I’ve gone on tours to get historic perspective, to get a taste of what the culture of an area is like, to check the block of a cultural staple or even to just satisfy a requirement for class. It’s safe to say I have gone on a fair share of tours, so what I am about to say should not be taken lightly…
The Alternative Tour of London is the best tour I’ve even taken.
There aren’t any crown jewels to be seen or anything else related to the royals for that matter. What this tour consists of is a wander through a part of London that is unique unto itself.
For two hours we were led through Shoreditch, in the east end of London. So if there are no references to the queen on a tour in London, what do you do? Our brilliant, beyond brilliant tour guide (and artist) Ben Slow led us up and down Brick Lane and through different parts of Shoreditch, introducing us to different pieces of street art along the way.
I’ll start as Ben did, by pointing out that street art is not graffiti (although it did grow from there). Street art is a movement that is thriving in the east end of London; through this tour I was introduced to various artists, artworks and the history and culture in that part of the city. The tour was full of information and enlightenment that I wouldn’t have experienced any other way.
Our guide was full of energy and more importantly knowledge. He explained how street art got its roots and where it’s heading from today. He also explained how street artists operate, the tricks of the trade and the formalities of it all.
One of the most astonishing points I took home with me is the timeliness of it all. A piece of art, several stories tall, can go up in mere hours. Likewise, street art might only stand for a few weeks before a new artist comes in to share their perspective. If I go back in a month or even just a week I may get a different tour.
To me that’s what is fascinating about street art – people’s imaginations work so impressively by creating something beautiful and unique, but it’s fleeting.
I would recommend this tour to just about anyone. Even if art isn’t straight up your alley, you would gain from simply getting a different view on the city of London.
I’ll tell you right now, I plan to go again while I’m here. In the meantime, enjoy my collection of street art, just click to enlarge…