Thursday 12 January 2023

An Olympic Games tile mural – Quintain’s reply (what do you think?)

 Guest post by local historian Philip Grant in a personal capacity


The Olympic Torch tile mural, currently hidden away in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway.


When I sent a New Year request to Quintain’s Chief Executive Officer in 2022, it was two months before I received a full reply. This time, Quintain took just two working days to reply to my 1 January 2023 letter, which suggested that the Olympic Torch tile mural in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway should be put back on public display, in time for the 75th anniversary of the 1948 London Olympic Games at Wembley.


I will ask Martin to attach a copy of Quintain’s letter below, so that you can read it if you wish to. It is almost 500 words long, but it can be summed up in a single word: “No”. I’ll include my reply to that letter at the end of this article.


There are two passages in the letter I received which suggest that Quintain are not inclined to uncover any more of the tile mural scenes in the subway between Wembley Park Station and Olympic Way:


‘… the lighting installation under Bobby Moore Bridge has full planning permission … and is not subject to any time limits.’


‘… we think that the lighting displays are an important part of our cultural offering now and for the future.’


The letter talks as though Quintain think that they own the Bobby Moore Bridge and the tile murals on the walls of its subway. In fact, they are owned by the London Borough of Brent (which, as far as I know, is not legally under Quintain’s ownership or control). 


But what do you, as citizens of the Borough, think about the idea of Quintain’s lighting displays, as against the tile murals celebrating Wembley’s sports and entertainment heritage, which are currently hidden behind the LED light panels? If you’ve not seen them, or can’t remember what they look like, here are a few reminders:


Part of the murals on the west wall of the subway, in 2012. (From a “Soundscape” web page)


A message on the west wall LED lighting panels in July 2021.


 Some of the mural scenes on the east wall of the subway, pre-2013.


 A lighting display, either side of the footballers mural, on the east wall of the subway, July 2021.


Would you prefer to see the heritage tile murals back on permanent display, or Quintain’s modern ‘cultural offering’ of lighting displays? Please feel free to give your honest views in a comment below.


My response to Quintain on 9 January suggested an alternative solution for the Olympic Torch mural, using their LED light panels. This is the text of my open letter (which was written to Quintain’s Head of Masterplanning and Design, with a copy to James Saunders, the CEO):-


Dear Julian, 


Thank you for your letter of 4 January 2023, in response to my New Year letter to James Saunders. 


I note the reasons given as to why Quintain will not be taking up my suggestion for uncovering, and putting on display, the Olympic Torch tile mural, on the east wall of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1948 London Olympic Games in July 2023.


You have set out your view on the history of the current lighting arrangements in the subway. I don’t think that it would be helpful to argue over this now, However, I do remember that when you and Quintain’s lighting designer came to a Wembley History Society meeting in October 2018, to set out your vision for the subway, several members suggested to you that the plans should be changed. 


Instead of putting all of the murals on the walls on display, with sufficient lighting in the subway for that purpose, as members had asked, you chose only a minor amendment to your original plans, which displayed just one of around a dozen tile mural scenes. The Society did agree that if just one scene was to be displayed, it should be the footballers playing at the “twin towers” stadium, which included the plaque unveiled by Bobby Moore’s widow in 1993.


It is disappointing that you seem to suggest it is Quintain’s intention to retain the lighting panels, which cover the rest of the tile murals in the subway, as a permanent feature. I am aware of the various planning and advertising consents. However, I would remind you that while Quintain’s ownership of the tile murals on the walls of Olympic Way is not in dispute, the Bobby Moore Bridge and the tile murals in its subway belong to the London Borough of Brent.


Since my suggestion for uncovering the Olympic Torch tile mural is not acceptable, I will offer an alternative suggestion, which I hope will meet with the approval of yourself and your colleagues at Quintain. 


This mural is covered with LED light panels, which can be programmed to show particular displays. As part of ‘the changing programme of lighting displays which has been integrated into the overall arts and cultural strategy at Wembley Park’, I would suggest that the panels over the Olympic Torch mural could be programmed to show an image of that mural, during at least July and August 2023. 


You already have a clear photograph of the mural, showing the design and its colours, which I included in my 1 January 2023 letter. The LED digital version of it could provide a temporary addition to the Wembley Park Art Trail this summer, adding to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1948 Games, on the wall next to the displayed “footballers” mural - as marked on this image:



I look forward to hearing that this alternative suggestion will be taken up, as part of the Olympic Way local history enhancements for this important anniversary year.


