Fun or offensive? Spoof shop signs spark storm
10:00am Sunday 17th March 2013 in News
A FURIOUS debate has raged in Malmesbury since homegrown guerrilla artist Syd put up comedy signs on empty shops in the town centre.
The signs for “Blockbust,” “hmv” and “Vomit” – referring to collapsed chain stores Blockbuster, HMV and Comet - appeared over night above two premises in the high street and another boarded up shop in Oxford Street last week.
However they failed to hit the mark with Wiltshire Councillor Simon Killane who announced in last week’s Standard that he would be seeking enforcement action, stating that they sent out the wrong message that the town was dead or dying.
Almost immediately a row blew up on social networking sites.
“So let me get it straight, the artwork by Sydney is unacceptable, but shops being boarded up rather than turned into residential properties is perfectly acceptable and do not give across the message that business in the town is failing?” said Becki Deacon.
Another poster, Paul Waldron commented: “I think it's the boarded up shops that make it look unsightly not a local artist who is well known in the town contributing yet a bit more humour and fun.”
The spat escalated to the extent where personal insults were being traded.
Cllr Killane’s town council colleague Kim Power said she was appalled at some of the “venomous” comments. She pointed to his work on the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan, which will eventually form a guide for the town’s future development.
“Simon is generally doing something for the betterment of this town, and shouldn't be slated for it,” said another commenter, Neil Bryars. “He deserves a mild poke for not seeing the bright side of Syd’s signs, but not the escalating anger.”
Syd, otherwise known as Luke Hollingworth, has built up a following by planting street art in secret locations and getting people to find it. He works in a converted garden shed, nicknamed the Stencil Shed, which he is hoping will win a national competition in May.
He said the signs about making people think about what was happening to high streets and they had achieved that. “These are failed business models. The point I am making now is that we have got to change with the times.”
“I didn’t want to antagonise anyone in any way.” He added that he had invited Cllr Killane to his shed pub for a glass of cider.
Asked whether he had failed to see the funny side, Cllr Killane said: “To me it is a childish sense of humour. I believe it sends out the wrong message.”
Rather than dying, the town was prosperous, but the signs could put people off. He said even if he was being a spoilsport he wanted a positive message about the town to be broadcast.
Syd's signs were an early salvo in his bid to win a national shed of the year contest. Visit thestencilshed.co.uk for more details.