The life of a graffiti artist just out of prison – “More Hate Than Fear” is the documentary unpacking the plight of London’s graffiti artists, channelling their anger at a system that disadvantages their art
“Cut his hands off”, “Tattoo his head with criminal” are some of the comments Molly Manning Walker came across on the articles about her friend, Harry Conway, after he was prosecuted for his graffiti work. In a state of shock, she was intrigued by the surrounding, one-sided narrative the media created. This began the journey of her documentary, More Hate Than Fear.
The documentary follows several artists on their trips to do ‘graf’ around London, persecuted by the council and the law for their work. “Harry is my brother’s best friend. So through hanging out with Harry I slowly met more and more graffiti artists. It was never a forced environment, it felt very honest and natural,” explains Walker. “There’s a lot of good stories. One of the artists was imprisoned for 15 months, but on release he was paid by the council to teach kids how to graffiti! It highlights the absurd circle that councils get stuck in.”
“Every time I went out with them there was a story. In spending a lot of time with them, I began to get an idea of their routines. Watching them hide their laptops up fireplaces and hard drives under floor boards, when they were leaving the house, refusing to use oysters or not having an iPhone so they were untraceable. It’s a crazy way of life and I still find it fascinating.”
In a city like London, with escalating rent prices and fewer opportunities for young people, doing graf provides an escape. “There’s a whole community staying up all night and walking the train lines writing all over the walls. It’s their way of saying it’s not working for them – they aren’t happy. To break it down it’s a massive fuck you,” says Walker. For others, it’s a chance to succeed somewhere, when the schooling system lets them down. There’s an overarching sense of anger: “they want to break the rules, and write on the walls. Banksy is praised and people like Harry, Kieron and Tom are sent to jail.”
Walker concludes: “I think it’s time to end custodial sentences for writers. It’s emotionally damaging, the tax payer has paid for them to go to jail and the paints still on the wall.”