Shoreditch is one of the most happening areas in London right now. A huge hipster subculture has risen out of the area in recent years, and with culture comes art. In this urban playground for millennials, street art has become particularly popular, as the new generation reclaims the tired-looking streets and buildings of old Shoreditch, transforming them into vibrant works of art.
From memorials to David Bowie to political messages and works by mysterious artist Banksy, Shoreditch has become a gallery of street art over the past few years, and like all good galleries in London, it’s free to investigate, with a Shoreditch street art tour the best way to approach this.
Shoreditch street art tours
Walking tours covering Shoreditch’s vibrant street art take place most days of the week, although it’s best to double check and book a spot before arriving at the starting point of The Goat Statue. Morning tours usually take place between 10am and 1.30pm, with afternoon tours starting at 1.30pm and continuing until 5pm. Three-and-a-half hours may sound like a long time, but you’ll still only get to experience a small slice of the capital’s eclectic street art during the tour, leaving you free to explore more for yourself at a later occasion.
Tours are usually led by Dave, known as NoLionsEngland online, who has made a living photographing and commenting on East London’s street art for the past decade. He charges £15 for adults and £10 for under-16s, with the price more than worth it for Dave’s extremely knowledgeable insights into the local street art scene.
From the Mona Lisa to jazzed-up road signs
A Shoreditch street art tour typically lasts for more than three hours, meaning there’s plenty to see. New graffiti is constantly cropping up throughout the area, so the route may change depending on what there is that’s most worth seeing on a particular day.
Throughout the borough, you’ll find everything from the Mona Lisa to a huge portrait of the late actor Bob Hoskins – both of which are on the same wall, paying tribute to his role in the film that shares a name with Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
You’ll see inspirational quotes and political messages galore, with the ‘let’s adore and endure each other’ mantra daubed on the side of one building a particularly distinctive landmark, as the structure is also topped with two old train carriages, taking the local art scene one step further.
Mysterious graffiti maestro Banksy has used the streets of Shoreditch as his canvas on more than one occasion, with a brick wall on Rivington Street featuring one of his works depicting a policeman with a guard dog and a sign stating: “This wall is a designated graffiti area.”
Some street corners in the area are simply covered in stickers, pertaining to bands, political parties or just featuring symbols, while even the road signs in Shoreditch have been modified to reflect the borough’s street art scene.
French street artist Clet Abraham has customised a number of no entry and one way signs throughout the local area, for example by turning the white line of a no entry symbol into a perch for a cute cartoon bird.
Much of the street art in this part of London also reflects the diversity of the many cultures that reside in the capital. The old English working class of the East End has merged with the large Bangladeshi immigrant community of Brick Lane, with strands of each of these cultures visible in much of the area’s street art.
Brick Lane itself is a colourful explosion of graffiti and art, where garage doors, building fronts and side walls have all been transformed into bright canvasses fusing traditional and contemporary art styles from around the world.
One eye-catching piece in the area shows a large stick figure coloured in black holding hands with another coloured in white, which sends a strong message that all races, colours and ethnicities are welcomed not just in Brick Lane, but also across the rest of the capital.
Inspiring and incredibly Instagrammable in equal measures, the street art of Shoreditch and its surroundings is well worth a visit during a trip to the city of London.