If you want to find street art in London (and I mean LOTS of street art) you could do far worse than to head to Shoreditch. This trendy (albeit some say ex-trendy) district is a mecca for enthusiasts, both those who create and those, like me, who go to admire.
The area’s early history involves a different art form, theatre. When the building of playhouses in the City of London area was banned in 1574, James Burbage built the first playhouse in England here, known simply as The Theatre. William Shakespeare lived nearby; his early plays were performed in Shoreditch, firstly at The Theatre and later at the Curtain Theatre. Later Shakespeare used the timbers of The Theatre to build his new theatre in Southwark, The Globe.
In the 17th and 18th centuries Shoreditch became home to many of the French Huguenot silk-weavers who emigrated to London and set up business here. And in the 19th century it was a popular area for a night out, with several music halls and (again) theatres; none of these survives to this day.
By the 20th century a further wave of immigration led to the area around Brick Lane, to the south and east of Shoreditch, becoming a focus for South Asian communities. And for any Londoner wanting a good curry! But the area was in decline until the latter part of the century, when a number of dot.com enterprises moved in. A degree of regeneration inevitably followed; the area became synonymous with so-called ‘hipsterfication’, to the dismay of some long-term residents and the delight of those who saw cheaply bought homes rocket in value!
Today the different communities seem to me, as an outsider, to have shaken down together pretty well; with Brick Lane something of a microcosm of the blend. Here you find the established curry restaurants rubbing shoulders with trendy coffee houses and vintage clothes shops, while the street art trend is firmly established. The streets leading off it are a prime hunting ground too, as is the network of streets further north.
A street art walk
It was on Brick Lane, a few years ago, that I set out on a street art photography wander with my friend from Virtual Tourist days, Malcolm. Here, for this week’s Photographing Public Art Challenge, are some of my favourite shots from that day. Most were taken on the streets immediately to the east of Shoreditch High Street station.
The most fashionable set may have moved on from Shoreditch to nearby Dalston and Hoxton. But the vibe here is still quite edgy and cool and still draws the artists. As street art is ephemeral you won’t necessarily see the same pieces if you visit. But rest assured, you will see plenty!
As always, please click on any image in the gallery to open a full screen slide show.
As a Londoner I visit Shoreditch fairly regularly; these photos were all taken in the summer of 2019