New Joe Strummer mural unveiled in Ladbroke Grove

I almost thought I had missed the unveiling of the new Joe Strummer mural in west London on Thursday night. From a distance, as I walked towards it I saw the tarpaulin covering it, quiver violently like it was about to be pulled down. But as I got closer, I realised it was only the wind.

Quite a crowd had gathered at the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent in Ladbroke Grove, to see the unveiling. Clash guitarist Mick Jones, actor Ray Gange, photographer Julian Yewdall and many others came out to show their support.

All were treated to rousing acoustic renditions of Armagideon Time, London Calling and Janie Jones/Junco Partner by reggae punk artist, Smiley and as the wind whipped the tarpaulin behind him, someone cried out: “Joe!” Creator of the mural, artist Emma Harrison half-joked that it had probably been the spirit of Joe trying to pull it down. It would have been just like him: raring to get on with the party.

Gary Loveridge, known for his Joe Strummer poster display at the nearby Tabernacle, conceived the idea for the mural when he had seen the one on the Lower East Side in New York, next to the nightclub Niagara – co-owned by mega Clash fan and singer-songwriter, Jesse Malin.

Loveridge, who has been a Clash fan for over 35 years decided there
should be something similar in London especially as the anniversary of
Strummer’s death approached in December 2012.

“I found myself looking out for a wall,” said Gary. “The space I was lucky enough to find is at the side of Lydon’s Stitch and Bead Shop. The owner said he liked art and the wall was mine. I then had a chance meeting with Emma Harrison and during a conversation about punk rock (posters) I discovered that Emma was a mural artist and I asked her if she could paint a Joe Strummer mural.

“We sat down and designed our mural. We decided to use an older image of Joe with his trusted Telecaster guitar along with a quote of something I’d heard him say on a late night radio show: ‘WITHOUT PEOPLE, YOU’RE NOTHING’.”

The mural was stencilled and then painted using good old Dulux household paints over a two week period by Harrison. She said: “I think it’s quite strange that there hasn’t been a mural of Joe already because he was very much a man of the people.”

Mick Jones, spoke exclusively to The Clash Blog about why it has taken London so long to commemorate such a loved local hero. He said: “Well it’s only been ten years [since Joe’s death]. It takes ten years or so
for people to even hear a record in a lot of ways or realise whether a record is good or not. Things take time. It’s [the mural] is a really good thing and just recently, a few weeks ago, a square in Granada named after Joe was also unveiled. So Joe has reached that plateau…he’s with us all in his work and his deeds and we take great inspiration from it and anything like this is great.”

He added that the quote used for the mural “sums up [Joe’s] later period. His earlier period was better defined by: ‘like trousers, like brain’!”

Ray Gange, a friend of Joe and who appeared with him in the film Rude Boy, said: “You got the one in New York and you think why doesn’t London do something and now we’ve got something and it’s great. Essentially some people have got off their ass and done something for a guy who must have walked past that wall many times and sung about the area.”

But Gange also reflected in true Joe-style, about the context of the mural. “The irony won’t be lost,” he said. “This area is changing rapidly like a lot of areas in London but here, it’s quite poignant because you have [in the mural]…without people you’re nothing but a big chunk of people who are moving into this area, I am guessing, don’t care about people as much as they care about money and people are getting priced out and driven out…this mural could be the beginning of something wonderful [to change this situation] or just a fantastic memory.”

WORDS: Herpreet Kaur Grewal