Belfast Telegraph

Teenage Dreams graffiti team deny removing DJ John Peel from mural over teen sex allegations

By Linda Stewart

The graffiti team and youth clubs behind a new version of the Teenage Dreams mural on an east Belfast flyover have denied the name of DJ John Peel was left off the revamped version because of allegations he had sex with an underage girl.

There had been speculation that given the recent avalanche of abuse cases centred on fallen BBC stars, including Jimmy Savile, that a decision had been taken to keep Peel's name from the artwork at Bridge End.

Peel himself bragged about his exploits with children as young as 13.

As a young man he worked as a DJ in Texas in a local radio station and years later recalled that girls, some as young as 13, used to queue up outside his radio station.

"Well, of course I didn't ask for ID. All they wanted me to do was to abuse them sexually which, of course, I was only too happy to do."

In 1965, aged 26, Peel married a 15-year-old American girl called Shirley Anne Milburn. He later claimed she and her family had lied about her age. They divorced in 1973.

Sara Houston, neighbourhood renewal coordinator with East Belfast Partnership, said the youth groups came up with the design of the mural and there was no specific conversation about including John Peel's name.

"Their average age is 15 and I'm not sure how much John Peel would resonate with them. There was no specific conversation about it," she said.

"There was so much public outcry when the mural came down and so much desire to get it up again. We were happy to get involved and work with the young people on doing that."

The artwork was wiped out of existence a couple of years ago when painted out by DSD workers.

Its removal sparked a public outcry. Some were furious it had been removed, while others questioned why it was there in the first place.

At the time, the secretive graffiti team behind the mural said they had no immediate plans to repaint the mural.

One of the TDS Graffiti Crew commented then: "It grew bigger than was ever intended because of the lyrics and the sentiments of the lyrics.

"It was all good while it lasted, but it might turn up again."

Clinton Kirkpatric, youth worker with Ballymac Youth Club, said the new mural is about teenagers and the power of music and another is planned.

"The mural was a very wonderful thing for the city to have. To have that go back up and also have the new mural going up alongside it, is quite great.

"It will be very bright and engaging for that area," he said.

On the Peel controversy, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle would only say: "The remit of the project was to restore the original lyric and we hope that it will be received positively in the community."

Music writer and broadcaster Stuart Bailie said it was good to have a bit of rock 'n' roll back.

He said he wasn't qualified to comment on John Peel's personal life, but was happy to see the Teenage Kicks lyric restored.

"It salutes one of the greatest songs ever from Northern Ireland and Terri Hooley who released the record."

Factfile

The mural reading 'Teenage Dreams, so hard to beat' first appeared overnight after the death of BBC radio DJ John Peel and was a line from The Undertones classic Teenage Kicks, described by the broadcaster as his favourite song. It also read: 'John Peel 1939-2004 RIP'. There was an outcry when it was removed.

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