DJ says ‘disgruntled so-called fan' could be behind Billy Fury mural blackout

Halfway To Paradise singer's superfans are split on the artwork and its alleyway location

Thursday, 30th August 2018 — By Richard Osley

Pierre Petrou

Pierre Petrou at the mural before it was blacked out with paint

A MURAL of Halfway To Paradise singer Billy Fury lasted just two days before being covered with black paint.

The removal of Fury’s face from bricks in West Hampstead sparked a “whodunnit” after Camden Council – everybody’s first suspect – said its clean-up teams are adamant it was not them this time. The council had blacked out an earlier mural of the singer after it was repeatedly defaced by vandals and declared impossible to repair. The New Journal reported last week how a new painting of Fury had appeared in Billy Fury Way, a path close to the railway tracks in West Hampstead, last Wednesday.

It later emerged that Decca Records, which is promoting a new album of Fury’s work, had paid for the artwork. The historic label, which used to be based moments away at studios in Broadhurst Gardens, brought Fury’s former partner Lisa Voice to endorse it last week.

Hours later on Thursday evening, however, a mystery man was seen painting black paint over it. Camden Council said that despite having the title of the new LP on the wall, the mural had not breached advertising rules and officers were checking CCTV to see whether any clues can be obtained to help identify who removed the artwork.

The previous mural had lasted around four years largely untouched before vandals began regularly scribbling over it, sometimes with offensive messages.

There had been calls to use a protective screen this time; Camden Council used perspex to defend a rat painted by Banksy on its former offices in King’s Cross. While popular among locals in the area, the mural and the naming of the path after Fury, who died from a heart attack in 1983 aged only 42, led to split opinions among his most passionate fans. Some do not believe an alleyway covered in graffiti and tagging all along its route to Finchley Road is an appropriate tribute to Fury and there were splits over how he looked in the mural as fanclub members argued over its likeness to the singer.

Others are happy that Billy Fury Way is on the map because they feel his contribution is often overlooked. Pierre Petrou, who helped run one of the singer’s fanclubs, aided in organising the original tribute during a former job as a police press officer. The path had previously been unnamed, making it hard for officers to respond to crimes at the location. Former Lib Dem councillor John Bryant held a public poll to choose a name for the alley.

The blacked out mural

Mr Petrou told his Rock N Rodeo Therapy show on Radio Harrow on Sunday evening that several theories were doing the rounds. “I don’t think it was a passing yob,” he said. “I’m guessing – and I’m only guessing – it was a disgruntled, so-called fan. Many of these so-called fans don’t like the location, they didn’t like the artwork or they want the artwork to be somewhere else.”

He added: “All I can do, all I can say, is we need to introduce Billy Fury to new generations so I suggest people write to their local councils, record companies, whoever you think might listen, so we could have a Billy Fury Airport, a Billy Fury Residential Home, a Billy Fury Street, a Billy Fury anything. He affected us all in that unique Billy Fury way.”

A spokesman for Camden Council said: “The council was approached by a record company, who were looking to reinstate the Billy Fury Way mural.  We provided guidance about them getting landowner consent from the wall owner, making sure that the image proposed for the wall wasn’t commercial advertising, such as an album cover, and was also in keeping with the original community-valued mural.” He added: “We were pleased to see that the final product was in keeping with the original and that it wasn’t an advert. We are, however, saddened that the mural has been painted over and can confirm that this was not done by the council.”

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