Spray cans and stencils

The image 'Tweeted' to the Virtual Museum.
The image carried in the Tweet which included the Virtual Museum.

The Virtual Museum of Bath was recently included in a ‘tweet’ on Twitter  – that appeared to be a response to criticism – on this site – of organisations who use ‘ street stencils’ for gaining free publicity.

More stencils going around the Crescent paving
More stencils going around the Crescent paving

It was a picture of a stencil and a spray can of fluorescent green/blue marking material that was being used to promote an art event in the city called Forest of the Imagination.

It came with the message that more of these stencils had just been laid on paving fronting one of Bath’s most iconic urban spaces  and Georgian masterpieces the Royal Crescent.

Little green jesters in front of Bath Preservation Trust’s Georgian House at No 1 and at intervals all the way around this Grade 1 terrace of 30 houses – including the  entrance to the Royal Crescent Hotel.

A stencil outside the Royal Crescent Hotel
A stencil outside the Royal Crescent Hotel
A faded image in MIlsom Street
A faded image in MIlsom Street

It’s ok – say the organisers – it’s a chalk-based spray paint and ‘eco-friendly’ so no harm has been done.

Well go look at the faded images sprayed in Milsom Street. They don’t vanish quite as quickly as is being suggested. It’s not so much the chalk as the pigment.

That though is not the argument. This is graffiti by any other name. It gives out mixed messages to even younger people about how such things can be added to the street scene anywhere with complete impunity.

The fact that it is not on a wall seems to mark the difference between legitimate advertising and vandalism.

A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent
A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent

Younger people might not be as keen to restrict their markings to the pavement. What does this say about an understanding of Bath’s history and heritage – and a tourist trade that many people rely on for their employment and income. What does it say about a World Heritage city caring for its past. I am even hearing that the local authority gave permission for these images to be sprayed. Bath needs young people to invigorate and refresh its culture with youthful energy and imagination but not to cause environmental damage to the very history and heritage that one day will become their responsibility – as custodians – to look after. The Virtual Museum was set up to promote this city’s amazing history and show that it is very much alive in the present and part of  Bath’s future. It is here to promote debate and invite others to contribute. Perhaps others might like to voice an opinion?

I have no learned that you can get permission from B&NES to use chalk-based street stencils. I reproduce the relevant answer to a question on the website of ‘Sports, Leisure and Parks.’

“16. I want to use chalk stencils on the pavement to let people know about my event – what do I need to do?

All chalk stencils must use water soluble chalk so that they can be removed. For permission to do this, you will need to email your request to both highways@bathnes.gov.uk and neighbourhood_services@bathnes.gov.uk with the following information:

Where you want the stencils
How big the stencils are
An image of what the stencils look like
As chalk stencils are temporary and do not make any impact or damage to the pavement or building it is on, you will not need to apply for planning permission.”

What l want to know is did B&NES give permission for these stencils to be laid in front of the Royal Crescent. If so l am amazed. I have tried today to find out which council department may have dealt with this? This authority is quick to shower praise on its World Heritage status and would be rather hypocritical if it was then seen to ‘manage’ one of its prime Grade 1 listed sites in such a clumsy, uncaring manner.