Both my daughter and I have been to London before. We’ve seen Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral, have visited the Tate Modern, and have walked the Portobello Road market. We had a number of nights in London this trip, just her and I, and were looking for something different – something we could do together, and couldn’t do at home.
We were happy to find out about Alternative London and get off the beaten track into one of my favorite neighborhoods, Shoreditch. We decided on this particular tour and workshop because we liked the idea of doing and not just seeing. We wanted to be exposed to something cultural, but also to create something. Extra points went to the fact that it was one of the most affordable things we did on our trip (£25 per person for a 4/5 hour tour and workshop).
Organized by Alternative London, a local artist’s cooperative who do a variety of artistic tours and workshops – art walks on the streets and in local galleries, as well as bike tours and food/pub crawls. We booked on-line through their website for an 11am Saturday tour with a meeting point by the Old Street tube station on the Northern Line – easy to get to from anywhere in London (took us about 20 minutes from Soho).
Our guide, Rae, an artist/skater who is clearly passionate and deeply involved in the local art scene, told us all about the history of graffiti and street art, and the differences between the two, in an intelligent, animated, and entertaining way. She touched on the political and the economic messages without any hint of preachiness. She was thought provoking and light hearted at these same time. She was great with her subject, but also great at connecting to all of us on the walk, something that not all guides do well.
After the walk, we took a short break to get something eat, and then after a brief lesson on stencil making, retired to their double decker art bus to get started making our own.
She then gave us a demo of different techniques for spray painting and we took turns on a few boards outside before working on own stencils.
Those of us who wanted, had the option of buying a canvas bag or t-shirt for a few extra pounds, to paint our stencil on.
London has a lot to offer and the choice of museums alone can be overwhelming. If you want to do something that supports the local art scene, gives you a street-eye view of what’s going on, and makes you really feel the pulse of the East Side, this is a great, affordable thing to do.
Plus, you get to take home your own handmade, one-of-a-kind souvenir.