Last weekend my lovely friends treated me to a trip down to the Big Smoke as part of my ’30th year on this planet’ celebrations.
There were many exciting activities planned. Including Life Drawing at Secret Sketch, a trip up the impressive Shard building and A walking tour of East London’s street art.
The tour, run by Alternative London, was just under 2 hrs and a couple of miles in distance. You start at the Goat statue just outside the Liverpool Street tube station and finish up back in the same place. So this is perfect for tourists like us with a sense of direction so keen, we could likely get lost in a supermarket car park!
You book and pay online via their website, and then it is up to you to find the group as they wait for the tour to begin!
The tour guide apparently changes very frequently and it is complete pot-luck who you get for your tour. Our guide was a lovely gent named ‘Kia’ (or Kya? Kaia? I am unsure of the spelling but it was pronounced like the car manufacturer!). Like all the other tour guides that take part in the project, he is an active member of the east London street art community. He wouldn’t divulge any more details about his own work, unfortunately, due to the illegal nature of street art. However, he was incredibly knowledgeable of the community and gave us some amazing insights and stories about some of the street artists whose work we were able to view.
The very nature of street art means that the tour will be completely different every time it is run. Art is routinely created (usually in the early hours of the morning) and then either taken down or painted over in a matter of weeks, days, or sometimes even hours. A friend of mine was on her 5th tour and had yet to have the same guide or see any repetition in the art on each occasion.
As we walked around (in a group of about 20) our guide stopped every couple of minutes or so to talk about interesting pieces of art we passed, or on some occasions just to talk in the area an important piece had been in the past!
We saw so much it was wonderful. Anything noteworthy was fair game for the tour. From the classic spraypaint ‘graffiti’ style art, stencil work, paste-ups and even miniature bronze sculptures by the prolific ‘Jonsey’.
What I also felt was a fantastic addition to the tour was the way our guide gave us insight into the themes and surrounding politics and community issues that surround and inspire the artists of the area. East London had been the focus of a regeneration project (or ‘gentrification’, if you like) stemming from the 2012 London Olympics. Everywhere you look there are High-rise buildings growing out of the ground and modern shopping centres containing boutique and pricy brands.
Having only visited London a handful of times and being quite unaware of the finer politics of the various London Boroughs, these insights and explanations of the themes surrounding the artwork we were seeing were fantastic and completely invaluable.
A Selection Of the Art we were shown
I highly recommend this tour and if you ever find yourself in London with a couple of hours to spare, definitely go for it!
Thank you so much for reading.
Love, Beccy May.