Banksy's GCHQ mural: Cheltenham street art 'to go in London gallery' after homeowner sells it

Scaffolding firm enlisted with the job of removing the artwork says it will be gone by the weekend and will be the main piece in a London gallery on 4 July

Natasha Culzac
Thursday 26 June 2014 15:11 BST
Banksy's mural in Cheltenham has been covered with scaffolding amid fears it's being removed
Banksy's mural in Cheltenham has been covered with scaffolding amid fears it's being removed

A Banksy mural has been sold by the owners of the Grade II property it was painted on, the scaffolding company enlisted with the job has confirmed.

The spy-inspired graffiti creation popped up on a residential street in Cheltenham in April, depicting three trenchcoat-wearing spies ‘listening in’ to a public phone box – its location is just three miles from British intelligence agency GCHQ.

Yesterday, scaffolding was erected around the popular piece leading residents to fear the worst.

Though Q Scaffolding, the specialist firm recruited to take it down, had told anxious residents that they were just re-rendering the property walls, it has now been confirmed that the artwork is definitely being stripped away.

"It will go in an art gallery in London on 4 July," John Joyce, from Q Scaffolding, told The Independent.

Mr Joyce wouldn't confirm which gallery it will appear in, but said that the first part should be gone by tomorrow and the second part by the weekend.

He also advised that 24hr security will soon arrive at the site following advice from police. Numerous interested people had gone down to the location to see what the fuss was about, with Twitter users swapping theories and images of the plywood-metal structure.

Mr Joyce also confirmed that the re-rendering work will have to be done anyway "because the owner will get a fine of £5,000 if they don't."

Mike Redman, from Cheltenham Borough Council, had told the BBC that they "believe" the scaffolding had been erected over concerns "about the condition of the render".

"With the volumes of people passing by, it is important to make the area safe and we believe this is what the owner of the property has arranged," he said.

Guerrilla artist Banksy confirmed he was the creator two months after painting it, with WikiLeaks claiming that the far right crouching figure is that of Julian Assange.

Michael Tonge, who lives nearby, had been keeping a vigil beside the scaffolding and has kept his Twitter followers abreast with developments: “I'm stood out here at nearly midnight waiting for them to come and start removing it,” he said.

Q Scaffolding is the same company that removed Banksy’s No Ball Games piece from a wall in north London last summer.

Darren Power, a local, had told the Evening Standard: “I think the Banksy will be removed. Why would they get a scaffolding company up from London to do it?

“I still think it will end up in an art gallery sooner or later. It’ll be a shame if it does because everyone here loves it.”

One pub worker said that the constant stream of crowds coming to look at the mural had been good for business.

It appeared around the same time that the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to The Guardian and the Washington Post for their reporting on mass surveillance by GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and the US' National Security Agency (NSA).

Today it was revealed that Banksy's 'Sirens of the Lambs' has been driven through Glastonbury as the iconic festival gets underway.

The truck, which shows cuddly farmyard animals poking their heads through air slots in the vehicle on their way to the slaughterhouse, was debuted in the Meat Packing District of New York last year.

As it bundled through the Glastonbury grounds in Somerset this lunchtime it was apparently being chased by 'angry farmers.'

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