damage the box in any way. “
Earlier today, Burley Banksy posted on Twitter that he would be meeting with Openreach and was hopeful the issue would be resolved.
BT have been in touch, will be having a discussion with them. Hopefully it has been a misunderstanding. I have to say thank you to Lisa Smith for dealing with all the messages and a ' sorry' as I think she has been absolutely inundated with emails, more than I ever imagined.— Andy McVeigh (@pantsdanny) June 25, 2021
Leeds United have also contacted Openreach to express their support for the artist.
In a press statement, a spokesperson for Openreach said:
“We’ve already been in touch with the Burley Bansky to talk this through and we’re keen to continue that conversation directly.
“We’ve worked with many communities and groups in the past, all over the UK, who’ve wanted to paint our green cabinets to reflect themes important to them – and we have a simple permissions process which allows us to consider these requests in the context of our commercial, legal and health and safety obligations.
“Whilst we agree with any messages of support for the NHS and key workers, we weren’t asked if our cabinets could be painted and much of this artwork isn’t related to keyworkers but is instead being used for commercial gain.
“We’ve also received several complaints from local people unhappy with the artwork – which we have to take into consideration. We’re keen to continue the conversation with both the artist and the wider community to see if we can find a solution that works for everyone.”
Burley banksy refuted that he made commercial gain and added: “BT saying I painted the boxes for “commercial gain” when I don’t get paid for them is, well….you can come to your own conclusion on that.”