Getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning is hard, especially after you’ve had a hectic work week. But more and more I find myself loving the fact that the London Mural Preservation Society gives me good reason to do so. And the East London Line Mural Walk last Saturday was one fantastic mix of inspiring murals, great conversation and exploring parts of London I’ve never been to before.
This was the first time that Ruth Miller has organized the East London walk and it involved looking at several murals from New Cross to Dalston, using the London Overground to get to and fro. The first stop was Riders of the Apocalypse at New Cross that was painted by Brian Barnes who also worked on the Nuclear Dawn mural in Brixton. Vibrantly colourful and quite humorously doomsdayish, I’m beginning to recognize a number of similarities between the two works and the political references Barnes uses.
From there we moved on to Surrey Quays where we looked at the Osprey Estate Mural by Positive Arts who do such a great job of taking street art to local schools and communities. And the best thing about working with them is that you come away feeling incredibly talented and happy, even though all you might have done is have a chat with them, splotch about and drop some paint on your shoes.
We then walked down to the mural in the Dockers shelter by the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. Painted by Bermondsey Arts Group, one thing that stands out when you look at this piece is that Surrey Quays has come a long way from the scenes depicted in this mural. And how stark a contrast this mural is to the neighbouring Surrey Docks murals in the busy shopping centre? What amused me no end is that the murals in the shopping centre have been commissioned by Tesco (a giant store stands nearby) and executed by the Greenwich Mural Workshop. It’s not very often that you get giant retailers involved in murals, but hey there’s room for hope.
Of all the murals that I saw that afternoon I have a favourite. And though after having researched murals for years now, Ruth says it’s hard to have one favourite, I was still trying to find mine. And we were almost mid walk, slightly tired and the conversation was just beginning to die down when at Shadwell my heart went BOOM! We turned a corner and there was The Battle of Cable Street that truly and completely took my breath away. Gigantic, monumental and incredibly executed, this mural has a colourful history not only in terms of the scene it depicts but also the artists who got involved in the project. Go take a look at it because trust me, this one will make you remember all the reasons we love art and why we need it in our faces on a daily basis.
The last two murals we covered were the 2011 Mile End mural by Mychael Barratt and the Hackney Peace Carnival mural at Dalston. Both were stunning especially the latter which was a fitting end to the afternoon. And even if I hadn’t seen a single mural I liked that day, I was happy enough to get the chance to meet some interesting people that I might never have ordinarily met.
In a big teeming city like London, we’re always going somewhere or getting home. How often do we pause to have a chat with the person sitting next to you on the tube, or looking at the same work of art in a gallery? And that’s what these walks are about. You get to see some public art, take in a big fresh breath of pause, and have a chat with people who come from different backgrounds but have surprisingly a lot in common with you. And yes, you are all bound by the desire to do something stimulating on a Saturday morning to make it like no other.
If you do want to join Ruth Miller on a mural walk, we are having another instalment of the Brixton Mural walk on 15 July 2012. We meet outside the Stockwell Tube station at 2pm and would love for you to come. If you decide to join, don’t forget to get your walking shoes on and bring your cameras along.