Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Moniker Art Fair 2013

Last week saw Alternative London Tours continue its relationship with the amazing Moniker Art Fair to provide exclusive tours of the area and the art fair itself.

Just as last year, these tours proved a huge success and filled up quickly. As London's original street art tour provider we took the lucky few around Spitalfields and Brick Lane for a bespoke street art tour before heading into the fair.

This year the fair teamed up with the Other Art Fair and took over a humongous space in the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane. Anyone that has joined one of our tours will know how significant this building is both historically and culturally in the East End, so for us to take customers inside for the first time was a rare treat.

For those not aware of the Moniker Fair it is a refreshing alternative to the other larger conventional art fairs such as Freize. This year favourite artists of ours included Jo Peel, David Shillinglaw, Mau Mau, D*Face, Vins, Amanda Marie and of course the legendary London Police.

The fair included talks from artists, food, drinks and an incredible array of art and books available to purchase for all budgets. We were lucky enough to pick up a couple of prints from London Police and a special one of from Jo Peel.

If you missed it this year, be sure to join next year when we hope to be teaming up with the fair once again to provide these very unique East End Tours.

Guardian Travel Top Ten Guided Tours!

We are pleased and privileged to announce that Guardian readers have voted Alternative London Tours as one of the top ten guided tours in the world! Thanks to everyone who voted for Alternative London, this is an amazing accolade which we're very proud of. If you are interested in joining one of our East End Tours please see our website:

See the full list of tours that made the top ten here:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Article for Freestyle Magazine

We were recently asked to write a piece about East London and its street art for the awesome Freestyle Magazine. Here's what we wrote:

East London’s street art scene is an incredibly dynamic and ever changing entity – much the same as the area in which it thrives.

As with other places around the world, the street art scene here started out as a way for outsiders and non-conformist artists to express themselves in the public domain without feeling the need for anyone’s approval and showing a complete disregard for other people’s judgement. In doing so they discovered a unique platform to engage with an audience - whether that unsuspecting audience wanted to be engaged with or not.
Ironically, at the same time that traditional letter style graffiti was reaching new heights artistically and being exploited commercially, it was causing increasing discomfort with the authorities and becoming ever more frowned upon by the general public. With late night security being implemented in railway stations and CCTV cameras appearing just about everywhere, writers were afforded less time to paint and this inevitably resulted in more and more arrests and prosecutions.

During the early nineties people looked for new ways to work and stencils and paste ups fast became the new mediums of choice. These methods allowed artists to do the lion’s share of the work at home or in their studio before executing the final piece onto the streets in a matter of minutes – even seconds. Street art exploded.

The styles and artists at this point still however had many similarities to the spray paint art that preceded it; artists painting freehand characters, like the Burning Candy Crew, wanted to ‘get up’ in unreachable and unprecedented spots – taking back space which they felt was rightfully theirs. They challenged ideals and made their own rules. Political statements and satire was rife with leftist and anti-capitalist overtones within the new street art movement. There was a feeling of a new punk-style spirit emerging within the East End. People asked new questions of society like; ‘if an advertiser can put up a billboard, why can’t we paint a wall?

In the meantime the Shoreditch party and squatting scene was reaching its pinnacle. In the wake of Blitz bombings and unwanted, abandoned ex-industrial buildings, an outsider’s playground resided by a new creative community had emerged. People could go out all night without a plan, without knowing where they were going or where they’d end up but having some undefinable feeling that in some way it was theirs. They belonged to it - and it belonged to them. Hangouts like the (old) Dragon Bar were rammed every Friday with people drinking, scoring and painting the walls and toilets. People scoped out abandoned spaces and made their own parties. There was a plethora of clubs, squats, legal and illegal parties on any given night all existing under the radar of the mainstream. The new street art movement and Shoreditch went perfectly hand in hand.

Shoreditch inevitably became popular, more bars and restaurants began popping up – as did their prices. This inevitably had a detrimental effect on the creative scene and prices began to push out the people that had created it. People flocked to a cool new place, and bit by bit began to tame it and shape it into something more manageable for the mainstream. From the authority’s point of view, like any counter culture movement things couldn’t be contained so they became controlled.

At the same time street art began to feature on people’s radars. The quality of the art grew to new levels, which in turn made it more accessible to the masses. Like skateboarding, breakdancing or playing the guitar, people took up street art because it was cool. Galleries began selling street art, most were and still are artist run and started out because of their genuine love for it and desire to give artists a platform to reap the rewards they deserve. Others obviously had their own agenda, but either way this allowed street artists to travel the world to paint walls and use the gallery system as their financial vehicle. The floodgates had opened an in came some of the world’s best street artists to paint the walls of East London – and then the Tate Modern.

