Created on June 29, 2019
92A Bensham Manor Rd, Thornton Heath CR7 7AU, UK

Bensham Manor Passage

In 2017, one of Thornton Heath’s local architects Conrad Cherniavsky led the Bensham Manor passage project and painted the footbridge over the railway line leading to and from Thornton Heath railway station which is just a stone’s throw away. The footbridge connected two roads separated by the railway tracks: Bensham Manor Road and Elm Road at its junction with Gillett Road and saved pedestrians valuable time accessing Thornton Heath High Street as well as school children heading to local schools.  Sadly, the footbridge was vandalised with graffiti featuring racist swear words and sexual images and was neglected. The June 2019 re-painting from scratch project was led by artist Van Dang @freeartUK in collaboration with design artist Vikoi @vikoi1  https://www.vikoi.com/  The completed project saw the vandalised railway bridge immersed in fun underwater designs painted on by volunteers galvanised by Thornton Heath Community Action Team (THCAT) @thornton_heath_c_a_t  It was named a NICE WALK TO SCHOOL for the children of Thornton Heath. https://freeart.org.uk/a-nice-walk-to-school/ 
Artist Van Dang says: “Sometimes you start doing something and you think “s*** why did I do this!?!” It was my feeling the first morning we started painting Bensham Manor Road footbridge. A pile of vomit greeted us in the middle of the bridge where we were supposed to paint. It was raining and even though it was 12th June, the temperature was below 12 degrees. It was windy and the oil-based paint dripped and got blown everywhere. 
The footbridge connects the 2 Croydon Council Local Wards of Thornton Heath and Bensham Manor.  It has been a hot spot full of fly tipping, dog waste, occasionally human waste, broken glass, needles and rude graffiti. Many children use this bridge to go to Ecclesbourne and Whitehorse Manor primary schools and it was a disgrace. We couldn’t put up with it anymore so I asked my friend Marley “will you do it with me” and to my surprise she said “yes” (She kind of regretted it later on but well, it was too late). 
We asked for funding from Thornton Heath Community Action Team (THCAT) and asked the Anti-graffiti team from Croydon Council to jet wash the bridge before we painted it. During the 2 weeks of painting, we had amazing support from local residents. Many of them I had never met before. Some dropped by and gave us boxes of chocolate. Some walked past, saw us hard at work and decided to come back later and help us. 
I was nearly in tears and gave Graham big hugs as he had spent a full day in the cold scrubbing and painting. After 2 days helping me, my son and my husband were very pleased when I said this would be my last mural project ever (It isn’t). Marley nearly unfriended and blocked me (luckily, I know where she lives so she can’t run away from me… yet). Artist Vikoi @vikoi1  https://www.vikoi.com/ spent more than a day helping me sketch and outline the artworks. Chetna, Gaetane, Linda… and many more people came to lend a hand.
This is the worst pay job – £0 but the most rewarding and the best mural I have painted this year – 2019. I think for many years to come I will still remember this project and I hope the children enjoy their walk to school every morning now. Rain or shine.
I am always bursting with ideas and don’t like sitting still so if you know any mural opportunity, please drop me a line: share@freeart.org.uk

Van Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor PassageVan Dang, FREE ART—Bensham Manor Passage
Hunted by Averil Coutinho.
Pictures by James Ackroyd, Van Dang @freeartUK.

Marker details

Camera usedApple iPhone 5s
Date created2019-06-29T22:00:00.000Z
Marker typeartwork
CityThornton Heath
CountryUnited Kingdom