Oi Polloi

Through the Magpie Eye: Murals from the ’70s

Published: Thu Jun 25 2015

In the early 70s a Rochdale-based artist named Walter Kershaw rode his motorbike to the small town of Heywood on the peripheries of Greater Manchester to paint a large portrait of Elvis Presley on the gable end of a terraced house. The owner of the house had no problem having their wall transformed into a shrine to The King, but unfortunately, no one in the area had a photograph of Elvis to hand.

The closest thing anyone had was a small picture of leather-clad chart-crooner Alvin Stardust. And so, only a day later, a brooding, slightly bizarre image of the man formerly known as Bernard William Jewry stared out onto Manchester Road. 

A fascinating story I'm sure you'll agree.

Back in the 70s massive, multi-coloured murals popped up all over the place, brightening up the large, red-brick walls of Northern mill towns and gloomy motorway flyovers. Some, like Walters, were just done for the hell of it, whilst others were done as part of community schemes to inspire the people in the local area.

Most of these were painted over or razed to the ground years ago, but luckily two men by the names of Doug Sargent and Graham Cooper managed to document a good chunk of them. Here’s a small selection of their photographs…

Court Street, Dundee. 

Moor Court, Sunderland. 

Oxford Road, Manchester. 

Crickland Road, Swindon. 

Bangor, North Wales. 

Fleming Way, Swindon. 

Derby Street, Rochdale. 



The Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. 

Peel Way, Bury. 

Walshaw, Bury. 

Higher Ince, Wigan. 

Little Lever, Bolton. 

Ladbroke Grove, London. 

Shepherd's Bush, London. 

Shepherd's Bush roundabout, London. 


Pictures taken from the 1979 book, Painting the Town by Graham Cooper and Doug Sargent.