By Carla Booth
A group of Burley residents have been successfully tackling the issue of unwanted graffiti in their community for over three years now.
Named the Burley Anti-Tagging Group, they focus mostly on the Stanmore, Lumley and St Michaels Lane areas.
The group was started by Jane Ferguson who, after becoming so fed up with the graffiti in her area, sent an e-mail out to others asking if they were as depressed by the graffiti as she was and got quite a few responses. She said: “If you’re fed up with something in your community you have to do something about it yourself.”
The group started by tackling a small area and initially tried to wash the tagging off of the walls themselves, but realised this was not really effective. They instead started asking residents with graffiti on their walls if they would sign an indemnity form so that the council could jet wash the graffiti off the walls or they just painted over it themselves using masonry paint.
The group takes issue with the tagging form of graffiti that often sees names or crude images sprawled across walls. However, they view these more artistic forms of graffiti as a prevention method for tagging as people don’t often tag murals and other artistic works.
Popular street artist Andy McVeigh – also known as Burley Banksy – is an active member of the group and has been out with them to cover up the tagging in the area. During a discussion on the successful outcome of their clean ups at a group meeting last night, he said: “It’s been so nice not looking at that every day.”
The group has found that the more persistent they are with cleaning up graffiti the longer it takes for the tagging to reappear on walls. Group member Janet Lewis stated: “Even though it’s not immediately stopping it, it is slowing it down and eventually it will slow to a stop.”
The group are seeing some evidence of this as over the last few months walls they have been persistent with have remained clean, with no new tags on them.
The largest piece of advice the group have for other people in Leeds who are upset with graffiti in their area is to get involved, either by joining their group or setting up your own group in your area.
Founder of the Burley Anti Tagging group, Jane Ferguson, added: “In Leeds we should be pro-active. It’s possible for little groups in other areas to be set up, they just need the authority within themselves to start it.”
There is also some other advice from the group regarding prevention of tagging, such as reporting any offensive tags or tags that constitute as a hate crime to your local councillor as the council will remove these promptly.
They also advise people to simply paint over graffiti on their own houses themselves. The group stated that many people they have spoken to hadn’t thought about doing this. Janet Lewis added: “Homeowners shouldn’t be afraid to paint their own gable ends.”
Kirkstall councillor Fiona Venner (Lab) has been part of the group since it started and has been out on clean ups alongside the group. She said: “The fact that people have seen something in their community that they have an issue with and have done something about it is inspiring.”
Councillor for Headingley and Hyde Park, Neil Walshaw, attended the group’s meeting at St Michael’s Church in Headingley on Thursday to discuss their strategy with them as the issue of graffiti is becoming more prominent in his ward. He said: “It felt like a line had been crossed when the front of people’s houses started to be tagged.”
Kirkstall Road community enterprise Seagulls also gets involved with cleaning up the unwanted graffiti in Burley by mixing masonry paint for the Burley Anti-Tagging group to use that is the exact colour of the bricks in Burley.