Waltham Council apologises after Bowie lyric artwork is washed off railway bridge in Walthamstow village

The removal of a beloved David Bowie mural sparked outrage this week.

Waltham Forest Council has publicly apologised after handpainted lyrics from the song Heroes were washed off the railway bridge in Orford Road, Walthamstow Village, on Tuesday October 6.

The mural was reportedly removed after a complaint and because it was deemed inappropriate for a conservation area.

A petition calling on the council to reinstate it has been signed more than 500 times in just two days.

The petition, by local artist Dominic Mandrell, argues that, despite its location within a conservation area, “the artwork was on an ugly old wall overlooking a railway”.

He added: “If anything it cheered up the place and gave many people a much needed boost.”

One signatory, Lydia Kivenen, wrote: “This piece of art has cheered me up so much during this unusual and difficult year. I felt like I got an energy boost every time I walked past it.

“Also, as a lifelong Bowie fan, I’ve been proud that we have this homage in our neighbourhood.”

However, others publicly supported the council’s decision to remove the mural, including Wood Street Walls itself.

Thomas Ableman tweeted: “I may be an outlier but I’m glad it went. I loved it – it was beautiful and fun, but not in the right place.

“That spot is one of the only places in London with a view of two medieval buildings and the artwork didn’t suit it. Somewhere else please!”

Conservation areas exist to protect places with special architectural or historic interest by preventing the loss or alteration of buildings. There are 14 conservation areas in Waltham Forest.

Deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes said: “We are sorry for the removal of the much-loved David Bowie ‘We Could Be Heroes’ mural on the Walthamstow Village railway bridge.

“We understand residents’ concerns and are looking at how we can put this right as soon as possible.”

We can be heroes

In the 43 years since its release, Heroes has become one of David Bowie’s most popular songs.

Heroes was recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin

It is the title track from the second of what has become know as the “Berlin Trilogy”, although this was the only one actually written and recorded in the city at Hansa-by-the-wall Studios, just a few yards from the wall – it’s predecessor Low being recorded in France and The Lodger, which followed it, in Switzerland and the US.

Bowie had been working on the lyrics but still needed a final verse until he looked out of the window at Hansa Studios to see producer Tony Visconti locked in an embrace against the Berlin Wall with backing singer Antonia Maass. By the time Visconti returned the song was complete.

Bowie’s vocal was recorded in one take with three microphones placed nine feet, 20ft and 50ft away from the singer so that by the final verse, when it goes up an octave, Bowie was pushing his voice to provide one of his most passionate vocal performances on record.

The signature motif running through the entire song was provided by King Crimson maestro Robert Fripp in a single take while hearing the track for the very first time. All of his parts for the album were done like that in one session.

Heroes was performed as part of Bowie’s short set at Live Aid in 1985.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter