Express & Star

'Even if it isn't a Banksy, it's great for the community!' Businesses owner's excitement over mural painting

A business owner claims a new mural that has gone viral after appearing overnight is "extremely special" for the LGBT community.


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The mystery mural depicting Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz character, Dorothy Gale, appeared overnight on the side of the Sidewalk bar on Kent Street, Birmingham, on Wednesday, April 3, launching the media into a frenzy at a proposed new Banksy in Birmingham.

Now, with an official comment from Banksy's spokesperson stating that the artwork 'is not by the artist Banksy', the Express and Star talked to Sidewalk director, Phil Oldershaw, as to the significance of the piece, and the sudden popularity.

Talking about the mural, Phil said: "It's beautiful, it's very colourful, and it's extremely apt that it has been placed there.

"When I got out of the car, I was surprised to see it. I said she [Dorothy] looked familiar, I didn't even see the ruby slippers until some builders pointed it out to me. When I reflected on it, I thought 'This is very clever', whoever did this put some thought into it."

Business owner, Phil Oldershaw, was shocked when the Dorothy mural appeared outside of his club, the Sidewalk

The mural depicts Dorothy Gale reaching up to catch (or throw) a pair of ruby slippers that are hanging from a power line, Phil thinks there is a deeper meaning behind the painting.

The director said: "To put this into the gay community. I originally thought that she was either catching or throwing these slippers, which themselves have a deep meaning in the gay community.

"To me, it's almost like she is throwing these shoes into the Gay Village saying 'there's no place like home' like this is our home as a community."

The mural shows Dorothy reaching (or throwing) for a pair of slippers that are hanging from a powerline

Judy Garland and the character of Dorothy Gale are both cultural icons in LGBT culture, with many men and women who identify as Pride idolising the standards set by the actress towards the gay community at the time.

Phil continued: "Going back to the 60s when Judy [Garland] had a huge following from gay men, she was appreciated by her gay audience for her acceptance of the culture.

"She performed and taught for the gay community all the way up to her death, this is where the term 'Friend of Dorothy' comes from, it was like a little code term that was created in her honour so gay men could communicate in an age where it wasn't widely accepted."

A media frenzy ensued following the discovery of the mural, with hundreds of people flocking to have a look

The discovery of the artwork started a media frenzy, with hundreds of people flocking to the Gay Village to see – what was thought at the time – to be the newest Banksy.

Phil said that even if it wasn't painted by the iconic anonymous artist, it is no less special to the community.

The painting was originally mistaken for a Banksy, however residents have said it is no less important

Phil continued: "I feel we are very fortunate to have this piece here. As a business owner, I'm glad that it is on the side of this building and as a member of the pride community, this is very apt for me that it has been placed here.

"We are working on getting the piece protected so that it can remain here for everyone to see, and as a bar, we will be doing a lot to make sure people know it is here. We think it is extremely beautiful."