This week’s Friday Inspired has Ruth Miller, mural expert and founder of The London Mural Preservation Society, give us insight into why she finds murals inspiring, and how she has grown up alongside some of Brixton’s most important murals.
‘With a father interested in local history, art and architecture, as a child, I was always encouraged to look around me and observe all the interesting sights and sounds of the places we were visiting. My everyday space was Brixton of the 1980s – an area full of character; the grand architecture of a Victorian Suburb contrasted against the new build housing estates, the hustle bustle of the busy market and the communities of West Indians, squatters, and the Irish, all adding something to the recipe that created the neighbourhood.
During this time, murals started to appear, often visible to me on my regular route to school or visits to Brixton market. There were two that I really liked. One is a portrait of local people at the local adventure playground. To little me, then about 10 or 11, I was so impressed by the fact the artist had created portraits that actually looked like the individuals. And I felt privileged to know people who someone thought were important enough to be painted on the public wall. This feeling of ownership to the piece was delightful and now when I see it, it triggers so many memories of playing at the adventure playground.
The other mural which I noticed was Brixton’s Nuclear Dawn – a painting of a skeletal man dropping bombs on London whilst the Government hides in a bunker under Parliament. As a little child, the political message of the piece was lost on me, however there was a very real threat of the bomb being dropped on us while we slept; my siblings and I constantly talked to my mum about this. And the mural was (and is) a constant reminder of that fear.
But asides from the moments of nostalgia with these paintings, they also taught me things about art, showing me strong compositions, use of colour and good technical skills. I’m sure too many of my own art works featured skeletons or a figure striding across an urban landscape such was the subliminal impact of this mural. Today I run the London Mural Preservation Society in the hope that we can collect and save the stories of these pieces and repair some of these murals so they can inspire future generations.’
The London Mural Preservation Society run walking tours of London’s murals in spring and summer. Keep an eye out on the website for future announcements.
Ruth’s sister Hannah Lee Miller has also made an animation featuring the Nuclear Dawn mural, which echos what Ruth says about murals becoming a part your everyday if you grew up in London in the 80s.
Thanks Ruth, for sharing your inspiration behind the London Mural Preservation Society with us.
All images courtesy The London Mural Preservation Society.