Singing superstar's fans call for return of Billy Fury mural

Council paints Billy Fury Way black after vandals repeatedly wreck painting of star

Thursday, 5th April 2018 — By Richard Osley

Vandalised Billy Fury Way

How Billy Fury Way looked this week

IT was supposed to be a lasting way to pay tribute to a singer with a legion of ever-loyal fans, a heartthrob hitmaker who died too soon.

But a mural dedicated to 1960s star Billy Fury, marking the start of an alleyway in West Hampstead named after him, has been so badly defaced by graffiti vandals that Camden Council has ordered it to be blotted out.

A black wall now stands where his face once lit up West End Lane. Now Fury’s fanclub are living up to his name and, angered by what they see as an attack on their hero’s memory, are calling for a replacement mural to be painted on the wall. And this time they want it to be protected.

Jenny Warwick, who ran the In Thoughts Of You fanclub for 20 years, said: “I wrote an article for the newsletter explaining what had happened and there was an idea to raise funds for a replacement. But when we tried to talk to the council about it, we didn’t hear anything back.”

There is some division among members of Fury’s fanclubs, with some doubting whether an alleyway was an appropriate tribute to the singer. There are disagreements about whether the whole project should be scrapped, rather than leave his name above a messy walkway.

Ms Warwick added: “I knew his mother well and she always used to say John Lennon Airport should have been Billy Fury Airport. Of course, we would all like something bigger, but this is what we’ve got and anything that maintains his profile is a good thing. “Most of the fans would want it back. He is actually still very popular, not just with older people but young people too. There is a whole 60s revival and he is part of that.”

How the mural of Billy Fury looked

Pierre Petrou, a DJ who has run media relations for the singer’s fanclubs, said the council had been “eager to be involved” when the mural was being planned but then “failed to protect it”. “As a result, we are in the position that the mural has been painted over completely and thousands of people now see nothing each day,” he said. “The mural brought a great deal of media interest. Music enthusiasts have travelled from far and wide to view it. It’s only right to restore the mural under protection to ensure this does not happen again.”

Fury recorded some of the biggest hits of the sixties just around the corner in the former Decca Studios. He died aged only 42 from a heart attack. His hits included “Halfway To Paradise” and “Like I’ve Never Been Gone”.

A statue of the singer was erected in his home town of Liverpool, Billy Fury Way was added to the NW6 map in 2011 after police said unnamed paths in the area needed to be given names to help them get to incidents and record crimes. At one stage, there was a plan to continue the mural along the wall to include other musical acts connected to the area. This week, most of the wall had been tagged with scribbles and rubbish was piling up on the ground.

Kevin McManus, curator of the British Music Experience Museum in Liverpool, said of Fury: “He left such an impact on singers who came after him. It seems such a shame that this beautiful mural in the area where he recorded so many pop classics has been painted over.”

Camden Council has painted the wall black

Detective Ruth Marshall, a police officer in the area at the time, said: “I remember it was a real community project. I even got the vicar at the local church to bless it. We saw this as an opportunity to tidy up that area with something everybody could enjoy. “The owner of the wall was all for it and for a few months it was fine. It looked good.”

A council spokesman said: “Unfortunately, we had no option but to paint over the mural, as it had become defaced with offensive graffiti. There was no way of removing the graffiti without removing the mural.” Residents can report issues such as fly-tipping, littering and dog fouling via the Clean Camden app, he added.

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