The 1980s were a boom time for large, colourful murals across London, and for today’s post I am revisiting two of these, to find the sad fate of two Greenwich murals.
Walk east along Creek Road which leaves central Greenwich near the Cutty Sark DLR station, turn right down Horseferry Place, and in 1986 you would have seen the El Salvador mural in all its pristine colours, as photographed by my father:
I recently visited the site, and found the mural in a very sad condition. Very faded and with Sky satellite dishes and a number of lights installed across the mural:
The El Salvador mural, or as it was originally titled “Changing the Picture”, was created for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in 1985, the year before my father’s photo.
The El Salvador Solidarity Campaign was based in Islington Park Street and was formed to express support for the people of El Salvador.
El Salvador is a country in central America and during the 1980s was suffering from a violent Civil War that would not really end until 1993, and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of the country’s population.
The civil war was mainly a conflict between the left wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), supported by the neighbouring countries of Nicaragua and Cuba, and the Government of the country, supported by the United States.
The people of the country paid a terrible price during the civil war. There were atrocities committed by both sides, however the military of El Salvador along with “Death Squads” who operated outside the official knowledge of the military or government, would commit the majority.
As well as the internal issues within the country, it was also a proxy conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, with US concern about the potential growth of Communist supporting governments in central America, which could have been the outcome if the US supported government had fallen to the FMLN.
There were a number of international groups supporting the people of El Salvador and the FMLN, including in the US and the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in London.
The aim of the mural is to show the ordinary people of El Salvador (on the right) taking back control of their country, lives and future by “rolling up the picture”.
The people on the right are depicted in bright colours, with more muted, grey colours for the military, and the military / industrial support that contributed large quantities of arms to the country.
I believe the following extract from the mural shows Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher to the left with a figure representing El Salvador’s military on the right, controlling a puppet soldier:
Whilst the mural was commissioned by the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign, it was funded by the Greater London Council (GLC), and support of initiatives such as the mural was one of the many reasons why the Conservative government of the 1980s would abolish the GLC at the end of March 1986.
The mural was created by the artist Jane Gifford, along with Nick Cuttermole, Sergio Navarro and Rosie Skaife D’Ingerthorpe.
I could not get a photo of the mural at the same angle as my father’s. He was standing in the adjacent school playground, and today this is completely fenced.
The following view shows a wider view of the El Salvador mural, on the side of Macey House which is part of the Meridian Estate:
Macey House is on Horseferry Place, a road that leads down towards the Thames. The name of the road records a ferry that once ran from near the southern end of the road across to the Isle of Dogs.
The following map shows the location of the two murals that feature in today’s post. The El Salvador mural is the red circle, number 1 (© OpenStreetMap contributors):
A short distance from the El Salvador mural, heading back towards Greenwich, along Creek Road was the “Wind of Peace” mural, at point number 2 on the above map:
Although the El Salvador mural is very badly faded, the Wind of Peace has suffered an even worse fate – the mural, along with the building on which it was painted, have completely disappeared.
In the photo below, there is a large new building on the left, with a terrace of smaller buildings further back, heading along Creek Road back into the centre of Greenwich.
The mural was on a building which stood where the large building with the clock is now located. The mural was on the side wall and would have been facing the camera.
The development on the left leading back into Greenwich was following the completion of the Cutty Sark DLR station, which is accessed through a pathway to the left of the van, at the junction of the large and smaller buildings.
The Wind of Peace mural was commissioned by the London Muralists for Peace initiative, as part of the 1983, Greater London Council’s Peace Year.
The mural was painted by artists Stephen Lobb and Carol Kenna, and replaced an earlier mural showing the river and the land alongside the river in Greenwich.
The mural has Greenwich in the centre of the mural, with the residents flying around the view of Greenwich, resisting and destroying missiles which symbolised the threat of nuclear war.
The GLC 1983 Peace Year comprised not just murals, but a whole series of events throughout London. A typical newspaper campaign advert covered:
“Peace is the most important issue facing us all. London could not survive a nuclear holocaust, irrespective of whether it is triggered by miscalculation in Washington or Moscow.
The GLC has declared 1983 Peace Year to give Londoners the opportunity of making a personal commitment to this highest of human ideals.
There can be no better way for people to express their desire for peace than through the Arts. That is why a major part of GLC Peace Year activities will involve supporting drama, film and the visual arts.
Come along and enjoy GLC Peace Year events and activities listed below. Support the cause of peace in London and give a peaceful lead to the world.
- April 3 Easter Parade featuring specially commissioned Peace Float, Battersea Park at 3pm
- May 1 May Day Festival, Victoria Park – at noon
- May 5 Songwriters Competition for Peace – launch
- June 4 Free Music Concert for Peace, crystal Palace Bowl at noon
- July 16 Peace Concert of Classical Music, Kenwood Lakeside at 8pm
- August 6 Hiroshima Day Peace Festival, Victoria Park at noon
- August 7 Peace Concert of Classical Music, crystal Palace Bowl at 8pm”
There were many more events in addition to those listed above, including a Festival for Peace at Brockwell Park on May the 7th, which included the Damned, Madness and Hazel O’Conner.
As well as the Arts, Peace Year included other projects such as the construction of a number of “peace gardens” across London, such as the Noel-Baker Peace Garden in Islington.
The civil war in El Salvador ended almost thirty years ago, and the mural is gradually fading as are memories of the war (although the country still does suffer from some instability, including the recent bizarre decision to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender within the country).
The Wind of Peace mural disappeared as did the apparent threat of nuclear war, however with current unpredictable world events – perhaps it may be time for another mural.