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Birds of a Feather - an interview with ATM

The mysterious street artist talks about his love of birds and his campaign work

Britain is a nation of bird lovers with the country containing some of the most vibrant and colourful species in the world. But with their habitat under threat one man armed with a paintbrush and some creative gumption aims to help turn the tide and protect some of these endangered birds.

Using the street as his blank canvas, the artist - who uses the mysterious name of ATM - paints endangered birds in on council estates, alleyways and more built up inner city areas of London.

Some of the inspiration for his work comes from his time spent growing up in a mill town in North West England and others come directly from campaigns, such as recent measures to protect hen harriers. But the message is clearly shown using powerful, iconic symbols and fuelled by his love of wlidlife.

“I’m part of a trend to try and change how we live our lives in the city, paving over gardens and getting rid of natural refuges”, explains the 50-year-old artist, “My work draws attention to the issue and raises questions in people’s minds. Once you question things, hopefully it educates people”.

One of his latest pieces, a large Mistle Thrush, is situated on the brick wall of a building on Greenwich Green, Creek Road. This has been swiftly followed by an exhibition at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich, featuring a series of paintings including British birds like the turtledove and owl. This aim of such work is to draw attention to the delicate balance (and as ATM puts it the often imbalance) between the urban and rural landscapes raising questions in people’s minds.

“The beauty of my work is that street art has now become a great way to express yourself”, ATM explains, “It was once condemned as illegal, but individuals like Banksy have now allowed this art form to be celebrated in countless different styles.

"There is much that we as individuals can do to improve the situation: allow plants and wild seeds to grow in parts of the garden, some native bushes that are conducive to insects because they have been suffering terribly as well as being a main food source for birds. Trying to avoid spraying weed killers and insecticides in the garden, and even the number of times you mow the lawn helps.

"Most British people love birds and they lament the loss of them, so we need to pay attention and change our behavior. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t adopt and change of culture on how we preserve our hedgerows and the whole natural cycle."

The RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch (shown below) indicates a overall decline in bird populations around Greenwich. The State of Nature report, launched earlier this year by Sir David Attenborough at the Natural History Museum, found 60 per cent of all of the UK's wildlife is in decline, which will have an impact on the sound and make-up of the environment as well as serious implications for British ecosystems.

 

|Create Infographics

RSPB spokesman Tim Webb said: "Sadly, the way we manage our environment is breaking the links between interactions between the soil, birds plants, bugs and creatures, which all play a role in maintaining nature and its health.

“The good news is that we are aware of the issues and we can and MUST improve and increase natural spaces alongside the provision of new homes for people.

“Done well, green spaces improve our mental and physical well-being while also providing homes for nature. The expertise and technology is readily available, all we need now is the legislative and financial will to make it reality. We can now create an 'urban Eden' if we work together and look to the future."

For more information on ATM's work go to: globalstreetart.com/atm

For more information on bird populations and how you can help go to: http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/

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