Showcasing local tastemakers and knowledgable insiders, bespoke London tour company SideStory sidesteps the stale ‘follow the umbrella’ formula and instead offers visitors (and residents) a unique glimpse of the city’s secrets.
We challenged them to show us something new in our home town: enter master graffiti artist Karim Samuels, the architecture expert turned street-art connoisseur delivering personalised tours of East London‘s dynamic street-art scene…
Know where to look Nothing stays the same for long, but insider Karim will help you uncover the city’s finest wall candy. Our three-hour tour took off at a pacey lick, as he expertly walked us through the rich artistic history of East London and its graffiti scene, spanning its 1960s roots and up-and-coming artists, via an in-depth grounding in all things street art. This is a world that goes well beyond Banksy: learn some new lingo and you’ll be able to pepper your travel tales with expert-sounding comments on tags, paste-ups, graffuturism, child-style and colour pieces. We also picked up some tips (ever wondered how to create a 20-foot-high tag?) and pondered the parallels to performance art and social media.
Fact fans, rejoice This tour’s full of them. Spot some of Ben Eine’s big and bold lettering (like his colourful ‘Create’ piece, above) and you’re eyeballing the same art as a US president: an Eine piece hangs in the White House – a gift to Obama from Cameron. And art-history buffs will geek out over the Picasso parallels of Anna Laurini’s large-lipped cubist ladies. The best bit may have been discovering subtle works of art that we would have walked right by in the past, including a tiny zoo animal complete with shadow. Consider us both entertained and educated.
Street art post script: three things to do next
Satiate your post-stroll appetite After your in-depth examination of East London’s graffiti scene, rest your weary feet and quiet those hunger pangs at speakeasy-style Story Deli on Bethnal Green Road (above left), hot contender for best pizza in London.
Browse the bevy of boutiques The area is packed with on-trend start-ups and independent boutiques: take advantage and browse. Pick the Scandinavian-inspired blanket of your dreams at homewares store Labour&Wait, taste some chocolate at confectioner Mast Brothers‘ London location or search for an essential-oil-based scent at La Labo. You’ll also have plenty of vintage coat and moustache-wax options to chose from in East London, should you be so inclined.
Portrait of Karim Samuels by Ekaterina Ochagavia. All other photos: Lauren Coffey