Brightening up our high streets

Having high streets which look pleasant rather than grotty should be an aim for local politicians others active in their community. There is the economic reason – businesses tend to do better. There is the safety reason – as the broken windows theory argues and evidence backs up – dealing with grime and grot helps cut crime. There is also a third reason which politicians in particular are often a bit wary of saying, but quite simply having our communities look more pleasant is a desirable end in itself. You do not have to immerse yourself in aesthetic theories to appreciate the value of appearance.

In parts of Bristol there has been some particularly good work at getting street art painted on the shutters of local shops and otherwise bare, ugly walls. This not only brightens up the area, it provides a showcase for artistic talents – and also is an effective tool against graffiti, for once shutters or a wall bear artwork produced by someone in the community, the likelihood of it being covered in tags falls sharply.

Many parts of Canada have a strong tradition of taking this further, with large murals (such as this one featuring Charlie Chaplin illustrates) and decorations to liven up the utility boxes which feature on so many pavements (such as this one from Winnipeg).

Examples of painted utility boxes in the UK are far rarer, though clever pieces of artwork are present on some such as this example in Brixton.

So it was great to see these two examples in Southwark recently, along Borough High Street:

And here also from Borough High Street is what happens when you leave a utility cabinet unadorned:

If you are a councillor, why not try to do something similar in your own patch?

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