Street Art Celebrates City’s Seedy Past

Sylvia Ditchburn with her mural 'Garden of Earthly Delights' on Ogden Street
Sylvia Ditchburn with her mural 'Garden of Earthly Delights' on Ogden Street

The latest addition to Townsville’s Street Art Trail is a bright and beautiful piece in artist Sylvia Ditchburn’s signature style – but it gives a sneaky little hat-tip to Townsville’s sordid past.

The colourful piece that adorns the back of the Discount Jeans building on Ogden Street pays tribute to Townsville’s local flora and fauna, with scenes depicting the Town Common, Ross Creek and the Port; but it is ‘the lady of the night’ lounging amid it all that Sylvia is quick to point out.

“Ogden Street was a street of ill-repute years ago and I thought ‘oh, we can’t dismiss that’,” explains Sylvia. “I’ve named it The Garden of Earthly Delights, which of course has many implications.”

History reveals that the street, formerly named Flinders Lane, was renamed after Anthony Ogden who served as Mayor of Townsville from 1924 to 1927 and as Council Alderman on-and-off from 1891 to 1930. The City had wanted to rename the street in Ogden’s honour, but he refused to accept until the ‘slum-like conditions’ were rectified.

“He said he wanted this street cleaned up before he put his name to it,” Sylvia said. “So he wanted all the brothels and the card games and everything gone. But then interestingly enough we have a red light shop here still, so history does repeat itself!”

Sylvia Ditchburn with her mural 'Garden of Earthly Delights' on Ogden Street
Sylvia Ditchburn’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ was inspired by the ‘slum-like conditions’ of Ogden Street’s past.

Sylvia has a number of public works scattered across the Townsville region including murals at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville Civic Theatre and Masonic Care Queensland building in Kirwan, as well as public seating on Castlemaine Street; and said she was proud to add another piece to her legacy.

“I’ve lived here for quite a number of years now so it’s nice to be identified as a Townsville person.”

However, Sylvia can not be sure of the longevity of this piece, given plans to develop Townsville’s new Bus Hub on Ogden Street. A neighbouring building bearing a mural of Cathy Freeman has already been slated for demolition and the future of the Discount Jeans building is unclear.

“It’s been sold too, so I found out after I started painting,” said Sylvia. “I don’t know who’s bought it and they’re not taking over until the end of the year.”

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