In every large city there’s a grey zone between the corporate-minded core and the residential suburbs. A fluid and fluctuating area where there’s a constant struggle; one side wants expansion, the other preservation and consolidation. Think of abandoned factories and vacant plots (drop the p if you prefer American English). Car-repair companies and lock-ups. Inner-city schools and old-school pubs. Down-to-Earth cafés and corner shops. Established businesses and new start-ups. People trying to make a living where the costs are lower than in the more desirable parts of the city.
This is graffiti’s stamping ground and it’s rare to see an unadulterated wall or doorway. Some graffiti is just needless spraycan vandalism of course, but most of it isn’t. Although unintelligible scribble to the uninitiated, it’s meaningful communication to those in the know: territorial claims, warnings, threats and abuse.
Sharing the same space, there’s street art. This has a different justification. It has been created to be seen and understood by the uninitiated, by the commuters on the train or bus, by the pedestrians hurrying past and by the local workers and residents. It might have been painted to simply brighten-up a wall, to make a political statement, to shock you, to make you laugh, to make you think, to make you see the world from a different perspective or several of these at the same time. Whatever the reason, this art deserves a closer look.
If you’re in London, then Alternative London’s highly recommendable walking tours help you to take that closer look. As you’re guided around Shoreditch, the area immediately to the north of the City, prepare to scratch the surface of London’s East End street art and experience the heart beating beneath. Have your eyes opened to the rebellion and humour expressed by the many artists on the streets around Brick Lane. Dip your toes into a twilight world which often crosses the blurred boundaries of public acceptance and state legality. Learn about some of the techniques and styles used by the artists and see many impressive examples of their ongoing fight against the corporate machine changing this part of London.
Next time you’re in London, take a walk on the wild side – el Mac, the Hewett Street cowboy (pictured above) will keep an eye on you!
Where? Alternative London tours around Shoreditch, London.