A woman who chalked a giant gratitude mural to the NHS onto the wall of her terraced house has been ordered to take it down by social housing officers.

Susan Lazenby has been told to wash away the artwork by Friday (April 2), so as not to “attract further graffiti in the area.”

The 52-year-old started the mural in the first lockdown when shielding at her home in Gearing Close, Tooting, due to previous heart conditions.

Susan and her NHS mural

Susan and her NHS mural

Forced to give up work as a special needs teaching assistant at Furzedown Primary School, and unable to go out to the shops or exercise, she described feeling like a “prisoner in her own house.” 

She began creating a mural on the end wall of her row of houses to lift her mood.

Miss Lazenby said: “It was so comforting to get into those little cracks, it was like therapy. I consulted my neighbours before, and they would bring chairs and have a socially distanced chat with me as I worked.

“I drew everything that was taken from us in the pandemic. Neighbours would ask me to add in symbols for them, such as a Ramadan or Hindu sign. I put in local boys playing their computer games.

“But the main bit is the rainbow and the cloud to thank the NHS. We have a nurse who lives near who loves it.”

However, Miss Lazenby said a neighbour complained to her social housing provider, Optivo, about the artwork, voicing concerns that it was permanent.

She received letters and phone calls instructing her to wash the wall, which she hoped would stay up until June.

Susans NHS mural

Susan's NHS mural

She added: “The mural has been drawn using nothing but coloured chalk and charcoal. The chalk and charcoal can be easily washed off with warm soapy water.”

“I spend the end of every day bucketing down the path under the mural to ensure no chalk is left on the path.”

An Optivo spokesperson said: “We recognise and fully support our heroic NHS and their hard work, particularly over the last year.

“In the spirit of this, we agreed that the chalk drawn mural to celebrate our NHS, erected on a wall outside our properties in Gearing Close, could remain until the end of April 2021.

“However, the mural has been the subject of a number of complaints from local residents, who’ve asked for this to be removed, due to concerns that it could attract further graffiti in the area.

“Due to the sensitivity of this matter and given the current situation we’re in, we’re working with those involved to come to a mutual agreement on this matter.”

Miss Lazenby’s son, Charlie Watts, said he could not understand the “unjust” actions of the housing officers. 

He argued the mural brought “joy and positivity” to the community.

The 27-year-old said: “The mural gave mum some purpose during this tough time and gave her the opportunity to express her gratitude to the NHS for all they have done during this pandemic, and to thank them for saving her life when she was diagnosed with heart failure back in 2019.”

Susans NHS mural

Susan's NHS mural

“She was admitted to St George's Hospital where she spent three weeks in the Heart Failure Unit. The NHS ambulance staff and staff at St George's Hospital saved Mum’s life, and we cannot thank them enough for what they have done.”

“The mural is not graffiti. It is an expression of gratitude to the NHS for all the fantastic work they have done and sacrifice they have made for us in the last 12 years.

“For Mum to be ordered to wash the mural off is completely unjust and an insult to our NHS.”