This explosion of art on walls and a new street art economy made those that were elected to represent the people of East London increasingly uncomfortable. To them this was happening in an area that needed extensive re-development, an area mapped out as the new silicon-valley but more importantly an extension of the financial district. If you’re going to build five new skyscrapers in three years, the people that are going to work in them need somewhere to live. East London found itself in unique position due to its geography. Anywhere else, this creative district would be celebrated, but not when it’s in the way of a new real estate goldmine. 

The area has recently done well to adapt to becoming the ‘tech city’ during the week and a mini Essex on a Friday and Saturday night. People have always moved in and out of this area; from the Huguenots in the 1650’s to the Jews and The Bengalis - it’s always been transient. The danger this time is that it is under a greater threat from greedy developers that are on the verge of changing it forever and the latest arrivals are too ignorant or just don’t care enough to do anything about it.

East London’s street art scene has now seen a permission culture emerge which has completely adapted the street art landscape and this works in two ways. Firstly: it gives an artist the opportunity to spend time and effort on a piece of work without the threat of prosecution, so the level of art is at times, staggering. Secondly: we now have ‘gate keepers’, who are trying to make a quick buck out of the scene and feel they have the right to curate the streets like it’s their own private gallery. We then lose political statements at a time when we need them most and artists sell to the highest bidder. It’s no longer street art, merely pretty pictures on walls. Artists repair their pieces like they own them, when the whole point of street art is to be ephemeral – tags are just as important as those staggering murals, people need to understand the scene as a whole before they get involved.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with and work with some of the best street artists in the world. When my favourite artists say they’ll never do a commission because they don’t want to be told what to do and keep their work cheap for the masses it gives me the highest level of respect for them. When I’m on a rooftop watching them paint illegally with the skyscrapers bearing down on us I know who they’re doing it for – themselves, the community. At heart they are outsiders and non-conformist artists out to express themselves in the public domain without feeling the need for anyone’s approval and showing a complete disregard for other people’s judgement.

A world renowned street artist once said to me ‘street art is a bit like punk music, it’s for anyone that wants it and everyone that doesn’t – you don’t have to be a virtuoso to create it or an expert to appreciate it’. Band wagon jumpers will come and go but as long as there are artists with attitudes like this, the street art scene will be safe.

As for Shoreditch, who knows? But as long as we still have projects like Red Market and others giving us an alternative playground, people painting walls and still feeling like we belong to it and it belongs to us, we’ve got a chance.

Gary Means, Alternative London 2013.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

News From Our H.Q

There's been a lot of painting going on around the Alternative London H.Q
over the last few weeks. Here's a little update of some of our highlights.

Fintan Magee was over from Sydney and looking to hit some big walls in London. The Red Gallery wall where we are based is the largest street art wall in the capital and we were more than happy to help him fund his project as it hadn't seen a fresh lick of paint since Jo Peel's animation back in March (featured in previous posts).

Grids and sketching begins

The view from above - this is one seriously high wall.

Colouring in.

 The finished piece titled 'Sink or Swim'

In the meantime three Brazilians were getting to work in the shape of the amazing Magrella, Alex Senna and one of our all time favourites, Cranio! 

Magrella hit the high spot but half way through the piece ran out of time with the lift hire! Unbelievably she managed to scale the 25ft wall on a ladder to get the piece finished. Unfortunately we weren't there to witness the final extremely dedicated act, but here's the finished piece.  

Alex created this beautiful monochrome piece out the front, one of many on his London visit. 

And last but not least, Hin showed up to give our stairs a much needed makeover. This is a trick one to photograph and really has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. And while you're here you can check out one of his unique painted spray cans exclusively for sale from Alternative London. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Beatrice Tate School Mural

Last week Alternative London was privileged to be involved with a special project with Beatrice Tate School in Bethnal Green. Our task was to help the students create a farewell mural as they are currently in the process of moving to a new school which can better cater for their needs.

This is the first time that we have worked with young people with disabilities and we were inspired by their willingness to get involved and participate in this unique project. Every single student got involved, regardless of their level of ability and everyone played an important part in painting the mural.

After a couple of workshops at our H.Q to give the students some spray paint and stencil practice, we headed up to the school on a bright and sunny Friday morning to get started on the final piece. The staff and students made us feel incredibly welcome and it was clear to us that this is an exceptional place for them to learn.

Josh got the mural started by sketching out the letters. Then we handed over the stencils and spray paints to the students with Judy and Josh guiding them into place. There was also a bit of freehand thrown in, and plenty of colour.

