More from Emma Bryning
The History of Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, found underneath the platforms and tracks of Waterloo Station, is London’s largest legal graffiti wall at 300-metres in length. The site gained fame after famed British street artist, Banksy, held a street art festival called Cans Festival (a play on The Cannes Film Festival) in the tunnel. Banksy had recognised the potential of the tunnel which had formerly been used as an access road for taxis to pick up passengers from the Eurostar. From the 3rd-5th May 2008, forty street artists from around the world – including Blek le Rat, Ben Eine, Sten & Lex and Vexta – transformed the grimy tunnel into a street art haven. Graffiti and street art are legally permitted in the tunnel meaning that artists can create works without fear of getting arrested by police. This ever-changing gallery now attracts street art tourists and graffiti enthusiasts from around the world and arches adjacent to the tunnel were recently transformed into bars and restaurants. The site was even home to a temporary cinema, The Lambeth Palace, to celebrate the release of Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop in 2010.
The Squatters’ Graffiti at Sutton House, London
Sutton House is the oldest domestic building in Hackney and one of London’s last remaining Tudor houses, having been built in 1535 by Tudor Statesman and Secretary of State to King Henry VIII, Ralph Sadlier. Even though the house is called ‘Sutton House’, it was never the dwelling of Thomas Sutton who actually lived in the house next door. The house was originally called ‘Bryk Place’ and was rested among long open green spaces and near to the town centre of Hackney. The history of the house is complex as, over time, it has been a Tudor manor house, a Victorian school, a Men’s Institute during the First World War, a Trade Unions Office in the 1960s-70s and a punk squat in the 1980s. The house was restored in the early 1990s by the National Trust and opened to the public in 1994. In order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the squatter’s arrival to Sutton House, the National Trust converted the Squatter’s Room to recreate how it would have looked in 1985 with the help of some of the squatters who had lived there. In the room, visitors can see some of the original graffiti art left by the squatters which includes anti-fascist, anti-Thatcher and feminist political slogans.
‘G. DAVIS IS INNOCENT’ Graffiti, East London
Under a railway bridge on Salmon Lane in the Limehouse area of East London is an inconspicuous piece of graffiti left in large white letters, ‘G. DAVIES IS INNOCENT’. The graffiti is one of the few remaining pieces painted in the 1970s as part of a grassroots public campaign to have George Davis freed from prison. In 1974, Davis was sentenced to twenty years in prison for the robbery of the London Electricity Board in Ilford. After family and friends raised questions about the evidence used to convict Davis, the phrase ‘George Davis Is Innocent OK’ began appearing all over East London and the rest of the country. The campaign paid off and in May 1976 Davis was released under the royal prerogative on the advice of the then home secretary, Roy Jenkins. However, only 18-months later, Davis was caught robbing the bank of Cyprus in Holloway and pleaded guilty to his involvement in this armed bank raid.