A lost interview with the street artist Banksy, which contains the only known instance of him revealing his first name, has been unearthed.
The 2003 recording features an interview with a BBC reporter who asks if Banksy’s real name is “Robert Banks”, to which the artist replies “It’s Robbie”.
Speculation has long been rife over the true identity of the street artist, whose work commands fees in the tens of millions and has appeared on the sides of houses, in prestigious art galleries and even on the Israeli West Bank barrier. Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, Art Attack’s Neil Buchanan and even Pembroke Dock councillor Billy Gannon have all been suspected in the past, with Gannon resigning from his post in 2022 and blaming the speculation on his inability to carry out his duties.
In 2008, the Daily Mail “unmasked” Banksy as Robin Cunningham, a then-34-year old former public school boy – although the artist denied this. An ongoing lawsuit, however, threatens to reveal his full name. Banksy is being sued by a company that claims he “gravely damaged” its reputation with a 2022 Instagram post that read: “Alerting all shoplifters. Please go to GUESS on Regent Street. They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to their clothes?”
The unearthed interview will do nothing to dissuade people that Banksy is Cunningham. It is also notable as one of the earliest known radio interviews with the street artist, who was in his 20s at the time and preparing to open Banksy’s Turf War show in east London. Among other topics, it features him responding to accusations of vandalism: “I’m not here to apologise for it. It’s a quicker way of making your point, right?” he said, before adding: “Go out! Trash things! Have fun! Other people, they can change it. They can get rid of it.”
The full interview can be heard on BBC Sounds in the latest episode of Radio 4’s The Banksy Story.