Wednesday 24 August 2022

They’re back! – Heritage tile murals in Olympic Way now on permanent display

I am pleased to publish this 'Good News' guest post by Philip Grant and congratulate him and his heritage colleagues for their persistent campaigning to save the historic murals for Brent residents and visitors to Wembley Stadium.


Three sporting heritage murals on the east wall of Olympic Way, 23 August 2022.


It was April 2018 when Wembley History Society first called on Brent Council and Quintain to put the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals, celebrating Wembley’s sports and entertainment heritage, back on permanent public display. They’d been covered over with vinyl advertising sheets since 2013, under a secret advertising lease deal between the developer’s Wembley Park subsidiary and Council officers.


In August 2017, Brent’s planners finally got round to approving advertisement consent for this “cover-up”. Although Quintain’s application had asked for five years from September 2013, it was given for five years from 27 August 2017!


When Council officers extended Quintain’s advertising lease in 2019 (in a very “dodgy deal”), they did get an agreement to have the tile mural scenes on the east wall of Olympic Way “revealed” for 21 days each year. This was first done at the start of Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture in January 2020. 


However, local historians and many local residents wanted more than that! We did not want Quintain renewing the advertisement consent for the Olympic Way murals, due to expire on 27 August 2022, so I started the year by sending a letter to their Chief Executive Officer. I asked for Quintain’s agreement to put the murals on the walls of Olympic Way back on permanent public display once the advertisement consent ran out, and in March I received a letter confirming they would do that.


On Tuesday I was passing through Wembley Park, so went to take a look. And yes, they are back on display, and will stay that way! Residents, and the tens of thousands of visitors to Wembley every year, can now enjoy the American Football, Rugby League and Ice Hockey mural scenes all year round. That is what they were specially designed for, back in 1993!


The drummer mural on the west wall of Olympic Way, awaiting restoration.

On the west wall, the “drummer” tile mural (the last remnant of a scene celebrating the “Live Aid” concert at Wembley Stadium in 1985) is still waiting for new tiles to be added. Most of the original design was lost when steps down from the then bus stop were built for TfL around 2006. Quintain have commissioned an artist to design a suitable “infill” for the triangular section (now just concrete) down to the bottom of the steps, using the same type of tiles as the original. I’ve been told that this should be in place by November 2022.

That just leaves the Bobby Moore Bridge subway. There are colourful tile mural scenes along the walls on both sides of the underpass from Wembley Park Station. In 2019, Brent’s planners persuaded Planning Committee to allow the vinyl adverts to be replaced by light panels, which could be used for advertising, despite strong local opposition. The only concession to Wembley History Society’s call for all the tile murals to be put back on display was the framing and display lighting for one mural, showing England footballers at the “Twin Towers” stadium.


The England footballers mural in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, 23 August 2022.


Brent Council’s current advertising lease with Quintain, which includes the right to advertise on the subway walls (except for the footballers mural), expires in August 2024. Perhaps then we can have all of the tile murals put back on permanent public display. The progress we have made so far shows that it is worth standing up for Brent’s heritage!


Philip Grant.


francis said...

very well done

Jaine Lunn said...

Congratulations Philip it has been a long battle but it looks like your winning the war. Without your dogged determination regarding Wembley's Heritage, and other sites of specific historical interest would be lost for ever.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Francis and Jaine,

Thank you for your comments.

I am lucky enough to have the time, interest and experience to be able to take on battles such as this. (But should I have to?)

I believe, as stated by Brent Council in an evidence document supporting its new Local Plan, that 'the value of Brent's heritage should not be underestimated,' and that this value is important for 'the community and future generations'.

It's time that our Council lived up to the words in its Historic Environment Place-Making Strategy:
'The effective preservation of historic buildings, places and landscapes and their stewardship is therefore fundamental to the Council's role.'

I hope that others, like me, will remind them of this when they forget, or choose to ignore, that fact.

Anonymous said...

Well Done Mr Grant. Keep Up The Good Work.

Anonymous said...

Ask the cabinet member for culture why they don’t do anything

Anonymous said...

Amazing work!!
We must get those light panels removed.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (11 November at 18:11),

Thank you for your comment, and support.

Brent Council Officers gave Quintain's Wembley Park company an extension on an advertising lease for the Bobby Moore Bridge, including the walls of the subway, until August 2024. ("Click" on the link: 'a very "dodgy deal"', in the article above for details, if you want them.)

The best chance of getting the light panels removed after that is to persuade Brent's Cabinet not to renew the lease for the subway walls after that. That will be for late 2023 or early 2024, so look out for a petition on that subject in around a year's time!