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Image for Walter Kershaw: The UK's First Street Artist?

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Last on

Mon 30 Sep 2013 16:00 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 13 September 2012

Years before the super-cool graffiti of Banksy and his ilk, guerrilla art was being pioneered on condemned buildings in Rochdale. Walter Kershaw brightened up bridges, transformed toilets and glorified gable-ends. His work was large scale. Poppies the size of a house and a portrait of Alvin Stardust that covered an old shop (it WAS the 1970s).

Kershaw's art upset local authorities but delighted many locals. Wherever he painted he drew a crowd and soon residents were requesting him to paint their houses. He sought no fee and knew that his work would fade or be bulldozed, but he persisted. There were no slogans, no protests and nothing overtly political. This really was art for art's sake.

Mark Hodkinson, who grew up around Rochdale, meets Walter and takes him back to his old haunts. He meets Walter's accomplices and the art historians who put his work in context. He discovers what makes Walter tick and what he thinks of the current crop of graffiti artists.


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