It is a great story. Banksy paints this image of plucky British (English) pigeons protesting against an exotic looking migratory bird – a swallow perhaps. Are the pigeons feral?
Tendring Council, in the Clacton constituency which will be voting in the first UKIP MP in a week’s time, receive a complaint from the public that there was offensive graffiti on the town’s boathouse. Was it a UKIP voter unhappy at the metaphor of UKIP Pigeons – or was it a complaint from the English Indigenous Bird Defence League?
Not realising they had a real life Banksy which would be “worth a lot of money”, they sent in an operative to remove it. It’s been painted over, destroyed. Perhaps Banksy is pleased. The art existed, arguably still exists, even though it has been destroyed.
Once the council realised they have just lost their town huge Banksy-kudos, not to mention half a million pounds, then invited Banksy back, but only on condition he paints something “appropriate”.
Nigel Brown, Tendring’s Comms manager said “We would obviously welcome an appropriate Banksy original on any of our seafronts and would be delighted if he returned in the future.” Do Comms managers have their sense of satire removed before being allowed into job? What would an appropriate Banksy look like and wouldn’t that destroy the whole idea of Banksy.
There are so many layers of irony running through this story that it would be shame to dissect them. But the combination of mindless political correctness, satirical political art, the obsession with commodifying everything and the febrile political debate around national identity, is a very heady one.
Parallels are sometimes drawn between conservationists’ attitudes towards alien invasive species, and xenophobic attitudes towards foreign people. Gardeners Question Time was recently criticised for being a hot bed of repressed nationalism, even fascism.
I think if Banksy had drawn that parallel, ie put a Ring-neck Parakeet on the wire, for example, instead of a swallow, that might have made a lot of people, including conservationists, feel rather uncomfortable.
I went for walk the other day along the Frome Valley, on the edge of Dorchester. There are number of streams and this one had masses of Himalayan balsam along the bank. It often gets pulled up as an invasive alien, even though there is no evidence that it has a deleterious effect on native wildlife. This stand had survived and was still flowering prodigiously, with the fantastic weather we have had. It was absolutely covered in bumble and honey bees.