 Thank you.


Yours sincerely,


Philip Grant.




UPDATE FROM PHILIP GRANT (see January 13th comment below) 


How an image of the Olympic Torch mural could be displayed, in the same way as an advertisement in another subway.


Philip Grant said...

In between writing this article and Martin publishing it, I've received another quick reply from Quintain.

The answer to my alternative suggestion is again "No", although these are the actual relevant words from their letter:

'Your suggestion to reproduce the Olympic Marathon Runner using the illuminated display would be challenging. The display is a coarse dot matrix of LED’s and the resolution would not suit the detail of the Marathon Runner cut tile design. Further, the light from the LED’s is diffused through an opaque screen which would make any imagery difficult to identify.

We will therefore maintain the display and design as previously approved and continue to celebrate the anniversary of the 1948 and 2012 Olympics in the manner that has already been approved with the representatives of the IOC.'

The reference to a marathon runner is, of course, incorrect. The mural depicts one of the Olympic Torch relay runners. There is a local history connection there too, as the runner who carried the torch on the final leg of the relay, from the bottom of Wembley Park Drive up Olympic Way to the stadium, was a young amateur club athlete, who had been a pupil at Wembley County School in Stanley Avenue.

The reference to 'representatives of the IOC' is also incorrect. Representatives of Team GB and the British Olympians, together with myself and Brent's Heritage Conservation Officer, have been working with Quintain's Wembley Park team on several projects to enhance the local history offer along Olympic Way.

These will be permanent features, but nothing in the discussions about them has ruled out any other ideas that might help to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1948 London Olympic Games.

The latest rebuff has actually sparked another alternative idea for the Olympic Torch mural, which I will be suggesting. I will give details in another comment below, when I've shared my suggestion with Quintain!

Anonymous said...

I like the lights on the walls. They provide a welcoming entrance to area from the tube and certainly make the under pass feel safer. The tiles look very much of their time and very dated now.

Philip Grant said...

As I promised in my first comment above (12 January at 19:41), I am giving the text of the open letter I sent to Quintain this afternoon below.

My letter included a picture, and I will ask Martin to at it at the end of my blog, if possible. It shows how an image of the Olympic Torch mural could be displayed, in the same way as an advertisement in another subway (and that advert carries a message for Quintain!).

'Dear Julian,
The 1948 Olympic Torch tile mural at Bobby Moore Bridge, Wembley Park.
Thank you for your letter of 10 January 2023.

I note, and accept, that my alternative suggestion, to display the Olympic Torch tile mural design using the lights of the LED panels themselves, would not be a practical proposition.

However, I still believe that we should cooperate on a project to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1948 London Olympic Games in July and August 2023, and that the tile mural design showing the Olympic Torch relay runner, on his way to Wembley Stadium, can and should be part of that celebration.

My suggestion for a temporary artwork, using that design, would add to, rather than conflict with, the three more permanent heritage features which were discussed and agreed with Team GB and the British Olympians. Those were enhancing the visitor experience for the Olympic Way opening plaque, a display board illustrating the history of Olympic Way and the new Olympic plaque celebrating Wembley’s part in the 1948 and 2012 Games, and the new Olympic steps in front of the Stadium.

Your mention of the October 2018 presentation to Wembley History Society has sparked the idea for another “alternative suggestion”, which I hope that you and your colleagues at Quintain / Wembley Park can agree.

During the presentation, your lighting colleague, Anthony Charnley (of Dixon Jones), said that that the light boxes to be installed would give a similar effect to those in a subway at Kings Cross underground station, and that they could be left “white”, or used to display illuminated advertisements. You showed this illustration of the Kings Cross LED panels displaying an advertisement.

The advertisement in this example must be printed onto some sort of translucent sheet, so that it would surely be possible to print the Olympic Torch tile mural design onto such a sheet, of the appropriate size to cover the lighting panels which are currently fixed over the actual mural scene. That thin sheet could be attached to the opaque screen(s) over the panels, with white light from the LED dot matrix illuminating the Olympic Torch mural picture and lighting the subway in front of it.

As with my previous suggestion, this could be a temporary addition to the Wembley Park Art Trail, celebrating an important part of Wembley Park’s heritage for the 75th anniversary. If Josh McNorton would like to run with the idea, it could be part of an artwork covering all of the lighting panels in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, celebrating both the opening of Olympic Way and the Olympic Games events which took place at Wembley in 1948.

