With Michelle’s 29th Birthday yesterday, she wanted to spend some time with her friends at the weekend. We had a romantic evening in Windsor, but on Saturday morning we got up early to head off into London and make the most of the beautiful blue skies. My wife had booked us on a sight seeing tour with a difference for Saturday lunchtime. Originally the guest list had been as many eight but this was whittled down (for various reasons) to just five (Michelle, Andy, Ruby, Steve and Magda). I was rather apprehensive to be honest, particularly as this was a “pay as you like” tour. However, it was rated number one out of two hundred and eighteen tours of London registered on Trip Advisor. Surely we could put faith in the crowd (or is that cloud) reviews from the previous attendees. I am sure they do not just give away Certificates of Excellence! We got the train to Ealing Broadway, caught the Central Line all the way to Liverpool Street. Here we met up with Steve and Magda before heading out into the glorious sunshine. This was not a day to be spent indoors or wasting away on domestic chores. A beautiful day and I had already packed the special medicine in my rucksack, although my wife and dearest friends did not quiet feel it was PIMMS O’ Clock at 11:40am.
We headed to Spitalfields, by the RBS head office building and met underneath the bright white goat statue. The details on the tour confirmation detailed a maximum tour group of six but were placed in a group of perhaps twice as much. We were assigned to guy Ben, of the three guides there. Head guide, and main organiser Gary (with an silver Asus tablet that seemed to have died, so he had switched to pen and paper – provided by tourists.) I believe we hit the jackpot with Ben, a very personable chap. We would learn more about him over the course of the tour.
We headed off on our tour of the area, which would take us full circle just outside the City Walls through Brick Lane, the old Truman Brewery, over across to Shoreditch High Street, before finally coming full circle back into Spitalfields. It was a great tour and it was only half an hour into the tour that our guide revealed he was not only a graduate in fine art but a street artist on his own right. We saw one of his pieces (legally with permission from the building owner, a Mr. Hussein) just off curry house epicentre Brick Lane. Mr. Hussein arrived promptly on queue in his white transit to thank Ben in person and usher us into his back yard to take some photos at close range.
We learnt a great deal about urban art but also a brief history of the area, the three waves of immigration to London from the 1600s to the 1950s. The two hour tour opened my eyes up to a world, which I had rarely considered. There is more to urban art than media darling Banksy. Even if his work is of a political thought provoking nature, a great deal of the artwork on display on the streets of London is purely creative.
Like many people, we were inspired by the recent episode of The Apprentice (Week Eight) where the candidates had to hold an urban art exhibition and sell work on behalf of two artists they had chosen. We saw work by Nathan Bowen, who featured on the show but I believe most of the show focused on artwork in Bristol rather than London. Although they did visit some art gallery in the capital.
Now late on Saturday evening, I have been reading up about Urban Art online and discovered that our guide Ben Slow has his own Tumblr and FlickR account. I have uploaded all my photos over to a fresh FlickR set but I need to spend some time relabelling all the photographs. My personal favourites were the hoodie wearing thug from the August summer riots and the man in the cowboy hat (particularly interesting if you understand the delicate technique used)