Town Hall art change to mark Women’s Day

Despite employees removing boarding, new exhibition replaces work by Victorian artist

Friday, 18th March — By Anna Lamche

Cllr Woodbyrne with artist Gary Power

Cllr Kadeema Woodbyrne with artist Gary Power

FOR the first time in decades, the art on the walls of the Town Hall has been replaced with new work to celebrate women and girls.

Caribbean food will be served this evening (Friday) as the Town Hall hosts a special guest viewing of an International Women’s Day art exhibition.

The event has been organised by Clerkenwell Councillor Kadeema Woodbyrne to mark her departure from the council this May. Her art is on display in the Town Hall’s corridors, alongside work by other local artists.

Before Cllr Woodbyrne’s exhibition, the Town Hall was decorated almost exclusively in work by the Victorian topographical artist Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

A council spokesperson acknowledged the Town Hall’s art collection “has not changed in many years” because of the “difficulty of finding a large enough collection that fits the space and is relatively uniform”.

Mr Hosmer Shepherd’s artworks have either been removed from the walls or covered by boarding from which the new art is being displayed.

“Some of the pictures on the walls haven’t been changed in a long time. The building’s been up since the 1930s and I don’t know how much the artwork has shifted since then,” Cllr Woodbyrne said.

Cllr Woodbyrne, who is of Jamaican-Irish heritage, has stressed the significance of having her artwork on display in the local corridors of power.

She said: “My mum is Jamaican and my Dad is Irish-Jamaican, so I’m a Jamaican woman enmeshed in the Irish community.

“It does make me think about the significance of [infamous historic signs reading] ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ – those things are so prominent in this culture of feeling sidelined, and I wanted to add both my backgrounds to the footprint of change,” she said.

Canonbury-based artist Gary Power, who helped Cllr Woodbyrne organise the exhibition, has said that at times, organising this exhibition has been an “uphill battle,” with council employees taking down the boarding on which the art was supposed to be displayed just a few days before the exhibition was set to open.

“Somebody took the decision to take them down, which was really upsetting for everybody. Who knows, there are weddings here, registrars may not have wanted the boarding up,” he said. “But this is not very offensive – it’s just a few pictures.”

However, the council has said the removal of the boards was an honest mistake that was rectified in time for the exhibition to go ahead.

A council spokesperson said: “The council fully supports Cllr Woodbyrne’s art exhibition, to celebrate International Women’s Day, in her role as the council’s Women and Girls Champion.

“It is great to see so many wonderful paintings and pictures up in the Town Hall and we look forward to the open evening on Friday.

“We have worked with Cllr Woodbyrne to maximise the amount of art that can be displayed, adding several areas in the Town Hall to the spaces being used to display the work. While some boards were moved temporarily, these were put back up the next day and we hope this has allowed as many people as possible to enjoy the exhibition.”

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