The 76-year-old theoretical physicist and author of ‘A Brief History of Time’ passed away on March 14 and the graffiti appeared on March 25.
Network Rail, the company which owns the bridge, has said that it would consider requests not to remove the graffiti. The company, which spends 3.5 million pounds each year removing unwanted graffiti, said it does not condone or encourage the use of railway infrastructure as a canvas for street artists.
“But we would consider requests not to remove artwork that did not impact on the safety of the railway and was not offensive,” a spokesperson said.
Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge, where Hawking was a Fellow, described it as a “touching tribute” to the scientist.
The senior bursar of the college, David Secher, who knew Hawking for 45 years, said: “He loved Cambridge and Cambridge loved him. The art is a symbol of how he touched lives in the city and instilled a sense of pride in its residents.”
The mystery artist behind the mural of the cosmologist’s face and a silhouette of him on his wheelchair with the words “Be Curious” was revealed by ‘Cambridge News‘ as Kyle Warwick, a tattoo artist from Cambridge this week. He is surprised that the graffiti has been left alone for as long as it already has.
“I was really surprised the graffiti is still there to be honest, as it usually goes really quickly. I’ve had really positive feedback so far about the graffiti. Cambridge is a small city but I’m very proud of the way we do things here,” he said.
The design resembles a black hole – with reference to the physicist’s love of the universe. Warwick said he got a picture of Hawking from Google and began sketching it out before adding colours to it.
“There’s a group of other artists who worked on the other parts of the design – I only did the portrait. Another artist did the graffiti letters, but they want to be anonymous,” he said.
“I’m Cambridge born and bred, and Stephen Hawking used to come to my primary school in Newnham back in the day. I remember his visits always being a really big thing. I’ve also always been interested in physics and things like that – so I thought a graffiti portrait of Prof. Hawking would be a really fitting tribute,” he added.
There are also plans underway for the city’s newest railway station to be named after Hawking. Cambridge mayor, Councillor George Pippas, said naming a new railway station near Addenbrooke’s Hospital after the city’s famous resident would be a nice way of paying tribute to his support for the state-funded National Health Service and also the work the hospital had done to help him after his motor neuron disease diagnosis.
“When he was young, he was not given much time to live and, thanks to the hospital, he was given a new lease of life… he was one of the strongest advocates for the NHS and helped put Addenbrooke’s on the map,” Pippas said.
The proposal is set to be raised at the local council’s meetings and with Hawking’s family.
Thousands had lined the streets of the city last month for the scientist’s funeral last week at Great St Mary’s Church, part of the University of Cambridge. His ashes will be buried at Westminster Abbey in London in June, near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.
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