Layth's take: Arsenal's cult artist Northbanksy pays tribute to Goonerholic 
Northbanksy's acclaimed street art tribute to the late Dave Faber - aka Goonerholic

The world lost a fine man and passionate Arsenal supporter late last year - but a cult underground artist has been busy keeping his memory alive.

The much-loved and respected Dave Faber – otherwise known to his legion of friends, admirers and readers as the Goonerholic – sadly passed away in the early hours of Christmas Day.

Yet a shadowy, subversive street artist nicknamed Northbanksy has received widespread acclaim for his artistic tribute to Dave in the shadows of the Emirates.

Speaking exclusively to VAVEL, Northbanksy - who describes himself as a ‘painter, decorator and vandal’ – revealed details of his picture of the much-missed Goonerholic which has been hailed by many, including Dave’s family. 

Goonerholic was one of the first blogs I got into,” he said, speaking under condition of anonymity. 

“It was old school blogging before Twitter and social media evolved into what it is now. He was a like a fanzine online.

“He created a community online but a friendly one with values and decency. He was so loved and respected by so many.

“I wanted to pay tribute in my own way but it had to be right. I wanted to do something creative to honour him – but there had to be a real likeness otherwise it could be interpreted as mocking.

“Dave held court in The Tollington pub before Arsenal games so I wanted the tribute to be somewhere near there, so that many who drank with him would see it.”

Admiration for a wonderful man

There was certainly nothing other than admiration for his well-received effort on Hornsey Road, which was seen by a large number of Arsenal supporters on their way to watch Mikel Arteta’s side beat Leeds United in the FA Cup third round at the nearby Emirates on Monday evening. 

Blogger Dave was widely admired for his love of the Gunners, his measured, intelligent writing and social media musings on the club, music, life and everything in between.

Many sent personal messages of condolence to his partner Pauline, Dave’s family and pals and all those whose lives he made better simply by being in them, through his writing, a pre or post match pint at The Arsenal, or by his kind and thoughtful nature, his emotional intelligence, great sensitivity and tact, as well as wise counsel.

Condolences on social media came from many hundreds and thousands of Arsenal fans brought together in their grief, while at the club’s recent Premier League home matches with Chelsea and Manchester United in north London – and far beyond – those whose lives were touched by Dave raised a glass to a good man. 

He liked a pint of Guinness, had an encyclopedic knowledge of music and would love nothing better than to talk all things Arsenal and his favourite players.

Such was his renown and the esteem he was held in, at the time of his death the official Arsenal Twitter account shared a fulsome tribute to Dave with their 15 million followers hailing him as ‘truly a Gooner’, while the matchday programme made space for a warm obituary in their publication for the match against Chelsea home at the Emirates before the turn of the new year.

Arsenal One Love

Before embarking on his homage, Northbanksy consulted with a few renowned graffiti artists in Berlin and Shoreditch, some with connections to the don of street art, Banksy himself.

After ruling out a number of options Northbanksy’s attention was drawn to a possible site: a blank advertising hoarding near the Tollington.

Northbanksy takes up the story and the process of his art. “Normally street artists don’t use advertising hoardings but as it was blank I thought: ‘Why not?’

“I chose a photo, ran it through an app to generate a stencil or negative image which I cropped. I then projected the image on the hoarding, traced the outlines with a fat marker pen, then filled the details in with black marker and paint before adding the background in black and captioned it all off. 

“It’s pretty easy if you are working on a paper type background, but more difficult with brickwork or concrete.

"As I was working on it, I wasn't sure whether would come out looking like him. But I finished, stood back - and it really did look like Dave.

"I then added the dates, the heart and the 'Arsenal - One Love' line.

“I believe Arsenal is for everybody, whether you’re a supporter from Nigeria or a season ticket holder in north London. Dave was a kind gentleman who saw the best in everyone and treated everyone the same. 

“It was only seen for a while before it was papered over. But it was captured and shared by a number of people, so in a way the image will last for a long time.

We Care Do You 

It is understood Dave’s family were also moved by the artwork adding they had a warm feeling in knowing so many other people’s lives were touched by Dave over the years. They also hailed the artwork saying it captured his ‘beautiful, happy essence.’ 

Such was the impact of Northbanksy’s artwork, the influential supporter group We Care Do You included his tribute to Goonerholic in their latest message to the club’s owner Stan Kroenke, Kroenke Sports Enterprises and the board in north London. 

Instead of simply issuing a press release, the fans alliance projected an evocative three minute video montage – including Northbanksy’s effort - on a wall near the old Highbury.

The setting of the video, which many fans stopped to watch on their way to the Leeds match - between Avenell Road and Gillespie Road - was no coincidence, rather, it was loaded with history.  

The former is where the famous marble halls still reside along with the façade of the art deco East Stand, now incorporated into a housing development called Highbury Square. 

The latter is where you can find Arsenal tube station - the name of which legendary former manager Herbert Chapman persuaded underground chiefs to change the name from Gillespie Road to Arsenal in the 1930s. 

We want our owners to be interested in our club,” Northbanksy said of the We Care Do You campaign, intended to highlight the club’s decline under the decade-long ownership of the Kroenke’s as they attempt to keep the spotlight on the unpopular absentee owner.

“If they don’t care then they should disinvest,” he added. “We want to see that they care enough to make a difference. The Kroenkes should understand such protest is not going away and We Care will always try and hold them accountable.”

As Arsenal supporters stopped to watch the display which featured pictures, photographs and artwork depicting Highbury and much-loved former players including the late Geordie Armstong and others, many fans were visibly heartened on seeing Goonerholic’s image.

The Arsenal Way 

As the talented Northbanksy - who has plans for more visceral artwork having caused already stir with previous graffiti in and around N5 - said of his creative tribute to Goonerholic: “Everything is transient. 

“Nothing lasts forever, including people. But there was a purity to Dave The Goonerholic's support for Arsenal.

“And his memory will live on because of the values he stood for and the good person he was.

"We were always known as a club which had class, that stood for respect and doing things the right way.

“I hope my small contribution helps add to that in some way.”

For more on Northbanksy and future projects follow @northbanksyafc.