"For better or for worse, graffiti is normal in every city across the world." So begins the YouTube video entitled "The Graffiti That Changed a City," referring to a 20-year-old spray-painted marriage proposal on a pedestrian bridge in Sheffield, England, that "became a symbol of the city," per the BBC. That graffiti was removed in 2021, but thanks to local pushback, the building developer that scrubbed it has now reinstated it. The "I love you will u marry me" message addressed to a "Clare Middleton" was splashed across the front of a concrete walkway in the Park Hill apartment complex in 2001 by Jason Lowe, in an attempt to cajole his girlfriend into becoming his wife. Lowe's smooth move didn't work, and the pair split a few months later. Middleton died in 2007 of cancer.
Lowe's graffitied marriage proposal, however, became an iconic landmark along the Sheffield skyline, even inspiring a song by British singer Yungblud that dubbed Lowe's gesture a "quirky act of romance." Alex Turner, the frontman for Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, also started wearing Lowe's slogan on a T-shirt during concerts. The impassioned plea remained on the bridge for two decades, and housing developer Urban Splash even placed neon lights around it as part of a promotional campaign. Then, in February 2021, the developer did something that shocked Sheffield: During repair work, it painted over the graffiti with a special coating needed to bolster the bridge.
That renovation set off vigorous pushback among locals, per NME. The graffiti "symbolizes a state of mind in Sheffield," native singer Richard Hawley told BBC Radio 4 at the time. "When I first found out about this I was, probably like a lot of Sheffielders, really, really angry." Yungblud, meanwhile, tweeted he was "heartbroken." Now, Urban Splash has repainted Lowe's message back onto the bridge, in exactly the same spot, noting that had been the plan all along: The repairs were simply done to "[secure] the long-term future and maintenance of the bridge and the graffiti," it tells the BBC. The developer says the neon display will also be put back around Lowe's message. Here, more on the sad backstory behind Lowe and Middleton's relationship, and why not everyone was upset when the graffiti vanished. (Read more graffiti stories.)