Street Art in London’s East End

Posted on
Jan 13, 2015
 

 

I tried to do a street art walking tour when we were last in London. I’ve always wanted to take one, to have someone point out the Banskys that I’ve walked by a dozen times and failed to notice. When we were there in the fall, the weather was unseasonably warm (the last day of October it reached an unheard of 70-degrees in the city. I wore a sundress. Rand had on short sleeves.) – perfect for wandering through the East End and admiring the works of not-quite-unknown artists.

The problem was, I couldn’t find a tour. Despite what their websites claimed, tours were on weekends only, and I was looking for something on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. So Rand and I just went on our own.

This was less jarring for him than it was for me. When we tour museums, I read every single placard and note. I need context and background. I need someone to tell me exactly what I’m looking at, or, failing that, at least who made it and when. But Rand roams around freely, scarcely reading a thing. He just meanders through a gallery and stops only when he sees something that calls his attention.

It’s madness. And it’s what we did in the East End on that sunny day.

I don’t remember where we started. On Brick Lane, maybe?

 

It’s wasn’t all that different from a gallery, really. Except for the bags of trash lying near the works. And the fact that you can take lots of pictures and not feel gauche.

Bonus: no matter what you have on, you will probably match the background.

 

Note the bare arms and lack of coats. It was literally colder in South Africa.

 

And absolutely everything is mixed media:

Love the inclusion of James Cagney in this piece (or is it pieces?)

 

With street art, everything becomes a collaboration.

 

Some of the works were massive, encompassing an entire storefront. It was impossible to miss them:

 

Others you had to search for, or you’d walk right by and miss them.

 

Here’s the same little guy again, in the lower right-hand corner. I assume it’s the same artist, but it’s hard to say. Street art can be derivative. Literally. Someone makes something, and someone else builds upon it.

 

We stopped a few times. Once for a snack:

 

(This was at Beigel Bakery on Brick Lane, which I highly recommend.)

This photo is misleading, because it suggests that Rand actually got to eat the sandwich he bought himself. I ate most of it.

 

Or was it twice for a snack?

This place was affordable and delicious. More about it in another post.

 

And we popped into stores as we went along. That’s the upside of not having a guide or an itinerary. You don’t really know what you are looking at, but you go at your own pace. You get lost. You shop. You eat bagels. And you appreciate things for what they are.

Sometimes, you are even able to figure out the story behind some of the works.

This is a mural of Charlie Burns, known as the King of Bacon Street. His family has owned a business in the area for more than 150 years. He’s kind of a legend:

 

Conversely, I have no idea what’s going on here:

… but isn’t it grand?

That’s a sentiment we kept repeating again and again. I don’t know what this is, but it’s amazing.

Actually, I know what this is.

 

I’ve learned that when it comes to appreciating art, or places, or even people, that’s the only thing you really need to remember.

—————

If you want to take a guided tour of the street art in London’s East End, there are plenty of options to chose from (though during the summer there are inevitably more tours). I cannot vouch for any of these personally, but I’ve listed a few below (note: I’m doing so of my own volition and not at the behest of any of these groups). I contacted several of these on my last trip, but was unable to book anything, so if you want to take one, plan well ahead:

Leave a Comment

More from The Blog

On Instagram @theeverywhereist

  • Here it is, folks. The paperback edition of my book is out today. The hardcover came out more than two years ago, so it's wonderful to know that this story of mine still has life and is, gasp, still selling copies. Don't miss the book that Lauren Graham called "the travel companion you'll be happy you brought along" and that some guy on Twitter said was "immature and stupid." It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound. #bookstagram #summerreading #bookworms
  • This lady. ❤️❤️❤️ So proud of her.
  • HAPPY LAUNCH DAY!! I really want to curl up in bed with this amazing novel today, but I can't - for an amazing reason. Because I'm going to be at the Lake Forest Park location of Third Place Books tonight, discussing it with the author, my dear friend @andreadunlop. Lady, I'm so proud of you. ❤️ ❤️❤️ #bookstagram #summerreading
  • Baking in an AirBnB is always an adventure. I didn't have a measuring cup for the flour so I eyeballed it, and had to use a wine bottle as a rolling pin to make these handpies. Not my best work, but @demeritt and @randderuiter seemed cool with the results, so I'm going to accept that sometimes good enough is, well, enough. 🥧🍴
  • "I hit the jackpot." That's how I once heard Michael J. Fox describe his marriage years ago, and it stayed with me. I've never found a better way of describing our relationship than that. Bells ring. Lights flash. Coins spill everywhere. Now, where's my complimentary breakfast?
  • Someone sent Rand socks with his face all over them, and he's really bothered by this but I'm gonna rock the hell out of them.
  • I told him to stop looking at the camera.
  • Eating junk food on the ferry with this guy right before dinner is kind of the dream.
  • Does it still count as photobombing when you love it?
  • Some hardcore stuff happening in the studio today. #muglife #ceramics

All Over The Place

Buy my book and I promise I'll never ask you for anything again.

BE AWESOME. BUY IT.