Another political row breaks out over Southsea mural condemning councillors

A WELL-KNOWN Portsmouth artist has caused another political row after expanding on a street mural to condemn two councillors before yesterday’s local elections.

By Fiona Callingham
Friday, 7th May 2021, 6:00 am
The controversial addition to The Strand mural in Southsea. Picture: Mark Lewis
The controversial addition to The Strand mural in Southsea. Picture: Mark Lewis

Controversial figure Mark Lewis added to his famous Strand wall mural on the junction of Waverley Road and Clarendon Road, in Southsea, on Sunday.

In the newest version of the piece a sign states that Eastney and Craneswater councillors Luke Stubbs and Linda Symes objected to a cash grant to maintain and improve the mural.

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Artist Mark Lewis pictured in front of the Strand mural. Picture: Sarah Standing (171120-8684)

Underneath it urges: 'Have your say at election, Thursday 6th May.'

It comes after Councillor Stubbs and Cllr Symes rejected giving around £5,000 of community infrastructure levy to the project earlier this year. Instead funding was provided from the council's cabinet reserve.

However, on Wednesday Portsmouth City Council's solicitor advised Mr Lewis to take the sign down before elections on May 6, stating it was giving 'implicit encouragement' to vote a certain way.

Speaking to The News, Mr Lewis said he would paint over the sign on May 7 due to 'weather conditions.'

The controversial addition to The Strand mural in Southsea. Picture: Mark Lewis

He said: 'I've only stated facts here and I painted it in my own time with my own materials. I'm just trying raise awareness about what happened.

'The first mural cost £8,000 to create and has brought in money to the local economy. They can try to paint me as the bad guy but I've done so much for the local community using my own time and money.

'Keep watching The Strand for any hidden political satire in the future.'

Mr Lewis said the recent council funding will be used to pay for scaffolding, paints, signs and a new bench to restore and enhance the mural as part of a project he believes will cost around £20,000 project in total.

As part of it he is hoping to add more images of businesses and residents in the north of the city, including Cosham and Hilsea.

In response, Conservative Cllr Stubbs said: 'Council money was given to paint this wall and the wall belongs to a public sector body (Vivid Homes), and I'm afraid it just isn't an option for it to be involved in party politics.

'This is extremely poor behaviour. Of course Mr Lewis is entitled to his political views but he cannot use public money and property to share them.'

And Cllr Symes, who is an independent councillor, added: 'It's just a bit distasteful and unnecessary. He was given the grant of public funds and shouldn't be using it for this.

'We made the decision because he'd had quite a lot of money over the years. We thought there were probably other deserving places out there and the money should be supporting them.'

Portsmouth City Council said it was unable to comment on the situation.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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