Everyone involved, not least the team at Alternative London, were immensely proud of the finished wall. BT4EVA!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Making of Pipe Dreams

In March Alternative London co-produced Jo Peel's incredible animation pipe dreams. Check the video of the three minute animation:

Owen Richards & Franklyn Banks captured the making of which can be seen here: 

We still have a very limited number of exclusive DVD and print packs over at our shop:

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our Neighbourhood

Alternative London is proud to announce its involvement in this years' 'Our Neighbourhood' project.

We'll be teaming up with the Red Gallery to offer free workshops to the pupils of local school, St. Monica's. All of the kids will have the opportunity to create a piece of stencil and spray-paint art.

Each stencil will be used to create a large scale mural at the school's summer fete. After the event, the piece will be displayed alongside a busy East London street - outside the Red Gallery and Alternative London H.Q - amongst some of the world's finest street art.

The project creates an important link between East London's creative businesses and local children.

We'll update more info in due course.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Alternative London Bus Gets A Summer Makeover

To mark the summer opening of the Red Market - where our converted double decker is based - we decided to give our H.Q a splash of seasonal paint. 

The first task was to clean the windows after the bus was previously used as part of Jo Peel's Pipe Dreams animation.  

Next step was a couple of coats of white paint. 

Then the fun began with some acrylic paint bombs...

and continued with the super-soaker. 

Next up we pierced a few spray-cans to get some big splashes of colour. 

Then the task of tying it all in and blending the colours together. 

The final piece. 

Job done. It probably won't win any beauty contests - but it was bloody good fun! 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Certificate of Excellence 2013

We're proud to announce that Alternative London has received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for the second year running!

This prestigious award is in recognition of Trip Advisor's top ten percent rated businesses in the world. We'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has taken one of our tours or workshops over the last year - especially those who have taken the time to give us such positive feedback afterwards. 

Our guides and staff have worked incredibly hard to make sure that their tours and workshops are the best they can be and it's fantastic to be recognised for this. Here's to another great year and with more hard work and a bit of luck, who knows - maybe three years in a row... 

Big thanks from the team at Alt Ldn. 


Thursday, 13 June 2013

New Phlegm Book

This week we received the much anticipated new book from one of our all-time favourite artists, Phlegm. The book is a collection of pen and ink drawings with each cover hand printed and embossed by the artist himself. You might recognise a lot of the pictures from walls that the Sheffield based illustrator has painted over the past few years.

At just £25 we feel the book is an absolute bargain. Due to his increasing popularity, Phlegm's prints and comics sell out extremely quickly these days, so he decided to print an extra large edition of this book and keep it affordable to make sure his fans could get a copy.

Despite this - and due to a technical issue which has halted sales for several weeks - we noticed some copies going up on eBay for around £180. Please don't get sucked in and give these greedy people your hard earned cash. Wait a few weeks and make sure the money goes to the right person - the artist.

All in all, this is a real treasure and one of the best things we've purchased in a very long time.

Friday, 7 June 2013

D*FACE - New World Disorder

Last night we popped down to the opening of D*Face's amazing new show - New World Disorder - the last  to be held at his Stolen Space gallery before they move premises. Not only is the sheer volume and variety of work on offer breathtaking, it also offers a once in a lifetime chance to have a peek into the artists studio.

As huge D*Face fans we were pleasantly surprised to be given a free print and coin - a testament not only to his generosity but to the spirit of freely giving his art to the people. Amazing.

Here's a few shots, but we strongly advise checking it out for yourselves.

The Studio

The Coin

One of The Pieces

D*Face Baloons 

D*Face Etched Paving Slab


New Ben Slow Wall

It's been a busy few weeks for Alternative London guides, Ben Slow and Doug Gillen. When they weren't blowing people away with their amazing tours, Ben teamed up with Jim McElveney to paint a huge wall. This was part of a project by Fifth Wall - a video company run by Doug. You can find out more on Doug's blog:

Here's some pics:

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Broken Fingaz Paint Bacon Street

Yesterday afternoon our friend Hin popped by with Unga from the amazing Broken Fingaz - currently over from Israel and looking for a wall to paint. We had a wall in mind on Brick Lane that hadn't seen anything new for a couple of years and as we know the owners we thought it would be perfect for the dimensions they wanted to paint.

We caught up with the guys as they got going on the piece.

With so many artists these days trying to please everyone and concentrating so much on 'hits & likes' it was really refreshing to see someone painting with no regard for consequence or praise for the piece. It is what it is, like it or not - it's what he felt like painting at the time and we have maximum respect for that. 

In progress, scenes are taken from their Supersex zines. The final piece is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Who knows how long it will last, but isn't that the whole point?


Hi, thanks for dropping by! With so much interesting and exciting stuff going on around the Alternative London H.Q at the moment, we decided it's about time to start documenting some of it and sharing it with you.