The day I met Stu from Inspiring City to head over to Shoreditch High Street for our Foto Ruta Clue adventures, I headed East early to walk around a bit. I decided that since I hadn’t seen the poppy installation at Tower Hill yet, I’d hop off the tube a few stops early, wander over to the Tower of London and then onward to Brick Lane.
The poppies are spectacular, over 800,000 of them, ceramic flowers commemorating the British casualties of WWII. The cascade from the tower and fill the grounds around its base, an impressive sea of red.
I made my way north from there toward an area of London that continually draws me back. Every visit to the area around Brick Lane is different, but it’s always entertaining. It’s vibrant and lively, incredibly colourful and full of diversity in everything from the people (tourists, hipsters and a huge Bangladeshi community who call the area home) to the street styles that these various groups of people bring to the scene to the food from around the world.
Of course, Shoredicth is also one of the best places in London, if not the world, to find yourself completely surrounded by some incredible street art created by a huge range of both British and international artists. Every single time I visit, the walls have nearly completely changed. Sure, there are some long-standing pieces but the amount of new work that goes up over the couse of a month is mind-blowing.
The vibe of Brick Lane itself oozes over into the side street. Hanbury Street, for example, is the home of one of my favourite walls. It used to be that that you had to hunt around for street art when I started looking for it some eight years ago, but now it’s a tourist attraction. Walk to the edge of Hanbury Street where it touches Brick Lane and there’s likely five people standing there with cameras or phones raised already. And I’m happy to join them.
While I miss the thrill of the hunt that the street art scene used to provide, the explosion of interest is great for the artists, many of whom who are working on commissions, seeing their work sold in galleries (Alo even made it into Saatchi recently) and hung in restaurants, cafes and private collections. I love that while it is so valuable, it’s still art for the people, out on the streets for all to admire.
The other thing about this area of the city is that you always seem to end up chatting to someone interesting by chance. The photo of me above was taken by a retired photographer called Peter Hall. I was taking a picture of the Dscreet piece behind me when he wandered up with own camera and then asked me to take a photo of him against the wall to send to a friend in Thailand. I happily obliged. He told me he was born near Bethnal Green and Still lives there now which I thought was pretty interesting, and enjoyed talking about how the area used to be and how much it’s changed over the years. I told him about the Foto Ruta Clue event I was off to shortly. Then he asked to take a photo of me. We exchanged cards and emailed them to each other the next day. Below is the one I took of him against the same wall and a few others from nearby.
I walked a bit down a few of the other bustling side streets. The market stalls and vendors are a key part of the vibrant atmosphere that takes over the area on a Sunday afternoon. It fascinates me to no end to see the tat they are selling. The man below was shouting about tinned tomatoes and mayonaise, the girls below him quietly standing next to their table of baseball caps.
You really can find just about anything you’re looking for, depending which way you turn. There’s rails of vintage clothing, fun snaps, baskets of secondhand bras, grinders and lighters, tables full of sunglasses, old cameras, instruments, tools, toys, discarded mannequins, chairs, boxes of books, kitchen sponges and all sorts of stuff.
You could walk around for a full day (or many days) just soaking in the atmosphere. It’s like all the world gathered in a neighbourhood. I can’t think of a better place to people watch and just kick back and take it all in without getting caught up in the crowds. I took too many photos, as always, and this only a tiny selection of them…
Eventually I did meet up with Stu for a coffee before meeting the group. When I asked where he wanted to go, he said he’d take me to his favourite little coffee shop, Vintage Bean, (back toward Brick Lane on a street I had walked down earlier) where he knows the owner and all of the cakes are homemade.
A delicious peanut butter cookie and iced tea later, we were on our way to play Foto Ruta Clue… but I’m coming back with the rest of our photo adventures for you tomorrow because this is such an epically long post and I have way to many pictures from this afternoon!