Now I’m back in London, I have a friend over from the States for 2 months, and its making me do things differently. I’m experiencing the city through the eyes of a tourist and honestly, you should do it. Even in your own city. There is so much to see and do in a city so rich with culture, and getting the chance to be part of it is amazing.
Yesterday we signed up for the “Alternative London Tour” which casts a path through the rich tapestry that is East London. Starting and finishing in Old Spitalfields Market (one of my favourite places to spend a sleepy Sunday) the tour weaves through Banglatown, Brick Lane and Tower Hamlets to bring you back to the start.
The art we saw was amazing. I don’t really get the view that graffiti is abhorrent – I understand that some kid writing his name in spray paint isn’t ideal for a community, but when you turn a corner and see portraiture by the medium of aerosol paint, you can’t argue that it doesn’t have its place in art history in the same was as Van Gogh or (Londoner) Tracy Emin.
Each tiny alley or side street taught us something; the ability to look and actually see. Signposts with angel toppers cast from pigeon wings, white walls stenciled with the words “99% of people will not see this” and mosaic tags of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker; all sights we see each day but never really take the time to look at.
We wove through time, from the airy spaced, open windows of the Huguenot workspaces, to the Jewish community site that was wiped out in the Blitz, all presided over by a place of worship that had passed from Catholicism to Judaism and now stands as a Mosque. We stepped through local communities – I love that this area is rich with family run businesses and one off stores, and listened as the passion flowed from our tour guide. The East of London is a rich dichotemy of culture, and a bustling place to check out in London. Sixty years ago it wouldn’t have been a great place to visit as a tourist, but without taking a trip to Shoreditch you miss a whole, beautiful section of London. The typical London summer weather didn’t even stop us.
The magic of this tour is born from the experience and passion of the tour guides. The tour is also a “pay what you think its worth” basis, making normally high priced tours accessible to everyone.
If you have 48 hours in London this summer, you need to check this out.
How do you feel about graffiti as an expression of creativity?