Banksy linked to street artwork

Andover Advertiser: A new graffiti street art piece, suspected of being by Banksy, which appeared on the side of a house on Fairview Road in Cheltenham A new graffiti street art piece, suspected of being by Banksy, which appeared on the side of a house on Fairview Road in Cheltenham

Mysterious street artist Banksy appears to have unveiled his latest creation - targeting the issue of Government surveillance.

The artwork shows three 1950s-style agents, wearing brown trench coats and trilby hats, using devices to tap into conversations at a telephone box.

It appeared overnight on a street in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, just a few miles from GCHQ, where the UK's surveillance network is based.

Residents say they saw a group of men packing away a large white tarpaulin at around 7.30 on Sunday morning, before driving off in a maintenance van.

The celebrated Bristol street artist has yet to officially confirm the piece on his website but fans say it has the "narrative, style and execution" of his work.

Karen Smith, 48, said the figures appeared on the side of the house where she lives on Sunday morning.

"It's pretty good. It livens the street up a bit," the mother-of-five told the Gloucestershire Echo. "There have been a lot of people about today looking at it.

"My daughter, Sophie thinks it's Banksy, but I've been speaking to different people outside and some agree, some don't."

Graffiti website streetartnews said Banksy had showed up with a maintenance van and covered all the sides with tarpaulin before creating the piece "at the break of dawn".

"Quite a strong statement against the recent privacy issues we experienced this past year with the NSA and such," the website said.

"Banksy didn't pick Cheltenham randomly as the city is home of the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

"While not officially confirmed by his website, this piece has all the Banksy characteristics in narrative, style and execution."

A spokesman for GCHQ said: "This is the first time we have ever been asked to comment on art.

"Although we are not qualified critics, we are as intrigued as the rest of the residents of Cheltenham about the appearance of the mysterious artwork.

"For those who are interested, our website (www.gchq.gov.uk) gives a glimpse of what modern day intelligence operatives are really like, although some may be disappointed by the lack of trench coats and dark glasses."

Jane Griffiths, director of commissioning at Cheltenham Borough Council said the artwork could be protected, with permission from the landlord.

"The council cannot condone graffiti which is put onto people's property without their permission," she said.

"However, we recognise that the public do see work by Banksy as significant pieces of public art and it is clear that this piece has been getting a huge amount of favourable attention.

"It would be a shame if it was removed or damaged.

"As the artwork is on private property, it is the for the property owner to decide whether they would want it to be kept - they would need to consider the impact this may have on the residents of the property and the wider community.

"Although we still do not know if it is original work by Banksy, given the public interest, we would be happy to help the owner find a solution which would protect it from tagging or other graffiti."

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