Improving Woolwich: Deadline for public art across town nears

The deadline is approaching for submissions to improve Woolwich town centre with murals and street art funded by a major town centre regeneration project.

Four murals are proposed as part of £74,500 funding from Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Locations are:

  • Powis St/Greens End junction
  • Powis Street – Job Centre shop front
  • Barnard Close
  • Myrtle Alley
Powis Street/Greens End

Murals here will be located on TfL hoardings around the DLR station site.

Hoardings either side

Unfortunately after 15 years TfL still havn’t built anything on land beside and above the station box as planned on the site, depriving the town of homes, additional custom for shops and new commercial units in the heart of Woolwich.

Thus “temporary” artwork will be undertaken.

Initially I wondered if the modest yet tasteful Nat West on the prominent corner site would be the recipient. Fortunately not as it’s understated modernist charm will now remain.

Nat West to right

Another corner site in the area has seen changes in recent years and is all the better for it. This was in far worse shape than Nat West before the change:

I sometimes wonder how a Snappy Snaps not only survives but occupies a prime corner site in 2022.

The rest of the shops give a hint to Woolwich’s issues, with two bookies and a pawnbrokers. Something more than £20 million in funding for various projects hopes to change.

Powis Street – Job Centre shop front

The next site on the list is the rather drab building formerly housing New Look and now a Jobcentre.

Building on left

This building straddles the rail line below and previously featured a Littlewoods and Index store.

Taken early 2022

It was constructed as part of a single complex including offices for Morgan Grampian before conversion to residential.

Mural on now-closed shopfront will replace printed A4 sheets listing Crossrail destinations

Calderwood Street passes alongside where the building offers a dead frontage for some distance. This will however not be the site for a mural.

Looking towards Powis Street

This part of town offers a warning regarding current plans for a multi-million pound upgrade across Woolwich town centre. Much of the 1990s and then 2020s upgrades havn’t maintained with numerous patches of tarmac dotted about in this area.

Patchwork surfaces
Barnard Close

The next spot is Barnard Close linking Powis Street to Sainsbury’s and Calderwood Street.

Bernard Close.

Paving here is again mish-mash of tarmac and originals slabs and setts.

Never well maintained

A patchwork of badly-maintained space though lovely details abound if keeping an eye out, such as tiles at base of building.

Barnard Close. Tarmac covers paving in various areas. Lovely tiling at base of building

Like much of Woolwich, there’s much that’s great here that needs some TLC to restore to former glory, whether that be buildings or public space.

Here’s a slideshow of various lovely features of what appears a mundane building which formerly house Argos. Click to view

The key with the wider regeneration is enhancing the good, and crucially, ensuring public realm changes are easily maintained so the repeats of 1980s, 1990s and 2010s rebuilds are not repeated.

In the 1980s they went big on red brick raised planters. It cluttered Powis Street and was removed in the 1990s. In the 1990s they simplified the layout, added trees and uplighting in the paving.

1990s project saw setts and lighting. Removed with tarmac placed on site

Lighting was barely maintained and removed.

As seen above in a couple of photographs, the paving and setts are also badly maintained.

Street surface a decade old

Fast forward to the last project just a decade old. Again, badly maintained and unsuitable materials used.

Beresford Square entrance.

General Gordon Square has been well maintained and looks great, but that’s less than half the early 2010s project.

Now a return to the 1980s is proposed with much clutter added to Powis Street.

Myrtle Alley

This spot is located between Boots and Sports Direct on Hare Street. You may not know the name off the top of your head, but if you’ve passed it it invariably has the distinct odour of urine.

Looking down Murtle Alley

The site of many a security guard wrestling with a shoplifter from Sports Direct/Primark/Boots, it’s pretty dingy down there.

The plan here is for a “permanent Mural on one wall (with lighting)” though the image alongside shows both walls highlighted.

And that’s your lot when it comes to planned murals. Woolwich of course has lost some over the years including on the High Street when an anti-racist piece of art was painted over.

Former mural removed here beside Callis Yard tower

This also features possibly the saddest bit of public realm in London. I’ve yet to see a single person sit on the badly installed seating looking out at four lanes of traffic.

No takers?

Entrances for the brief have to be made by tomorrow (Monday 15th August) with work set to start in early 2023 for completion in March 2023.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    5 thoughts on “Improving Woolwich: Deadline for public art across town nears

    • It would be nice to see the art work on the Job Center in Powis Street to represent history of work in the Borough. We have our great Armed Forces Personnel at Woolwich Barracks, Our fantastic NHS staff and Emergency Services All doing an amazing job in the Borough.

      Reply
    • @ Graham That is an excellent idea for art work in the Borough with the Job Centre being a fitting location to show such art work. I am looking forward to seeing all the art works completed early next year.

      Reply
    • Maybe that seating at Callis Yard tower was created for the bus drivers to have a cough and a ciggie whilst they are always parked up there.

      Where is Blakey when you need him to get them buses moving.

      Reply
    • Do you know why the anti-racism mural by Callis Yard was painted over? I really liked it.

      Reply
    • A very good idea Graham for the Job Centre site. They can still be bright and colourful and represent large employers in the Borough past and present.

      Reply

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