Peterborough’s Banksy: How street art helped Nathan Murdoch through times of adversity and tragedy

Local street artist Nathan Murdoch risked his stable, corporate career to turn his lifelong passion for street art into a successful business.

By Adam Barker
Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 8:03 am
Nathan pictured stood next to his artwork in Lincoln Road.
Nathan pictured stood next to his artwork in Lincoln Road.

"When I changed the way I felt about living in this city is when my life started to change,” the Peterborough-born street artist Nathan Murdoch said from his Werrington home earlier this week.

The 36-year-old street artist’s work has come a long way from his graffiti on the streets of Eastfield where he grew up.

Through the eyes of the street artist, every wall is a canvas. His street art in the city - and the messages the pieces convey - have been viewed worldwide by thousands of people online.

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Nathan Murdoch picked up his first spray can in 1999 and the rest is history.

Most of Murdoch’s work is in Peterborough. He has grown to appreciate the city since leaving his job as a health and safety manager to start his business just under five years ago - but admits this was not always how he felt about the place.

“I love Peterborough - but I didn’t used to,” he said. “A lot of people want to leave Peterborough, but for me it’s what you make of it.

“I did a talk recently to a group of young people at Peterborough College. A lot of young people think Peterborough’s a dead end place, but I said to them: ‘I used to think that - but now I’ve got a successful business here.’

“Most of our work is in Peterborough - and we do more in this city than anywhere else.”

Murdoch has seven pieces on Lincoln Road, which you've probably walked, cycled or driven by over the years.

One of Murdoch’s most recent pieces is the Peace Mural on the side of Millfield Convenience Store on Lincoln Road. The piece features a dove breaking through a chain between two sets of hands coloured in the flags of war-torn countries Ukraine and Palestine.

Murdoch has seven pieces on Lincoln Road - a street he has developed a special admiration for.

“I’ve really grown a lot of love for the place,” he said. “I enjoy working down there.

“The Peace Mural was a privately owned building. I said to the landlord: ‘I’ll paint this building for nothing - I need somewhere public and I want to make a statement.’

“That part of the city doesn’t sleep. There’s all different types of people from all walks of life.

“I really feel that if there is anywhere in this city which could have a street art trail - and run street art tours - it’s Lincoln Road.”

Murdoch grew up in Eastfield - which he admitted wasn’t the easiest place for young people to start out in life.

He has always been creative. He picked up his first spray can in 1999, aged 13, and was the youngest member of a graffiti group called Menace in Society.

“Graffiti is where it all started,” he said. “Street art is a sub-culture which has been born more recently off the back of popularity of artists like Banksy.

“Street art is more accepted, whereas graffiti is the dirtier, grimier, letter-based side.

“I had a real passion for art growing up. I wasn’t interested in getting involved in crime. When I look back at my life to where I am now, I always think of where I could’ve been if I’d done that. To a certain extent, graffiti saved me from going down that route.

“But I never thought of doing graffiti or street art for a job. It was completely accidental.”

Street art has always been ever-present in Murdoch’s life. He previously operated anonymously under the name ‘Nathan Nyces’ before starting his street art business to hide his corporate working life.

However, it is through times of tragedy in his life that his own perception of street art changed - turning his lifelong passion into a profession.

“Over the last 20 years I’ve seen a lot of people pass away from the culture I’m involved in,” he said.

“In the years I’ve been painting, I’m now counting on toes the amount of people who have died that are involved in graffiti and street art culture.

“That tragedy - that’s what changed my mentality.

“I once met a Welsh painter who said to me: ‘none of us are normal. No painter is normal - in some of us it’s really obvious but in others it’s less so.’ There’s a lot of truth in that. It goes beyond just artists to people who are creative. There’s something else in you which is slightly unstable.”

Just as street art has always been a part of Murdoch’s life, so has his birthplace Peterborough. His most recent work is an aquarium mural on the side of the WaterZoo on Lincoln Road - where his parents used to take him as a child.

“It’s always been a part of my life and I’ve never stopped,” he said. “There have been times where I've thought I’m not good enough and times where I wanted to quit - but I never did.

"In my mind I thought: ‘I either do it now and fail, and have to get a normal job again, or I don’t and always wonder what if.’”