DREARY derelict buildings have been transformed by an artist with a penchant for gangsters and hard nuts.

Michael Caine in his famous role as Jack Carter, Bob Hoskins as the nutty gangster in the Long Good Friday, and the notorious Kray twins now stare down ominously at passers-by in Southchurch Avenue, Southend.

The houses, part of a seafront site due to be used for development of flats, shops and a hotel, have lain empty for years, attracting vandals and antisocial behaviour.

Artist John Bulley said he had grown tired at looking at the eyesore site and decided to do something about it. He said: “It’s a pop-up gallery, a piece of urban art.

“The first time I went there with a friend we put on high-viz jackets and hard hats to hide in plain sight and no one took any notice of us. No one batted an eyelid.

“People seem to love it and have said it’s brilliant. It’s had such a good reaction.”

Mr Bulley, 63, from Southchurch, added: “It’s a protest at all the twee stuff you see all over Southend.

“These are tough characters and you simply can’t ignore them.”

The artist, who worked on film sets including Harry Potter, created the pieces in his studio before putting them in place.

He said: “I measured the windows and worked out the perspective of the drawings so they would fit properly.

“Two of them were done on wallpaper lining and just glued up early in the morning like a flyposter.”

The work is also a protest against what Mr Bulley sees as a lack of support for local artists from Southend Council and arts group Metal, which has received Government funding for its projects, including the Village Green festival.

Mr Bulley, who is one of those behind the Estuary Fringe, alternative art festival due to take place in August, said: “The reason those paintings are stuck up on that derelict building is because we – the local arts community – have had nowhere to go, no spaces to show our stuff and no support.

“It was done as a wake-up call.

We have formed our own alternative festival, which is totally inclusive and totally free for all local artists and musicians, again as an act of frustration at having no support system for the local art scene.

“Metal’s PR don’t want the ordinary types, apart from one day a year.”

In response, Colette Bailey from Metal said: “We support all kinds of different art of all disciplines and in lots of different ways.

“If John wants to come and see us about any help he might need we would be glad to talk to him.”


John Bulley has worked on film sets, including Memphis Belle and Harry Potter.

His murals and urban art includes pieces on building sites, pubs and even a few churches. His work has brightened up London Zoo and Camden Lock Bridge and he has two pieces outside Ten Green Bottles in Rectory Grove, Leigh.

Mr Bulley has organised the Estuary Fringe Festival from August 2 to 10. The free festival of art, music, drama and poetry kicks off with a 12-hour event in O’Neills pub in Luker Road, Southend. For details of other events visit the Estuary Fringe Festival Facebook site.