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HomeCommunityCouncil urged to display historic sporting and entertainment murals in Wembley

Council urged to display historic sporting and entertainment murals in Wembley

Brent Council is being urged to put a series of tiled murals depicting major sporting and entertainment events back on permanent public display after they were covered up by advertising.

Dozens of residents have supported a petition calling for the Wembley murals to be ‘enjoyed again’ by the public when the current advertising lease runs out.

The Bobby Moore Bridge and subway were constructed in 1991 to pedestrianise Olympic Way ahead of the Euro 1996 football tournament. With support from Wembley Stadium, Brent Council commissioned a large public artwork to decorate the walls of the subway and along Olympic Way.

Council urged to display historic sporting and entertainment murals in Wembley Harrow Online
Olympic Torch Mural, Commemorating 1948 Games At Wembley. The Olympic Torch mural has been hidden from public view for more than a decade. Image Credit: Philip Grant

However, in 2013, the council agreed a lease with property developers Quintain, which allowed them to put up advertisements, including vinyl and LED lighting, that hid the murals.

The petition – which has 68 signatures at the time of publication – was started by Philip Grant, of the Wembley History Society, who believes the mural gives the area a ‘sense of place and history’. Mr Grant wants the new advertising lease, which is scheduled for renewal in August of this year, to only allow them on the safety barriers of the bridge and not on the walls of the subway, which would reveal the murals that have remained hidden for more than ten years.

Mr Grant told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “The colourful ceramic tile murals were commissioned by Brent Council in the 1990s, as a public artwork welcoming visitors to Wembley Park with scenes from the sports and entertainment heritage of the Stadium and Arena.”

He added: “The mural scenes help to give the area its sense of place and history, and the thousands of new residents, as well as the millions of visitors, passing through the subway deserve to be able to enjoy them.”

The subway was officially opened in September 1993 by the widow of former World Cup-winning England football captain Sir Bobby Moore, who unveiled a plaque naming the bridge ‘in honour of a football legend’. The plaque is set into one of the mural scenes, which shows England footballers playing at the original Wembley Stadium.

Originally covered by advertising material, this mural scene has been put back on public display since 2019, following a campaign by Mr Grant. However, there are many others which remain covered up, including one along Olympic Way – built for the 1948 Olympic Games held at Wembley – which shows a torch-carrying athlete with the Olympic flag.

Other hidden scenes celebrate the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and Horse of the Year Show, which were regular features at Wembley Arena from the 1950s onwards, and Michael Jackson’s record-breaking concerts at the stadium in the 1980s.

The tiles were submitted for statutory listing in May 2023 but did not meet the initial requirements of the three categories used by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to prioritise designating resources to those sites that are most in need of protection, so have no legal protection. Some of the murals were destroyed in 2016 due to works undertaken by Transport for London.

Council urged to display historic sporting and entertainment murals in Wembley Harrow Online
Sports Heritage Murals On East Wall Of Olympic Way, 2022. The murals depict scenes from the sports and entertainment heritage of Wembley Stadium and Arena. Image Credit: Philip Grant. Permission to use with all LDRS partners.

The new advertising lease has already been put out to tender, with bids required to include two figures as the minimum annual rent offered – one for both the bridge safety barriers and subway, and one for just the barriers. Brent Council’s Cabinet will decide which bid to accept at an upcoming meeting next month.

Brent Council leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said: “The Bobby Moore Bridge is one of the most important points in Wembley and is enjoyed by millions of visitors, residents, and students living in the area.”

He added: “The cultural impact of the bridge cannot be understated, as well as this being a valuable council asset, which has successfully generated much-needed commercial income over recent years.

“The council’s Cabinet is aware of the petition and will consider a report with two different options for advertising later in May, none of which include the tiles being removed.”