Housing bosses tell mother to remove NHS mural over graffiti fear

Housing bosses tell mother-of-two, 52, to remove her Covid chalk mural tribute to NHS in case it attracts graffiti

  • Suzanne Lazenby, 52, drew a mural on her wall to thank the NHS for all their help
  • The mother-of-two from Tooting suffered heart failure before the pandemic  
  • But now her housing association want it removed over fear it could bring graffiti

A mother of two who created a chalk mural tribute for the NHS has been ordered to remove the thank-you picture – after housing chiefs received complaints it could attract graffiti. 

Suzanne Lazenby, 52, from Tooting, south London, suffered a heart attack in September 2019 which worsened to the point that doctors were considering placing her on the transplant list.  

Due to her fragile health, her GP told her to start shielding a month before the first Covid-19 lockdown to protect her from the disease.

When the pandemic continued she helped create a mural thanking the NHS during the fraught and testing time. 

But now her local housing association Optivo has said it has to come down by the end of next month after complaints it could attract graffiti.

Suzanne told MailOnline: ‘We live across from an old people’s home and we see the relatives coming to stand outside and wave through the windows at their family members. The mural brings them a cheer. Some people think it is graffiti. 

Suzanne Lazenby has created this wonderful tribute for NHS staff who have worked during the pandemic 

Suzanne, pictured right, who suffered heart failure wanted to recognise those who helped her and all of those who needed medical treatment over the past year. She also wanted to recognise the sacrifice of people from around the world and the hope that this terrible period is approach its end

Suzanne Lazenby, 52, from Tooting, south London, has covered the exterior wall of her home with this mural to thank the NHS for their hard work and sacrifice during the Covid-19 pandemic

‘Sadly about about 18 months ago I had heart failure. I lost my job and then the first lockdown started. It has been quite mindblowing. 

‘I noticed that things that would take me ten minutes were now taking 20. Then next thing I knew I was hooked up to machines in hospital.

‘I was told that if I caught Covid-19, that it would be unlikely I’d ever leave the hospital.’ 

From her home in south London, Suzanne saw the devastation across the world caused by Covid-19 and the impact it has had on the lives of billions of people. 

Suzanne said suffering heart failure aged 49 was a shock because she had worked constantly since the age of 16.

Now, because of her illness, she is not able to work. 

She added: ‘I was a special needs assistant at a primary school and a swimming teacher. I absolutely loved it. The children were great, but I cannot do that anymore. But I wanted to give something back. That’s why some of us decided to create this mural. 

The 52-year-old mother-of-two suffered heart failure in September 2019 and credits her GP and the cardiac care team in St George’s Hospital for keeping her alive during the pandemic

While being forced to social distance and shield for a year, Suzanne wanted to give something back to the community and show that there will be a way out of the pandemic which has taken so much from so many people 

‘It is only temporary. I have been so lonely through lockdown. Everyone has been social distancing.’

Suzanne lives with her 17-year-old daughter Lilly-Rose Watts, who is also her registered carer. She is also supported by her son, Charlie, 27 – who is often tasked with sourcing chalk and charcoal for the mural. 

She said: ‘I wanted to say thank you to the NHS, I love them so much.  My GP has been absolutely brilliant. He told me to shield a month before the official lockdown.  

‘We started it on the first lockdown. I started it again on Boxing Day because we had Christmas taken away from us. 

‘My neighbours had Ramadan taken away from them. We have Hindu symbols as well. This has hurt the entire world.’ 

She told MailOnline the mural shows the story of Covid-19 and hopefully, with the two people hugging at the end of the wall, a way out to normality 

She said she used around £100 of chalk and charcoal to make the mural, with the help of her daughter Lilly-Rose and son Charlie 

However, the local housing association wants the mural removed within a week because of a complaint by someone who claimed it was graffiti 

According to Charlie: ‘The NHS ambulance staff and staff at St George’s Hospital saved Mum’s life, and we cannot thank them enough for what they have done.

‘The mural has received such positivity by everyone that has seen it. Mum’s neighbours that walk past the wall regularly will always stop for a socially distanced chat, and she now has regular visitors from people that live outside of the close who have accidentally strolled in on their daily walks, and visitors from the care home opposite her house who have visited throughout the pandemic to speak to their loved once through the windows of the care home. 

‘Mostly importantly to Mum, there is an NHS worker that lives on the close who is so grateful. Everyone absolutely loves it.’

However, one neighbour has rang the local housing authority to complain about the mural claiming it was graffiti. As a result, officials have told Suzanne to remove the mural within a week. 

Charlie said: ‘Mum is absolutely distraught by this news and cannot comprehend why this turn of events has taken place. 

‘The Mural is not graffiti, it is an expression of gratitude to the NHS for all the fantastic work they have done and sacrifice they have made for us in the last 12 months. 

‘For Mum to be ordered to wash the mural off and be issued a warning for antisocial behaviour is completely unjust and an insult to our NHS.’

Housing association Optiva said it had only agreed to let it stay up until the end of April.

A spokesperson said: ‘We recognise and fully support our heroic NHS and their hard work, particularly over the last year.

‘In the spirit of this, we agreed that the chalk drawn mural to celebrate our NHS, erected on a wall outside our properties in Gearing Close, could remain until the end of April 2021.

‘However, the mural has been the subject of a number of complaints from local residents, who’ve asked for this to be removed, due to concerns that it could attract graffiti in the area.

‘Due to the sensitivity of this matter and given the current situation we’re in, we’re working with those involved to come to a mutual agreement on this matter.

‘We’ve not issued an ASB warning against anybody with regards to the mural.’

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