VS: should graffiti be legal in the city centre?

Herefordshire graffiti

We’re starting a new feature that puts together two interesting, opposing voices on a controversial (or at least tweeted-about) subject like graffiti.

It’s called Versus.

The idea is to hear from people you might not otherwise hear from and appreciate why people feel so strongly about certain culture and heritage issues.

First up we have graffiti artist Davi LST, and John Bothamley who heads up Hereford’s Civic Society – an organisation formed to both celebrate and safeguard the city’s built environment.

The premise we asked both to discuss is;

“Allowing graffiti artists to create pieces throughout Hereford without legal repercussion is a good idea because it would engage the city in creativity – agree/disagree.”


Quiet enjoyment is a right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of real property by a tenant or landowner. Our society has generally worked to these covenants for centuries.  To have our property violated by strangers is a most anti-social act that is not far from physical abuse of the person.

A civil society allows us all to express ourselves as we would like whilst respecting each other and, by implication, our property.

To deface something owned by someone else is unkind and flies in the face of our democratic society. Those who use graffiti disregard the world order that allows us to communicate with each other by imposing their visions on us when not asked for. Nor is there a place for so called good graffiti – it all damages and degrades. 

What is acceptable though is paintings and drawings that have been applied at the property owner’s request.  Consider those trompe d’oeil effects, often painted in blank window openings.  Enjoy pictures of the building to be created behind scaffolding on development sites, and sometimes those temporary posters making a political statement – but always with the consent of the building’s owner and meeting necessary consents.

Street art in agreed places on special hoardings is fine. Check out the hoardings in Widemarsh Street by school children – a lively contribution to the street scene. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t graffiti it is street art. Banksy is a vandal not a street artist - and essentially a good businessman.

There are plenty of places to be creative, but not on Hereford’s walls.


Herefordians need more artistic expression in and on their city.

As an artist and a father, I’ll always try to do what I can to make my daughter express herself. In art there are no rules. It’s true freedom. You need to start from that point if you want to encourage a creative city.

I would like to take my daughter show her that graff is not vandalism. How can I explain to a child that an art project on a wall – one that uses various instruments and inks and paints - is a good way to relax and express yourself visually, and a good thing generally, when the law says the opposite? Even if it’s no-one property, the law in UK basically puts me to jail if I’m caught three times.

People I know, who come to Hereford from all over the world, all say that it is a place stopped in time – and that’s because so many things are seen as anti-social. Graff is more social then any art form. It’s made for people to see and talk about it. It’s the definition of social.

I like all forms of painting. But as an artist you want to have an impact, and walls are bigger that paper. If you paint a facade of a building everybody sees it, talks about it, connects with it or with the people they are talking to – either in the street or on social media.

Making it a crime doesn’t stop walls being written on. It just scares off real artists from trying to make something creative. And it maybe even makes it worse because most tags in our city are ‘love you sheila’ or ‘red hill HR2’ - they don’t come from writers. They’re quick tags. They’re rebellious. They’re always going to be there.

Herefordshire Council created and helped fund two skateparks in town, why not support artists too – with new rules, or new places to paint, in town, where people can see the work?

Sports are important so keep kids active outdoors but there are other ways also. Cultural disciplines are a big industry and artists and musicians pay taxes. The council should be helping encourage culture in young people.

Nobody enjoys vandalism anywhere. Walls to spray have been created in towns all across Europe for decades. It would be a first step towards the modernization off our town to make spaces in Hereford.

In Portugal for example you have the opportunity to apply for permits to paint. Look at the subway between Aldi and Sainsbury’s. It’s tagged up – it’s always been tagged up and it’s always going to get tagged up. Why won’t the council give a permit for local artists to cover those walls like that in nice projects?