London: Leake Street Arches

Leake Street Arches in the South Bank area of London

What if I told you that within The Square Mile there existed a tunnel where one could go and – legally – graffiti ups the walls?

Pondering my options for my second full day [to myself] in London, I came across info for the Leake Street Arches. It was about a 40 minute walk from my hotel, not too bad (I could also have taken the Tube had I not wanted to walk). I was intrigued, it was not the usual tourist site, and best of all: it was FREE. What did I have to lose besides a bit of time? I laced up and got walking!

Out hotel was near St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there to Leake Street I really only needed to follow the walking path next to the Thames until I neared Waterloo Bridge. After that, it was another 5-10 minute walk to the tunnels. It began to mist just as I grew near…perfect timing! Into the arches I went.

My photos do not do justice to the artwork I viewed. I added some of my favorite photos (see below), but it’s an ever-changing artscape. The rules allow that artwork already there can be painted over, so most likely this already looks very different than when I was there. Per the rules: “Art is by its nature live and evolving.”

Banksy – famous internationally for his street art – was one of those at the forefront pushing for this place to be transformed from a dark tunnel to a vibrant space filled with art. He organized the Cans Festival in May 2008. In three days he witnessed his plans come to fruition. I don’t believe any of his own artwork is still present, but he used to have some pieces there.

However, another world-famous street artist, Blek Le Rat, added a piece in August 2023. He was the precursor to Banksy in the street art scene, and it is claimed that he influenced Banksy. Is this true? Likely, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that his artwork now has a piece of plexiglass over it to prevent it from being painted over. I guess not all art there evolves. Perhaps it is merely a temporary reprise from other eager artists looking for space.

Blek Le Rat
Artwork of Blek Le Rat, installed August 2023
Blek Le Rat
Calling Card of Blek Le Rat

More artwork that grabbed me:

Artist clearing a space so he can begin
This one brought to mind my grandson, who loves cookies
Artist contemplating…

Of note: there are classes offered that bring you to the tunnels, provide you with paints and coverings to protect your clothing, and let you get to it. I do not believe you need to be with a group to paint there, but it does sound fun! I may have to give this a go my next visit. I highly recommend this attraction should you find yourself in London.

I wandered about for a bit, admiring the artwork and watching some of the artists at work. I then headed a couple of streets over to an Italian restaurant to feed my hungry soul. Because one must eat.

Until next time, Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle con ragu di agnello

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