Walter Kershaw

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Walter Kershaw
Born 7 December 1940
Rochdale, Lancashire, England, UK
Education Durham University
Known for Graffiti
Street art

Walter Kershaw, born 7 December 1940 in Rochdale, Lancashire,[1] is an artist in oils and watercolours but is best known for his large scale, external, mural paintings in towns in Northern England and the Americas.[2]


Kershaw is the only son of Florence Kershaw (née Ward) (1916–2010), a retired school caterer; and Walter Kershaw (1917–1998), who was in the RAF from 1936 to 1946; at Duxford during the Battle of Britain, retiring as Flight Sergeant. He has two younger sisters. Kershaw attended De la Salle College in Pendleton, Salford, from 1951 to 1958; later as a student at King's College, Durham University (now part of Newcastle University) from 1958 to 1962, graduating with a BA Honours in Fine Art. Kershaw has been twice married and divorced but now has a son and daughter with Gillian Halliwell.

Kershaw has always been self-employed and still runs his studio business today. His early large external murals painted on slum properties alongside his provocative public sculptures attracted much media attention in the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s. For example, interviews with Anna Ford for Granada TV; as a guest of Janet Street Porter on London Weekend TV; Sue McGregor’s interview for "Conversation Piece" on BBC Radio 4; and as a guest alongside Eric Morecambe on Russell Harty’s BBC2 chat show.

George Best was a good friend to Kershaw and purchased six large drawings and oil paintings from him, whilst playing at Manchester United; and Bob Monkhouse was very kind to him, purchasing his paintings, corresponding and promoting his work on his BBC Radio 2 show.

Ian Potts, now at the BBC and then a student at Regent Street Polytechnic made a film "The First Graffiti Artist" about Walter’s work. This won the best student film award at the Cannes Film Festival.

His work is in public collections worldwide; including Bury Art Museum, Salford Museum and Art Gallery,[3] the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Arts Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the National Collection of Brazilian Art in São Paulo.[citation needed]



Kershaw has travelled extensively and his work can be put into series;[citation needed] for example:

  • The Algarve 1964 to present day
  • Pacific Islands 1993
  • Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru 1987–1994
  • San Francisco/Oakland 1974
  • These are drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and some photos.


The murals are generally large scale, external artworks. Examples include:

  • ‘Alvin Stardust’ – Bury 1970s [2]
  • ‘Inside-Out House’ – Rochdale 1975. Commissioned by BBC2 for their Terra Firma series.
  • The Trafford Park Mural (1st version) 1982. Commissioned by Trafford Park Planning Department – unveiled by Denis Law and filmed by the BBC for Nationwide News. He was assisted by John Abbot, Hilary Cooper and Brigitte Streich in this massive work of art.
  • ‘Life in Brazil’ – Higienopolis, São Paulo 1983. Commissioned by FAAP and the ‘Cultura Inglesa’ – filmed by Rede Globo, Brazil. Hilary Cooper helped Walter with this work.
  • ‘Norwich Images’ – Wensum Lodge, Norwich, 1984–85. Filmed by Anglia TV for their ‘Folio’ series. Ian Starsmore assisted Kershaw.
  • Avro and BAe aircraft murals at Woodford, Cheshire, 1983 and 2006. Painted jointly with Peter Dent.
  • Manchester United murals, 1986 to 1988. Researched by Cliff Butler; designed by Peter Dent; painted by Walter Kershaw; and unveiled by Sir Matt Busby, Martin Edwards and Sir Alex Ferguson.
  • Sarajevo Winter Festival, Bosnia 1996. Murals by Andrea Tierney, Gillian Halliwell, Jack Lewis and Walter Kershaw. Commissioned by the Austrian Embassy in Sarajevo, and filmed for Bosnian TV.
  • ‘After the Bomb’ 1996, Arndale Centre, Manchester. Temporary murals on MDF shuttering to disguise bomb damage with Manchester themes. Painted jointly with Gillian Halliwell. Commissioned by Arndale Management and P&O.



‘Terra Firma’ series on BBC2, 1976; ½ hour documentary commissioned by BBC2 for Walter Kershaw to paint a mural on a gable end. Location: Derby Street, Rochdale.

‘The First Graffiti Artist’, 1976; ½ hour documentary with fantasy interludes, on early murals. Produced and directed by Ian Potts, at that time a film student at Regent Street Polytechnic in London. Ian Potts now works in the Historical Film Department at the BBC in London. The film won best student film category at the Cannes Film Festival. Copies available from NW Film Archives in Manchester.

‘City of Norwich’ murals shown 12 February 1987; as part of the ‘Folio’ series by Anglia TV, directed by Michael Edwardes. ½ hour programme with Walter’s friend Ian Starsmore.

  • Invited guest of Janet Street Porter in the mid-'70s when she was a presenter for London Weekend TV.
  • Invited guest on Russell Harty’s BBC2 TV show 1983 from Manchester.
  • Film video by Cartyle Video London shown on West German TV 1985.
  • Rede Globo – National Brazilian TV, 1983
  • Bosnian National TV as part of the Sarajevo Arts Festival, February 1996.


Invited guest of Sue McGregor on her ‘Conversation Piece’ series for BBC Radio 4 in late 1983; ½ hour show.

He was the subject of a half hour radio programme entitled 'Walter Kershaw: The UK's First Graffiti Artist?', first broadcast in September 2012 on BBC Radio 4.[4]


Murals feature in: Painting the Town, by Graham Cooper and Doug Sargent, 1979, Phaidon, ISBN 0-7148-1979-4; L’Art Publique by Jacques Damas (editor) and Francoise Chatel, Atelier D’a-Caen, 1982; A Northern School: Lancashire Artists of the Twentieth Century, by Peter Davies, 1989, Redcliffe Press Ltd, ISBN 0-948265-73-6 ; Trades and Industries of Norwich, by John Taylor and Joyce Gurney-Read, 1988, Gliddon Books, ISBN 0-947893-09-1; A Minstrel and the Amazon by John Harwood, 2007, Grafisa Edition – Manaus ISBN 978-85-99122-03-7


  1. ^ Biography, Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  2. ^ a b Bob Stanley (21 September 2012) Walter Kershaw: 'Britain's first graffiti artist', The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  3. ^ Your Paintings - Walter Kershaw, BBC. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  4. ^ Walter Hershaw: The UK's First Graffiti Artist?, BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2013-09-30.

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