There’s no place like home! Banksy-esque artwork appears in Birmingham’s Gay Village

Catherine Muxworthy April 5, 2024

A new artwork, that is Banksy-esque in style, has appeared in Birmingham’s gay village on the outside of Sidewalk Bar on Kent Street. The artwork, which depicts Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, can be seen reaching for a pair of ruby slippers which are slung over a nearby telephone wire overhead. The artwork, which has a clear nod to the area’s LGBTQ+ community and the ‘Friends of Dorothy’, was discovered at roughly midday by the business’ director, Phil Oldershaw, and rumours that it had been created by the illusive Banksy quickly began to ensue.

Oldershaw told Scene magazine that he was very surprised to see the new artwork when he visited the venue early in the afternoon of Wednesday, April 3 in order to speak with the cleaner. If fact, he was so surprised that he didn’t even notice the red shoes hanging above to begin with. People working at the garage next door to Sidewalk, as well as local builders, however, had already spotted the artwork, and were taking photos claiming it to be the work of Banksy.

The Dorothy piece reportedly appeared overnight some time after 1am, with the duty manager for Sidewalk the night before telling Phil Oldershaw that it had not been there when he locked up.

“We are thrilled it’s on our building and apparently recognises our LGBTQ+ community,” Phil Oldershaw explains. “In the 1950s and 1960s, Judy Garland acted as an unofficial mascot for a generation of gay men, who flocked to Garland’s many performances, referring to themselves as ‘Friends of Dorothy’.”

Birmingham-based art historian and critic, Ruth Millington, told BirminghamLive that the artwork bears ‘hallmarks’ of an original Banksy piece. She said: “Banksy doesn’t just stick to 2D art, he plays with objects in real life. We can see the artwork interacting with the shoes on the telephone wire which is very clever. It’s also interesting to note that Banksy has used Dorothy in his art before, he likes putting her in interesting places.

“Banksy does site-specific artworks which carry meaning too. Here we’ve got Dorothy in the Gay Village, and her red shoes definitely carry associations with gay and queer culture where she’s become a bit of an icon.

“I think the timing is quite interesting too, we’re hearing a lot about the city’s cultural scene and the cuts it’s facing – and this could be Banksy drawing attention to that. For me it’s got all the elements a Banksy would have, whereas copycat artwork tends to not include all of these elements together. There’s clearly thinking behind this artwork.”

Banksy has not, however, claimed the artwork via his social media, and after reaching out to his press office, Scene magazine have received confirmation that this piece is, sadly, not by the artist Banksy. Artwork was previously been created by the artist Banksy in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter in 2019. The piece which depicted reindeers pulling a ‘sleigh’ raised awareness for homelessness in the city.

Whether this new Dorothy piece is an original Banksy or not, Oldershaw intends to protect it, and has already asked the maintenance team to cover the artwork with perspex to avoid it being destroyed or vandalised.