So school’s out for a few weeks and with so much free time on my hands what else is there to do but explore London for the great city that it is right? Only problem is, finding exciting stuff to do here can rack up quite a dent in your bank account if you are not careful. My tip to any newbie in London would be to find events/activities that cost 10£ and below, to partake in. Most of them turn out to be free/cheaper if you go in a group or sign up early.
My friend Jordaania found this amazing website called Funzing that curates a whole bunch of unique and fun events and experiences to do in London. The first event we signed up for was a street art tour of east London. I had been there a month ago on assignment and I absolutely loved the eclecticism of the place so was really glad to get an opportunity to go back and explore it better.
Unluckily for us, it was an overcast day on the day of our tour and the rain clouds were threatening to burst the darker it got so the pictures aren’t as bright as I would have liked but at least it didn’t rain all day long – silver lining!
These group tours usually comprise of one tour guide and about 30 guests. We met at a central point – Old Spitalfields market (one of my new favourite places in London, but that’s a story for another day) and started our walk around the historic area. Our first stop, just a few short steps from the market, was the artillery passageway. Our guide, Keir, promptly informed us why it was named that – The area surrounding the passageway was an actual artillery practice ground in 1538 under King Henry VIII’s reign.The first piece of street art was a tiny sculpture propped up on a post on the street. This was to be the first of very many which Keir asked us to look out for and see how many we could spot by the end of the tour. I lost count – oops. But as for the artist responsible, his name is Jonesy and his trademark is the minute size of the sculptures, making it almost impossible to see unless you are actually looking for it. (accidentally deleted the ONE picture I had of it, bummer! But do look out for them if you ever take this tour)
The houses along the streets of East London have a classic style of architecture and were built before the industrial revolution in the 18th Century. The windows are set in such a way to allow maximum natural light in and have been kept that way ever since.A little way off brick lane we come across a masterpiece by street artist Stik. Famous for his stick figures which have been done in different areas, this one in particular, according to Keir and I think so too, has some kind of cultural relevance to the area. One stick figure has a face covered while the other doesn’t yet they are holding hands… all this in a town where people of different cultural backgrounds live together in harmony. What do you think of it? We walked further on, stopping at Hanbury street; a street field with numerous indian restaurants and shops, with walls beautifully spray painted on by artists –Dale Grimshaw and Lily. The latter’s work is very detailed and my pictures don’t do it much justice but just know she takes over four hours to do her masterpieces on the walls which are viewed by thousands of people on a daily basis. Her work usually relates to factors affecting the world such as climate change.
These artists have one person to thank for getting their work exposed in such a great way. Keir informs us of a Mr Hussein who owns the buildings along that street. He is in agreement with the artists, allowing them to do their magic on his walls, all the while attracting customers to his various business along the same street. Seems like a win win situation to me, kudos to you Mr Hussein.We finished up with a viewing of one of the last remaining examples of Banksy’s work – the pink car below named the image of death and caught a glimpse of art within street signs done by Clet Abraham. The rain was coming down hard again which made Keir hasten the walk back to Old Spitalfields market.
This tour was such a great thing to do as it combines art and history, two of my favourite things and cost nothing at all! The tour guides don’t charge but do ask for whatever tip/donation you can afford to give for their great work.
After the tour you can do what I did and go window shopping in the market. Not forgetting to eat of course – get some delicious food at any of the pop up stalls selling several different cuisines like Italian, Greek, Mexican, Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese and of course your classic American style burgers and fries.
I highly recommend the Mexican stall – really good tacos and a restaurant called The Diner – those ribs?? Perfection.
The tours take a good 1-1.5 hours and it’s such a great experience to see parts of London you would normally never venture out to. Please be sure to check the weather first before making a booking, London rain is no joke to walk around in.
Photography by Diana Odero