“A Nightmare on Leake Street” – Halloween paint jam 2016

Leake Street Tunnel is changing

Some of you may already know that Leake Street Tunnel or at least part of it, has been sold to developers. How much of it will change is unknown to me. But change is already underway as this picture from Saturday 12th November shows. The area behind the hoardings is being turned into shops covering nearly a third of the tunnel along this wall.

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Leake Street tunnel with fresh hoardings to show where shops are being created along this stretch of wall. (photographed 12th November 2016)

 

The history of Leake Street Tunnel

The tunnel and its arches were built to provide structural support for Waterloo Station and it was owned by Network Rail.  It is about 300 metres long and comprises of a roadway plus a series of arches with empty spaces behind. In the past the Old Vic Theatre have hired some of its spaces for promenade theatre productions. Currently one section is used by The Vaults theatre. And I’ve seen ‘stuff’ being stored there by workmen. But most of the space has lain empty for decades.

Leake Street and Graffiti art

It was Banksy who put the tunnel on the map as a place to create graffiti and street art. In May 2008, along with 29 other artists, he created “The Cans Festival” to convert “a dark, forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful artI’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men,” Banksy said.  These quotes comes from this BBC news coverage of the event.

And it has been a fantastic space to create street art and in particular graff writing ever since. Yes it is legal to work here but the rapid turn over of work gives it an edge to other areas where the walls are curated and where work can last for weeks or even months and years.

In Leake Street if your work lasts more than 24 hours you know how respected it is by other writers. Or it can be tagged immediately in disgust or jealousy.  There have been many paint jams since 2008 including the first legendary Femme Fierce jam of 2014 when the whole tunnel was buffed up pink.

 

Painting over work for Femme Fierce 2016

Work from 2016 Femme Fierce being written over before the day’s jam was finished. (photographed 7th May 2016)


Leake Street and the vibe

Each time I visit I’m struck by the magic of the space. You’re entering a tunnel which in itself creates a mysterious atmosphere.  The graff could be modern hieroglyphics to my untrained eye. Colourful images cover the walls and ceilings. Some are in 3D like ancient fossils stuck to the surfaces.  And then there’s the smell, a heady mix of paint fumes and occasionally other noxious substances. And its still filthy like an historic cave. So it is an exciting place to go.

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art November 2015

Leake Street tunnel last year. You can see how the wall looked before the developers started work this year. (photographed 28th November 2015)

A Nightmare on Leake Street 

In light of the recent development and because the tunnel has became a beacon for graff writers around the world, its fitting that possibly the last paint jam to cover the full length of the tunnel happened over Halloween.  Writer and artist Skyhigh assembled about 30 other artists and writers from a variety of graff crews to paint the length of one wall. My photographs document the whole wall in order, starting at the Lower Marsh end and finishing at the Waterloo exit on York Road.

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by @James_0ne and @dimmer999. Blue b/g and haunted castle by Skyhigh. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff: @onefaver (top) and @theseyer (below) Blue ground by Skyhigh. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by @fours_brs, Witch by @nziegram. Blue b/g by Skyhigh (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Street art Witch by @nziegram (photographed 30th Oct 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by Gorouno, skulls by sameremas and blue b/g by Skyhigh (photographed 30th Oct 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff writer is Niser – Crush Proof/246/4D/UPC. (photographed 12th Nov 2016)

 

"A Nightmare on Leake Street" Halloween paint jam 2016

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Dracula and graff by Sorez1. Quite appropriate since this artist comes from Bucharest. Blue b/g by Skyhigh. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff with eyeball by Sorez1. Graff fish head is still tb credited. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff artists unknown to me.Possibly CAT LOLI  Blue b/g by Skyhigh (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Detail and b/g by Skyhigh. I thought the attention to detail was fantastic. (photographed 30th Oct 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff writer is ?? (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by dect_rfk (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Skeleton highway man is by? (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff and figures by Crede. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff writer is aultagram (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

“Boo!” by Roo. Blue b/g by Skyhigh (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by Teaser (above) and Skyhigh (below) with background by Skyhigh (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by Alone (above) Ekto (below) and Freddie by JXC. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Freddie by JXC (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by Core246 and Ster (photographed 30th Oct 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff by @rico4059 (below) and @toile_ (above) (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

The pumpkin writer and haunted house by Samer. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Pumpkin graff figure by Samer with graff by nelius and @ante_ (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff writers unknown to me. Will update when I know. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff writers @samsuremusic and @acter_pfk. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Leake Street tunnel graffiti art

Graff below by @moet_oner. Graff above is?  (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

onion-finished-halloween-paint-jam

Work by oNION. It took 3 days to complete and now gone. (photographed 1st Nov 2016)

 

Much of this amazing project lasted a week untouched.  And when I visited yesterday I was able to photograph a section I’d missed because on my last visit it had been blocked  by a van.  And then I watched as Samer’s pumpkin graff man was buffed over for a new work, two weeks after it was painted.  This project was loved and respected big time.

So well done to Skyhigh and all the crews involved in this fantastic piece of team work. And a stunning set of murals.  I hope that Leake Street tunnel continues to provide “an oasis of beautiful art” in the heart of London.  We can only wait and see how the refurbishment will affect it.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on ““A Nightmare on Leake Street” – Halloween paint jam 2016

  1. I remember so well queuing up for the 2008 ” Cans Festival”… That exhibition changed the view of street art in London into a growing appreciation of what street art was all about. The canvas of Leake Street was now open to all young and old, poor and rich to express their own artwork on the walls of the tunnel. Sadly like the short life of most street art on walls, we are now seeing the walls themselves disappearing with the onslaught of overdevelopment!… Thankfully Bloggers like yourself Tanya help to bring this to the attention of the readers. It is very important that documenting this in any format is done. Thanks for noting theses changes

    • Hi Mitch, thanks for sharing your memories of the Cans Festival. I so wish I’d known about it too. And thanks for explaining how it changed the view of street art in London. I remember seeing many Banksy’s around London but didn’t understand quite how significant they were until years later when many of them had either gone or were defaced. And yes, it saddens me too that the walls are also disappearing in London. I do my best to keep the faith, though my workload currently prevents me blogging as often as I’d like. I have so much material to get out there and not enough time. But I’ll keep plugging away. And thanks again for reading and commenting.

      • If only the world would slow down!!! I must get round to doing a Leake Street post myself one day and as you say “Keeeping The Faith” (….that’s good!)

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