People power prevails as protestors stop Gary Stranger artwork being removed from Southsea casino wall

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PEOPLE power prevailed after culture supporters thwarted an attempt to paint over a piece of street art by a respected artist.

Tea Tray cafe, in Southsea, posted on social media that due to ‘constant harassment’ from Tory councillor Linda Symes, it was ordered to remove the Gary Stranger artwork on the side of the Grosvenor Casino, in Clifton Road.

About thirty of us stood against the wall where the artwork was, and when the guy who was asked to remove it came along he said; “well I’m not going to push you out of the way to paint over it” and so it didn’t get done.

Southsea photographer Johnny Black

Cllr Symes – also in charge of culture on Portsmouth City Council – first took issue with the artwork last year as she lives opposite. She was unhappy no-one had let her know it was happening.

Artist Fark – who runs Tea Tray and has also created work on the wall – said he had tried to contact her but had no luck. The artwork was set to be removed yesterday – but defiant residents lined up in front of it and prevented that from happening.

Supporters say it’s a victory for people power.

Southsea photographer Johnny Black said: ‘About 30 of us stood against the wall where the artwork was, and when the guy who was asked to remove it came along he said; “well I’m not going to push you out of the way to paint over it” and so it didn’t get done.

‘Gary Stranger is an artist that is well-respected. The village of Ditchling used his work to celebrate typography.

‘Yet our own councillor for culture and art has asked for it to be removed. People power has prevailed.

‘To freshen things up, Gary Stranger said to me he would come down and paint something else if it had been painted over.’

Councillor Lee Hunt, Lib Dem culture spokesman, said: ‘It’s great – Southsea strikes back. Through the power of social media the community has overturned this dictatorial approach from an elected official.’

Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt said: ‘It provides breathing space for this to be looked at sensibly.’

But Cllr Symes said: ‘There were numerous complaints from residents regarding the artwork. Mark had promised it was a temporary display, but over a year later it is still in place.’

Tory council leader, Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘I am keen to work with street artists to find spaces around the city where they can exhibit their work.’