Nestled in East London is a jumbled collection of streets, many of them narrow, filled with dark brick buildings, cafes, independent stores and an astounding amount of street art. Richard and I set off one Saturday for the opposite side of the city to partake in an enlightening street art walking tour of Shoreditch – London’s hipster homeground.
In a city the size of London, it’s easy to be stuck in your borough and think that all of London is just like your neighbourhood. Living in West London and working in Central London means we rarely venture in a northerly, easterly or southerly direction. Everyone always talks about Shoreditch being a thriving area with a lot to offer. Artists and writers tend to gather there so it’s a naturally cultural scene on a perhaps more affordable scale than the infamous West End. Having absolutely no prior knowledge about street art, the street art tour was a great way to learn something new and get an introduction to this area that is so different from where we live, it could be in another city altogether.
Historically, Shoreditch was removed from the main part of London. These days, as London as expanded, it’s considered generally part of Central London. We walked along streets with homes that were hundreds of years old, miraculously surviving heavy bombing during WWII. The area was never well-to-do and in fact, is not necessarily so now. But there is a great sense of industrious survival about it.
Street art has popped up all over the area in many forms, and it’s an ever-changing scene. Recording what you see and sharing it with others is the way this kind of art survives, because it can be covered by something else or removed at any moment. That dynamism was something I’d never thought about before, and it was pretty cool to gain a view into this active community of artists creating a modern day palimpsest on the walls of East London.
While most street art is illegal, sometimes property owners are open to helping out these artists by providing them with a space to work. On one of the streets we wandered through, the majority of buildings are owned by a “Mr Shah” who allows artists to adorn the walls with some pretty striking pieces. It’s a vibrant space that holds so much artistic skill.
Shoreditch is certainly different to other parts of London we have explored so far. The atmosphere is similar to parts of Chelsea in New York with it’s young and hip crowd that appreciate art and retro pursuits. The food scene looks fantastic and there is a buzz about the place that I really enjoyed. Doing the tour opened my eyes to a whole segment of the artistic world that I would have just walked past on my own. Going back would be so great because probably all the art we saw on our tour would be replaced with something new and fresh – some of it is probably already gone.