The British Transport Police arrested several graffiti taggers during December, and announced that they would be cracking down on Christmas vandalism, presumably to encourage the taggers to stay at home and enjoy a game of Pictionary with Granny and some seasonal satsumas. Fronted the BTP: "Our message is we're going to be out there, we're going to be looking for you, and there's a high risk you're going to be caught." Unfortunately it seems to have provoked some taggers to break into Camden Town tube station (according to Bixentro, who has some pictures too) over Christmas, covering the place liberally.
The defacement of the adverts is nearly as surprising as that of the underground signs themselves, which is interesting given that we're used to seeing adverts amateurishly defaced with stickers, biro moustaches and used chewing gum deposited on the eyes of the models (there's perhaps an essay on orality, rubbish, beauty and the denial of vision waiting to be written by a post-Freudian in that). This surprise is no doubt because the tube is normally such a controlled and graffiti-free -- if not always dirt-free -- environment.
One of the BTP's arguments on graffiti is that it's perceived as an indicator of lack of control and safety - a "broken windows" argument that I find fairly persuasive in respect of public transport (and, I think, the reason why I feel more forgiving of graffiti on the street, particularly when its content isn't as defiantly vindictive as this). TfL's staff have tagged up Camden Town's graffiti for removal... and so more public money will be spent cleaning it off.
Update, 28 Dec:
TfL are starting to clean off the graffiti.
Dave Knapik in his post here and comments here liked it but is making the point that an appeal to value on aesthetic grounds is pointless. He liked the graffiti - as do the taggers obviously - and others don't; these are all valid opinions. (Though the balancing of one person's freedom of expression against another's experienced quality of life tends to to go unexamined in these aesthetic discussions.) But I think that because the tube is a delicate socio/operational/technical/economic system that runs at capacity, the issue of "utility" outweighs that of whether the graffiti "intervention" has aesthetic value.
So the utilitarian assessment might be: whether the running of the tube service is affected (no, thankfully); whether the experience of tube users is impacted negatively (arguably yes: I find BTP's broken windows argument fairly persuasive*); whether staff are demoralised (I don't know); whether public money will be wasted in the clean up (definitely, yes); whether the break in itself presented a significant safety risk, or merely highlighted an existing security gap (arguable). And maybe even: is the intervention part of an appropriate and constructive exchange between taggers and BTP (probably not, though it's unlikely that a constructive exchange is possible). On balance then, whilst I quite liked some of it, I think it's a shame it happened.
* Though I don't find all of BTP's arguments compelling. And it has to be said that the argument on perception-of-control/safety is itself complicated by the fact that TfL themselves undermine the clarity of their presentation and services at times.