A graffiti artist has created a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Britain’s struggling high streets – by erecting spoof shop signs with names such as “Blockbust” and “Vomit”.
Luke Hollingworth, 36, created lookalike logos of failed high street brands and erected them above empty premises in his local high street.
The collection includes a portrayal of the infamous HMV dog being HANGED and a fake sign for the Blockbuster video rental store which reads “Blockbust”.
Another is a sign for electrical retailer Comet, which instead reads “Vomit”.
The three logos were put over empty shops in Malmesbury, Wilts., more than two weeks ago and have remained there despite polarising local opinion.
Luke, who created the signs from scratch using spray paint, said he was trying to make a point about the decline of high street stores.
He said: “The three brands, Comet, Blockbuster and HMV, are all brands that really the internet sort of stuffed them a little bit and they didn’t change with the times.
“It is a metaphor for the town at the moment, there is a lot of development on the outskirts planned and being debated with supermarkets, houses etc.
“I was making a point about the vibrant town centre that we once had and still have to a very great extent, great independent retailers that we still have on the high street.”
But Luke, who works under the pseudonym “Syd”, has caused controversy across the town.
Wiltshire councillor Simon Killane said he would be seeking enforcement action and did not understand the message.
He said: “I do not understand the message that putting ‘Vomit’ on a disused shop is supposed to send about our beautiful town.
“There is a great opportunity here to put out positive messages about the town rather than the confused, ill-considered signs that have been put up.
“It is respect for your neighbours. If you lived in a house next to me and somebody put a sign saying ‘Vomit’ up outside my house, you would try to sell your house, you would not be pleased.”
Mr Killane added: “The message these signs are sending is that Malmesbury is sort of dead or dying, which it totally false.
“Those empty shops, we should be promoting them by saying Malmesbury is a beautiful, busy and thriving town.”
The councillor’s comments sparked a fierce debate on Facebook, with hundreds defending the signs.
Becki Deacon wrote: “So let me get it straight, the artwork by Sydney is unacceptable, but shops being boarded up rather than turned into residential properties is perfectly acceptable and do not give across the message that business in the town is failing?”
Paul Waldron, another poster, commented: “I think it’s the boarded up shops that make it look unsightly not a local artist who is well known in the town contributing yet a bit more humour and fun.”
The views were shared by most business owners, residents and shoppers, and many said the signs were a humorous take on the state of the economy.
They claimed it highlighted the issue in Malmesbury where high rates and rents are discouraging shops from being let.
Malmesbury has never had a Blockbuster, Comet or HMV and continues to have independent butchers, bakers, shops and cafes but has half a dozen empty shops.
In response to the criticism Luke said he had received messages of support from many local businesses and people.
“I have to say Mr Killane is now my biggest friend,” he added.
“He sparked this street work into something bigger than I ever thought it would be today and it is two and a half weeks later.
“I’ve got plans to do more street art but as for this installation it will only be the three.
“People have emailed me with names and ideas for the other shops but I won’t be doing anything else on the high street.
“I have no plans at the moment to take these down, it’s only a screw tapped into a hoarding. If people want them they can have them, what will be, will be.”