BY CALUM FRASER
Overzealous park wardens have been telling artists to dismantle their easels because they may be a health and safety hazard.
A group of painters from the London Fine Art Studio (LFAS) in Lavender Hill were scolded by Battersea Park officers who said that the stands holding their pictures could fall on passing children.
LFAS student Chris Gray, 27, was painting by the Sun Gate in June this year when he was confronted by a steward.
The Lavender Hill resident said: “I was on the pavement painting, when this guy came up to me to ask if I had a permit because my easel was an unsupported temporary structure.
“He got out a booklet and told me I was violating some park law, some health and safety thing.
“I couldn’t believe it. Maybe if I had a massive gazebo or a tent. The base of this thing can only be about 2ft wide.
“I got really pissed off. He said there could be a £500 fine if I continued painting with the easel.
“It’s not as if I was going around stabbing people with a sharpened brush or swiping kids with the easel.”
Mr Gray came back and told his classmates about the encounter. LFAS founder Ann Witheridge said: “People have been painting London’s parks since the 19th century.
“It would be a sad state of affairs if this tradition was undermined by some obscure park rule.”
She took about 10 students back to Battersea Park for the last landscape lesson of the term.
She said: “We were a bit wary of what was going to happen.
“I sent everyone off in pairs. When we met up again at the end, a couple were very upset.
“A warden had approached them and said they had to take down their easels as they did not have a permit.”
Wandsworth council has now apologised to the artists and has invited them back for the start of term.
A council spokesman said: “We were very concerned to hear about this as we would never wish to prevent people from painting pictures or drawing sketches to capture the glory and wonder of Battersea Park.
“So we think this may have been down to some kind of misunderstanding, and would certainly like to apologise to these artists and invite them to return to the park to carry on drawing and painting to their heart’s content.”
Photo (top): Ann Witheridge at her easel.