Banksy: Leeds super-fan on her fascination with elusive street artist

Rumblings a few weeks ago about a new piece of work by world famous street artist Banksy appearing in London meant it was not long before social media was awash with rumours.

About 200 miles away in Leeds, one of those caught up in the buzz was Loraine Holmes, a self-confessed Bansky super fan and co-founder of a Facebook group charting the elusive graffiti artist's work.

Within an hour of Banksy's new tree-themed mural in Finsbury Park being "claimed", Mrs Holmes was already at the spot - one of the first in the world to view the fresh and, as she put it, "raw" mural.

After being tipped off the night before, Mrs Holmes, 61, had taken an early train from Leeds and was, as she later told the BBC, "shaking with excitement in the taxi".

"I spent a total of about five hours there, just taking it all in and observing people," she added.

banksy
Mrs Holmes said Banksy's works would be her "specialist subject" if she ever went on TV's Mastermind [Reuters]

Banksy's latest offering, which he later confirmed on his Instagram account was one of his, was a green spray-painted wall depicting foliage, with a stencil of a person holding a sprayer standing next to it.

Mrs Holmes was one of the lucky ones who got to see it before it was covered in plastic and surrounded by wooden boards after it was defaced with white paint.

The self-confessed super fan is such a hardcore Banksy aficionado that she said she also once drove 14 hours from Leeds to Margate and back so she could spend just 10 minutes taking some photos of his mural in the Kent seaside town.

"I just needed to see it", she said.

Mrs Holmes co-founded a Facebook super fan group called Banksy Locations in 2020 with fellow street art enthusiast Jay Tompkins.

The group now has 20,000 members worldwide and covers "every single aspect of Banksy" from the 1990s to today, Mrs Holmes said.

The group also shares information on what condition Banksy's works are in and where they can be found.

In fact, Mrs Holmes said it was members of the Banksy Locations group who "unofficially confirmed" the new London mural before the artist himself.

Mrs Holmes, a senior business analyst, said she first discovered Banksy's works in 2018 after seeing some of them online.

Her admiration for the anonymous artist "spiralled" and she said that now he would be her "Mastermind specialist subject".

She said: "It started out with me not knowing much about graffiti, but after I saw some pictures I liked on eBay, I started doing some research, read a few books and joined a few groups."

Her love for Banksy's work "crept up on me", she said.

"The humour in his art drew me to him and I just thought some of it was cute."


Who is Banksy?

Tagging Robot in Coney Island, New York, which appeared in 2013
Tagging Robot appeared in 2013 in Coney Island, New York [Reuters]
  • Banksy is believed to have been born in the town of Yate, in South Gloucestershire, in the early 1970s

  • He moved to London in the early 2000s, where he became famous for his satirical street art

  • A number of names have been linked with Banksy in the past, including Robert Del Naja, from the band Massive Attack, Robin Gunningham, Art Attack's Neil Buchanan and a Bristol art collective

  • It is believed he has been spotted various times as a "bystander" at the location of some of his pieces

  • He has given anonymous interviews in the past, but has never confirmed - or denied - his identity

  • It has been rumoured that Banksy lives in an "isolated community" with his wife


Mrs Holmes said other Banksy-related adventures included travelling to Paris while suffering with a broken ankle to see Man with Dog.

She had undergone surgery a few weeks before to have screws put in her leg, but that did not put her off the journey.

"I still managed to see six Banksy pieces that weekend", she recalled.

The super fan said her two grown-up children thought she was "crazy" to travel "at the drop of a hat" when a new Banksy appeared.

However, she added that they supported her nonetheless.

"They don't come with me, I go on my own - and I prefer that."

Mrs Holmes now has plans to visit San Francisco and Los Angeles in the near future to see more of the artist's work.

"He's my number one artist and if I ever met him I'd be completely star-struck. But that's not going to happen, so for now I'll just enjoy his art."

Asked the million-dollar question, whether she knew Banksy's real identity, she simply replied: "I do."

"It's the worst-kept secret in the art world, but I'll never tell," she added.


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