23: In Memory of DEAN

One of may favourite things about Brighton is the street art. And if I had to pick a favourite graffiti artist it would be Dean.

Visually, Dean’s work was unexciting. He was a tagger who wrote his name in large black and white capitals. The beauty in his work was in the places where he put them. Some were obvious, drawn on railway bridges, or most notably, on Anston House. Others were harder to find.

(Anston House is famous as the most ugly building in Sussex and has been derelict for years now. For a while it was decorated with colourful portraits but even they did little to cheer it up. Following a murder, it has been surrounded by high fences. When I was a boy, my Dad worked there and I remembered visiting his office, seeing the computers in the basement. I remember rows of hanging magnetic tape and piles of punchcards)

Dean sometimes hid his tag. I remember one in a derelict building on the Steine. Another was described to me by a friend as a ‘Winter Dean’. It was on a brick wall on railway land near New England Road, hidden by trees and the only time you could see it was after the leaves had fallen.

I don’t know who Dean was. Some long deleted message board had a thread where someone saying that tag was a memorial to a graffiti artist who died fleeing the police. Another forum said that “he had great reach but a poor tag”. Seeing the name around the town made me happy and it became a game, with people swapping new ones they’d noticed. Dean was even mentioned in an edition of the Cheeky Guide. There are still a few Deans around the town but before long they will all be gone.

Travelling to London as a commuter, I always looked up for the view across the Ouse Valley viaduct. And one day I spotted it, painted on a feeding trough. Someone had come out here, in the middle of nowhere, to paint their mark where train-travellers could see it. The care and thought amused me, brightened up a part of that journey.

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