Artist who paints on chewing gum on Millennium Bridge told treasured artworks will be removed

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An artist who paints images on hundreds of discarded pieces of chewing gum has been told many of his mini-artworks will be removed.

Ben Wilson, also known as the 'chewing gum man', has been creating his unique type of art on London's Millennium Bridge for a decade.

But the bridge needs some repair work and a good clean which is bad news for Ben and his 600 little paintings.

"I’m really upset, I put my whole heart into the work that I create," Ben told ITV News London.

Many of the pieces have messages from the people he has met here, including love messages, 'rest in peace' messages and 'will you marry me?' pictures.

Another of Ben's colourful artworks on Millennium Bridge Credit: ITV News

The City Bridge Foundation has agreed to keep some of the artworks but for Ben it's not enough so he started a petition.

"I would like to at least protect 250 pictures and I’ve got a petition. People have come to see my work from Germany and America.

"I feel a real connection to the ridge because out of everyone in the world I’ve been here the most. People say ‘that’s your bridge!’

"We live in a throwaway consumerist society and I’m trying to recycle something that has been discarded."

The City Bridge Foundation said there were thousands of pieces of chewing gum on the bridge, including those which Ben has painted and many which are not painted.

A statement added: "Millennium Bridge is a major London landmark linking two of the capital’s top tourist destinations, and we need to make sure it’s not only structurally sound but is clear of any dirt and debris, including chewing gum, and looks clean and tidy.

"However, we recognise the value of Ben’s art and the fact it is well loved by many people, so in consultation with him, we have offered to let him keep a limited number of pieces of his art, which will be preserved during the maintenance work and cleaning.

"We will work with Ben to identify which pieces are kept.

"We feel this strikes the right balance between keeping the bridge looking spick and span and allowing people to continue to enjoy some of the artwork Ben has created on the bridge."

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