New arts initiative aims to crack down on Stevenage graffiti

In a project funded by Stevenage Borough Council, community group Junction 7 Creatives will commission artists to create a series of mini murals on Openreach telecoms cabinets around Stevenage “to brighten up the town and offer a more positive alternative to tagging,” a spokesperson for the council explained.

Work has already begun on the first cabinets, with artist Caroline Nelson creating designs on the theme of connection. Caroline creates bold designs in mixed media, and this is her first public art commission.

The council spokesperson said: “There is evidence from other areas, including European cities, that shows artwork by local artists on media cabinets acts as a deterrent against graffiti, as it is respected and not defaced.”

Young people will also play a part in the project, with artists such as Caroline sharing and generating ideas with young artists who are part of the Junction 7 Creatives community. 

The Comet: An example of Caroline Nelson's work.An example of Caroline Nelson’s work. (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

The council is working with Stevenage police officers on other measures to tackle graffiti, including patrols by police and council officers in hotspot locations, along with the installation of mobile CCTV cameras.

Council officers are regularly clearing graffiti, the local authority says, and the council is working with local businesses to encourage them to clear graffiti from their premises.

The new measures follow a 15-year-old being detained after graffitiing with a permanent marker in St George’s Way multi-storey car park in October.

The teenager was dealt with by way of restorative justice and community resolution, through an educational course and unpaid work.

Councillor Loraine Rossati, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and information technology, said: “Graffiti is a blight on our town and we are cracking down on it.

“We’re also brightening up Stevenage with public art that deters graffiti.

“The cabinet artwork, working with Openreach and Junction 7 Creatives, is an exciting project that could grow and grow. The only limit is the number of cabinets we can paint!”

John Prebble, from Junction 7 Creatives, added: “Art brightens our town and our lives, and we’re excited to be creating some wonderful new artworks out and about in Stevenage.”

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Safer Neighbourhood Inspector Nick Redfearn said: “We have seen an increase in graffiti around the town, with particular tags becoming very prominent.

“Graffiti ‘artists’ need to be aware that they are committing the offence of criminal damage and they can expect to be arrested and charged for these offences, which will result in a criminal record.

“We will always act on information that will lead to the identification of those responsible and urge anyone with any information regarding graffiti to contact us.”

The Openreach mini murals project is currently in its early phase, but in the warmer months ahead more artworks will appear on Openreach cabinets around the town.

If there is a particular cabinet you’d like Junction 7 Creatives to consider for transformation, you can email junction7creatives@gmail.com.

To report graffiti to the council, visit: stevenage.gov.uk/environment/street-care-and-cleaning/graffiti.

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