(Images: Daisy Graham-Brown and Ben Summer)

Butetown mural will be back but Cardiff’s street artists demand better

McDonald’s quickly u-turned on advertising mix-up

BUTETOWN’S iconic ‘My City, My Shirt’ mural is already being repainted – but the situation has raised questions about the future of Cardiff’s street art.

After the famous mural was painted yellow for a McDonald’s advert on Saturday, January 22, McDonald’s u-turned on the decision, saying they were not aware of what they were painting over.

The space on the wall, attached to Mischiefs Café Bar in Butetown, had been granted to Unify, a Black-led creative practice in Cardiff, on a temporary basis.

A section of Unify’s HIV campaign mural (Image: Ben Summer)

The mural was organised by Unify’s Yusuf Ismail and painted by Bradley Rmer, also known as Rmer One, based on Shawqi Hasson’s photo of Cardiff resident Maimuna Indjai.

But when an advertising agency hired by McDonald’s started painting over it, they faced immediate backlash.

Cathy Owens, who lives around the corner from the mural, said: “Whilst the project began as a piece of art celebrating diversity in football, it clearly took on greater significance in terms of reflecting the diversity of the city, and it brought a lot of people together.

“It’s clear that McDonald’s themselves were not aware of the sensitivities and the company reacted positively and quickly when it was brought to their attention.”

In a series of tweets, McDonald’s confirmed that they would work with Unify on reinstating the mural. By Monday, January 24, the coat of McDonald’s yellow paint had been replaced with white.

The incident caused widespread upset, especially in the street art community.

Regan Gilflin, a local artist who focuses on portrait art with a youthful, fun element, said: “It just all felt really unfair. Such an amazing piece of art should never have been painted over, especially by a company like McDonald’s.

“But on the flipside, it was a perfect example of the power of the community and social media. It took less than a day for the whole thing to be called off.

“The guys at Unify and the artist Bradley stayed so positive and humble through it all, and now something bigger and better can be put in its place.

“The new piece will hold even more pride and importance within the community because we fought for it.”

‘My Cymru, My Shirt’ on Westgate Street (Image: Ben Summer)

Cardiff has plenty of street art, especially opposite the original Butetown mural, where artists like bean head and Unify’s iconic HIV mural are featured. The ‘My City, My Shirt’ mural also has a sister work on Westgate Street in the city centre.

Cardiff Council has commissioned street art in the past, including a road crossing painted by Steffan Dafydd and the painting of electricity boxes in Cathays.

However, Cardiff also has a wider issue with public artworks being removed against the artists’ wishes.

 In 2017, the iconic graffiti wall outside the Principality Stadium was removed to create room for advertising the Uefa Champions League Final but was reinstated soon after.

The McDonald’s incident also is not the first example of diverse artworks being overlooked. In October 2021, art celebrating feminism and Black women was mistakenly washed away from the outside of Debenhams in the city centre.

The Art of SoK’s work next to the Principality Stadium (Image: Ben Summer)

Local visual artist Anna Amalia Coviello, known as Anamaly, said: “Even if McDonald’s didn’t want to cover the mural up for racial reasons, it became a racial issue.

“It puts a spotlight on the problem we have of silencing Black voices. It’s so rare to see a mural in general in Cardiff, even more so a mural of a Black woman.”

In general, she said: “The arts are still not seen as something vital for the community. We study so much old art in school, but none of the contemporary art.

“I think the council has good intentions and wants to provide opportunities, but they’re not trying hard enough.

“The thing about Cardiff is that there are only one or two walls where it’s legal to do graffiti. It’s weird how it isn’t incentivised more because it creates a community rapport. There’s not an art quarter like in other cities like Bristol.”

McDonald’s has not provided a timescale for when the mural will be reinstated, or whether the design will be altered.

Regan Gilflin’s work in Butetown (Image: Ben Summer)