Under the cover of darkness, something strange is happening in a quiet south west London suburb.
Streets signs are being framed with ornate golden borders.
Earlier this month, the frames began mysteriously appearing around Teddington. Road names, cycle restrictions and warnings to dog owners have all been targeted. The local council was quick to remove them, but, undeterred, the frames kept appearing. Over 30 in all, and counting.
A Twitter account for @PhantomFramer emerged with a self styled gilding super hero claiming to be behind the street art. In true cloak and dagger fashion (and a few direct messages on Twitter) I received a tip off for the Phantom’s imminent mission.
Last night ITV News was there as the latest frame was installed.
The Phantom doesn’t work alone. At around 10:30pm two men appeared wearing masks and made swift work of installing a beautifully crafted frame on a very average looking “Station Road” street sign. It took them only a few minutes, and they were gone.
Speaking to me a short time later, they explained why on earth they were doing this.
“We just wanted to add a bit of style and a bit of colour to people’s lives.” said one half of the team.
His partner added, “It just shows that anything with a beautifully crafted frame can be made to look beautiful.”
Richmond Council removed 13 of the first 14 frames to be installed stating that “they are not in keeping with our corporate policy for street signs and logos.” However, it seems their stance has softened as the council has also openly admitted the frames are “beautifully made”. A spokesperson told me “we are more relaxed and are not prioritising their removal at this time.”
There has been an overwhelming wave of local support for the frames. As we filmed last night one person shouted from his car window “loving your work!” and another fan, James Risk, raced up on his skateboard to the newly installed frame hoping to be the first to see it (sorry we got there first, James!)
The Phantom Framer – both of them – plan to keep up their work. As things stand, some frames are being removed and others are lasting a little longer. The pair believe that it hasn’t just been the council removing them so the latest offerings have been made with more secure fittings.
Their goal is to inspire others to start beautifying their surrounding area with well crafted frames, and their work has gained interest from as far afield as Germany, Japan and Australia.
So watch this space – a phantom frame could appear somewhere near you.
My – very similar – ITV News article and TV report is here