Leah Byron

Tour of the Street Art of East London

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Being from a small town in Minnesota, USA, I am not that familiar with street art. So when I came to London, one of the things that I wanted to do was to go on a walking street art tour. Some of my friends and I went one afternoon when we were free to East London. One of the things that I really enjoyed was the spontaneity of it all. It was far less structured than I imagined, but it was quite an enjoyable experience and it’s one of the best tours I’ve been on. We all showed up to meet our tour guide and then off we went!

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The tour guide was taking us to some very famous works, and to some not so famous, which intrigued me to say the least. Some of the more famous artists included Stik and Christiaan Nagel. The entire tour takes about two hours and it takes place all outdoors. Being London, it started raining during the tour. The tour was well-done. They showed us many different types of art work both graffiti and street art, which I learned were two different concepts. I learned about the different works and how they were made. There were a lot of really good stories behind the art featured on the tour. I expected there to be a lot of spray paint work, but I saw a lot more than just spray paint (though there was a good amount of it). Artists would use all types of materials to make their installations. There was also sculpture and even one artist who used legos.

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A funny moment happened when we were walking to our next destination and we passed a man with eccentric blue and green hair. The tour guide we had greeted him and it turns out that he was one of the young, local street artists. I though that was randomly humorous because it was so unexpected. But that was very interesting to see and meet a local street artist who seem to be anonymous. It just made it a little more realistic and personal and gave the experience some more perspective, delving deeper into the lives of these artists.

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The time and effort that these artists put into their work is incredible. They put themselves at risk just for self-expression. Most of the time, the work of street artists has a political or social point to get across. That is the difference between street art and graffiti, which makes the work have more of an impact to the intended audience.

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What I think is interesting is that there really isn’t any other place in London that has street art like East London. Out of all the places I have been, I have not seen street art/graffiti at the same caliber that East London has set. It makes the place so unique and a stand-out to the other places. I do not spend time looking at the walls of South Kensington, for example. There is a certain culture and appreciation of the street art that really makes it special. I think it holds a lot of pride for the locals that live in the area.

If you would like to book a tour, click here.

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