Can you tell what it is yet?

Rolf vs Kid Acne

I’ve shown you the work of various graffiti artists in the past, but here’s a name you might not expect to see: Rolf Harris. His contribution to Sheffield’s urban galleries is a self-portrait painted on a wall in Brown Street. Not all of the artwork in the photo is Rolf’s [you can see an earlier version here]; I believe that the eights were added later, the very large section of painting by Kid Acne that now covers the majority of the wall was added in 2005.

Kid Acne II

I’d like to tell you more about this piece, but to be honest this particular bit of urban art is shrouded in urban legend. Rolf’s painting appeared sometime around 1991 – which was a significant time for Sheffield, the year when the World Student Games were held here.

Amongst the many changes brought by the games was the demolition of Sheaf Valley Baths, a popular swimming pool in the city centre, that just happened to have a piece of artwork by Rolf Harris painted on an interior wall. At least I think it did, I never saw it for the simple reason that I never set foot inside Sheaf Valley Baths, so I missed out on the chance to see Rolf’s work – and on the chance to try the infamous Top Splash (but hey, I’m a natural born coward, I’d have never dared to climb it, never mind jump off). The demolition made way for Ponds Forge to be built, but it also saw the destruction of Rolf’s artwork.

Now you’d think that someone would have photographed a mural done by Rolf Harris, but my attempts to track down a picture of it have proved to be utterly fruitless. I suppose that not many people routinely carried cameras at the time, plus I can see a few reasons why cameras and swimming baths wouldn’t make a great combination, but even so, surely one picture must exist, mustn’t it? Wayneybabes from Sheffield History Forum dug up this picture of the interior of the old baths, but when I showed it to Mr TLC he was fairly sure that the decoration that is visible was made from tiles and that Rolf’s painting was further down. (His memories of the Top Splash seem to be far more vivid, but that’s another story entirely.)

Anyhow, local legend has it that Rolf painted his self-portrait to replace the earlier artwork that was destroyed. True? Urban myth? I’ll let you decide. In the end, I don’t think it really matters why it got painted, I still enjoy looking at it – both Rolf’s portrait and Kid Acne’s additions.

What do you think?

Kid Acne IV Kid Acne III Kid Acne I

5 comments to Can you tell what it is yet?

  • I have visited Sheaf Valley Baths on many, many occasions. Heck, I’m pretty sure I was there on the first week of opening. I have spent many an hour, stood on the top board, summoning up the courage to jump. And I have spent many a minute trying to pull my swimming trunks back from the wedgie into which they had been forced.

    However, I don’t remember any mural, sorry.

  • You aren’t alone Will. Everyone I’ve spoken to remembers the top splash rather well but the mural somewhat hazily or not at all. I’m not convinced that it actually existed.

  • Anonymous

    There definately was a mural at the old baths but I can’t remember what it actually looked like.

  • Chris

    There was indeed a piece of Rolf Harris’ artwork in Sheaf Valley Baths. It wasn’t a mural but an actual painting. When the baths was demolished it was purchased by Paul Fletcher, owner of Fletchers bakery. It was hung in the new part of the Fletchers bakery on Claywheels Lane. The building burnt down in 2006 and the painting was destroyed.

  • Lois Lindemann

    Thanks Chris – seems I’ve been trying to track down a non-existent mural after all! It’s a shame the painting has gone now. I wonder if there are any photos of it hanging in Fletcher’s? I never managed to find any from Sheaf Valley.