Street Food and Street Art in London
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust
In London street food and street art go together like pulled pork and a brioche bun, England’s fish and chips, or Ghana’s Kenkey and fish but without new eyes you will miss it. Where there are a group of hipsters, bohemians and intrepid tourists there seems to be an equally strong desire for the appreciation of street art – graffiti, murals, sculptures and street installations. Perhaps there is a link between the culinarily adventurous foodie who will always, frequently or occasionally shun fine dining in an established restaurant for the pleasures of feasting from a food vendor and street art. Yes street art – the sort of unsanctioned art created in public locations and despised by the “authorities” or tagged as vandalism by others.
London’s street food markets are a pull but, purely because of the fine food. The street art, I realised as I experienced these street food meccas were just a part of the territory and part of London’s street food culture.
At the Spitalfield’s street food market, where I have gallivanted a few times, what first caught my eye was Kenny Hunter’s I Goat, a hand-sculpted Goat standing on a pack of crates 3.5 metres high. At the opening, Kenny Hunter stated that “Goats are associated with non-conformity and being independently-minded. That is also true of London, its people and never more so than in Spitalfields.”
A short distance from the Spitalfields food market is perhaps my most frequented street food Sunday market in Brick Lane. It is also arguably the epicenter of Britain’s street art scene. Hanbury street (the heart of the Capital’s graffiti art), The Old Truman Brewery, Pedley street, Cheshire street and Scalter street are all synonymous with street art. My two favourite pieces of art around Brick Lane are D’Face’s white car with a large wing bomb on it and the famous pink car installation by Banksy. Both can be seen below. Banksy’s pink car is now in a protective glass casing after it’s ghostly driver was reportedly stolen. That perhaps takes something away from its “subversiveness” and gives it official approval, which isn’t quite in keeping with street art culture. A few meters away from Banksy’s and D’Face’s installation are a collection of golden arrows embeded into a building, with a crossbow across in the opposite direction. I have always missed this anytime I have been to Brick Lane until it was pointed out to me recently. Next to the usual spot for the creatively designed black cab coffee on Brick Lane was what seemed like fresh graffiti of two glamorous women caressing an aerosol can and wearing graffiti masks tagged on a wooden gate with the signature, ZABOU.
Other Street Art:
Dalston Market in East London is not particularly known for street art, but close to it is one of East London’s iconic landmarks recognised the world over as a potent and forceful statement about how people can live together as a tolerant and peace loving community. The peace mural was designed by Ray Walker in 1983 who died shortly afterwards.
Moving away from the East End of London, the street food scene at Camden market, is one I know well as I live close by.
What intrigues me and has done for years are what I see on shop fronts on Camden High street. On some shop fronts are giant sized products of the shops, presumably installed for advertising purposes. These may not be, strictly classified as street art but, they will catch your eye and fire away your imaginations. It reminds of walking on the set of a Gulliver’s travels.
Walking tour operators such as the Camden Street Art Tours, will gladly take tourists to over a 100 art locations.
The boundaries between street food and street art are becoming increasingly blurred in London. London never had organised tours to see street art, but now we do. New York may have once had hordes of tourists feasting on its street art, but now so does London.
Street art shapes the street dining experience of folks in the same way as starch table linen, countless interruptions to pour wine and formality defines fine dining. Above all, I find that what London’s street art scene does when it meets street food is to provide both diners and art enthusiasts with this – talking points.