10 years ago today (April 27th 2008) a tiny acorn was sown, I led my first street art tour. The story begins with ace photographer and ninja street art documenter Sam HowAboutNo, he and I endured the 9-5 tyranny in office treadmills a few hundred yards apart on the border of Shoreditch and our therapy for many years was to hook up almost every day for extended lunch break meanders photographing street art, drinking and playing pool.
Friends of HowAboutNo had organised an auction of art by street artists to raise funds for a cancer hospice but as neither of us were artists we couldn’t make a contribution on canvas but we had an idea – guide people on a street art tour, share our geeky knowledge of the art and collect donations for the charity. Thus the first “Cancer Sells” street art tour was held on Sunday 27th April 2008 followed by three more over the next couple of months.
MJar, an artist who subsequently become a friend and indeed a significant influence came up with a wonderful graphic and the tours were promoted through Hookedblog and a few posts on a forum. The potential was visible there and then, some people even came from abroad specifically building short breaks around the fact that something called a street art tour was available.
The first tour lasted all told about 7 hours and we put people through hell, quite a bit of coffee and fairly significant amounts of alcohol. In between the multiple refreshment breaks we did get to see a lot of street art, as captured in a rambling semi-coherent Graffoto blog post.
As an aside, those of you who have seen Banksy’s street art documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop, the piece just visible in the right hand end of the above photo is the piece that Sweet Toof and Cyclops are seen getting busted painting by the feds in the opening minutes.
One of the guests on the first tour was graffiti photographer Bravo99 who became a great friend but with whom we sadly lost touch just a few years ago. Bravo99 pointed out to me that I was missing out lots of tags and saying nothing about the culture of graffiti, he really opened my eye on that tour to the importance and beauty of graffiti, as opposed to straight street art which hitherto had been my interest.
The idea for those tours was inspired by the Banksy Tours led by Martin “Shellshock” Bull, a vastly more dedicated Banksy fan than I, in 2006, which was where my friendship with both Martin and Sam HowAboutNo began. There may have been other earlier street art tours, I am not aware of them.
Shellshock, aided and abetted by artist and designer Stef wrote the legendary Banksy Locations and Tours guides (Vol 1 & Vol 2 – Shoreditch Street Art Tours discount code SSATOUR) ; Stef became a great friend and indeed his design and programming genius generated the infrastructure on which Shoreditch Street Art Tours has been operating successfully for the past 5 years.
With thanks to all those mentioned here for their help and for others whose friendship, guidance and expertise have been invaluable, I never imagined that those first steps on April 27th 2008 would lead to where Shoreditch Street Art Tours is today!
All photos Dave Stuart except where credited