I would be happy to provide some ideas for images which could be used as part of a wider artwork, in addition to the Olympic Torch tile mural. I look forward to hearing from you that, this time, I have made an acceptable suggestion!

Yours sincerely,

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer to see the Olympic Torch panel revealed as well as the rest of the remaining murals as I think they are an important part of Wembley history. I cannot believe that it is impossible to light the space other than by using advertising panels. Or is it the loss of advertising revenue that is really at stake? J Private individual passionate about Wembley history

Martin Francis said...

Kingsbury resident
I believe that this is an important public artwork, specially designed to celebrate the sports and entertainment heritage of Wembley (whose world famous stadium will have its centenary this year). The lights could be incorporated or the space shared rather than the company Quintain acting as though they have total ownership. They've got it wrong.. it belongs to Brent residents and it's about time Brent started to appreciate the past culture which made Wembley proud.

Anonymous said...

This is perhaps an unpopular opinion but these murals are frankly quite unattractive. The mural of the footballers and the old twin towers in the background is very neatly presented and I appreciated that some effort was made to preserve what little culture there is in this specific part of Wembley Park.

But let's face it - these tiles were cobbled together by schoolkids in the 90s and they look it. Now they are on permanent display it is clear that they are hardly a timeless piece of art and are entirely incongruous to the rest of the development. While it is fair to say that the murals do pay homage to significant cultural events, they hold absolutely no artistic merit themselves.

I would not be too upset if they were covered up again, even in some corporate tarp for the latest offers at LDO. I actually think Quintain would do a better job commissioning new works (as they often do to be fair) to perhaps reflect on the history of the area.

However, I appreciate your efforts Philip and look forward to seeing you continue to hold Quintain to account in acknowledging local history perhaps in other areas now.

Paul Lorber said...

As a major developer Quintain is of course fully aware that the lighting could have been improved in the walkways in many other ways and still have made the area safer and more welcoming without the need to cover up the Murals.

It is of course not too late and we should all support Phillip's continuing campaign.

Anonymous said...

Lets face it, Wembley is not a welcoming place and is one of the poorest boroughs in London. Dirt, litter, flytipping, highways used as lavatories, potholes everywhere, broken paving slabs, driving on pavements, illegl E-bikes and scooters, Lime bikes littering the pavements for weeks on end, grass verges turned to mud, parks covered in litter, flooding going unresolved, strange planning consents given, illegal and dangerous parking, BBQ's in the parks, rough sleepers without help, flooding, rivers full of excrement, very ugly new buildings with no architectural merit, HMOs that can only be compared to slums of Victorian times, dead street trees, rats everywhere, shootings, stabbings, dangerous nightclubs (supported by you know who), drunk and drugged drivers, homeless stuck in slums, joy riders, poor build quality, lies about Council Housing. Yes, this is your Brent thanks to Butt and his friends, you know landlords and property developers and anyone who just doesn't care for the area, they are better known as Carpetbaggers.

Brent Council's current motto - We don't give a Wealdstone Brook

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe the comments that the tiles are dated and unattractive!!!

They are bright, colourful and a reminder of all the great sporting and cultural events which have been held at the world famous Wembley Stadium over the years.

The large advertising hoardings and the large posts with the banners on them are completely unattractive and detract from the view of the stadium.

The tiles need to be restored, protected and be on permanent view for visitors to Wembley.

Anonymous said...

Tiles dated and of their time??? You could say that about everything in London but you certainly wouldn't knock it all down - you would cherish things for their historic value.

The tiles are part of our local history, certainly nicer to look at than Quintains characterless tower blocks.

Philip Grant said...


Further to my comments of 12 and 13 January above, I've received another reply from Quintain. Not a "No" this time, more a "Maybe". This is what their letter of 16 January said:

'Thank you for your further letter dated 13th January 2023.

We have previously looked at the option of using vinyl displays fixed over the illuminated glass panelling. It can work for simple block designs but is less successful for the level of detail in a reproduction of the Bobby Moore
Bridge cut tiling designs.

We are looking into an option to display photos of the Marathon Runner cut tile design on the digital totems on Olympic Way as part the unveiling of the refurbished 1948 Olympic Way Plaque and new 2021 Plaque.

We will get back to you in due course.'

Anonymous said...

What ever Quintain decide there will be the usual Labour photo opportunities :(

They should be getting out on the streets looking at all the antisocial behavior issues we face on a daily basis and how they can be resolved!