Back in 1981, local artist David Bratby was commissioned by the Old Ford Mission and Tower Hamlets council to paint the Old Ford Mission wall, on Old Ford Road, Bow. David decided to depict local children on their bikes, highlighting the problem of traffic for cyclists hence the mural title, ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ a reference to the biblical story of a near impossible event. He wanted to reflect the area and took sketches of the local kids who were enthusiastic about the idea of being painted onto the wall.
Doubts about the 56msq mural arose when it was suggested by John Snooks, the vice chairman of Tower Hamlets Art Committee, that it would be a hazard to passing motorists. However the Reverend John Kennedy, minister of the Mission, attended the Tower Hamlets Road Safety Committee meeting and persuaded the council that motorists pass advertising boards regularly with no accidents so therefore the mural should be completed.
David Bratby who was living in nearby Stepney spent eight months completing the work between 1981 and finishing in 1982. The finished mural showed a group of children on bikes across the bottom of the picture, a street view behind and on the right, a large lorry. Sadly not much of it is left in a good condition. Originally the wall faced onto empty land but this has now been built on. Ivy has climbed the walls of the mission hall and over half of the mural is under it. Unfortunately when the ivy is taken down, it removes the paint. Faces and bits of bicycles are evident but an idea of the bigger picture is lost.
However, amazingly one fragment is in good condition –hidden in the front garden of the house by the wall. This show three children’s faces beautifully painted. It is great that a section still remains to be seen in its original glory but such a shame that it doesn’t take long for people to forget the mural and what it meant to the locals of the time.
This mural was demolished in September 2013.