On an unexpected Banksy

When I began this blog, I decided that though I could write my entries in advance and schedule them to be posted each week at the same time, I wouldn’t. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on writing about something that happened, say, Tuesday morning because I had already written my blog that previous Saturday.

And so as a result, by Tuesday mornings my I’m in hyper vigilant mode, eyeing up every inch of the city as I search for the subject of that day’s blog post, if it already hasn’t hit me in the face by then. (And trust me, sometimes it really comes down to.the.wire as I scrape the bottom of the barrel of ideas for blog post content. I even considered writing a piece about eating at Pret three times in one day and what, exactly, that said about me as a person in the grand scheme of life. Thankfully, I have as yet had to fall on that sword).

 This week was a blessing from the blog post Gods though, because I already had offerings a plenty as the new week began. For instance, this past weekend alone offered a ridiculous abundance of topics as I had traversed the city’s twinned events of London Design Week and Open House London while simultaneously, yet accidentally, butting up against London Fashion Week (as you do) and the anti-fur protesters it attracted, particularly at the Burberry fashion event in Clerkenwell. (I expect that extravaganza of content will still feature in its own blog post anon.)

Then, Monday morning, as I stared bleary-eyed outside the window of the 243 bus to work, I saw James Nesbitt being filmed outside my favourite place to dance of a Saturday night, Ruby’s, on Stoke Newington Road. I expect they were filming the latest Cold Feet, though he was in a suit so perhaps there is more James Nesbitt goodness to come in which he, well, wears a suit. Surely there was a blog post in that because, honestly, it’s still a thrill seeing the famous in London and even more so when seeing them in their element (ie in front of a camera).

But, of course, James, Open Houses, Fashion and Design all flew out the proverbial bus window when I got to my desk, did a quick flick through Twitter as my computer loaded up, and saw that #newbanksy was treading.

STOP.THE.PRESS/BLOG.

With heart racing and shaky fingers, I clicked through the tweets and articles to try and find out what, exactly, was going on. Where was it going on and why did I have a full time job which was clearly getting in the way of me being on top of London’s ever frantic pulse?!?!?

Finally, I found it. Confirmation of two new Banksy pieces near… the Barbican.

WHAT?!?!

I basically spend every free moment at the freakin’ Barbican and yet I managed to miss Banksy and his street art? Sure, I don’t work there in the dead of night (though I bloody would if I bloody could) but still. And to add insult to missed-street-art injury, the writing I’m doing at the Barbican includes a character BASED ON BANKSY.

I stared with disbelief at my phone screen and was thankful for the first time that morning that I was a little dusty around the brain edges after a bit of a prosecco session after the preceding Sunday. It was this dustiness, and this dustiness alone that kept me at my desk and not running through the streets towards the Barbican and Banksy.

Instead, I planned and I plotted.

I searched for the exact location of the pieces. I watched the clock. And as soon as lunchtime hit (or the earliest it would have been acceptable for me to leave the office for a lunch break) I scampered outside into the autumnal drizzle that had clouded the London sky since August.

As I trotted up Golden Lane, I could hardly believe what I was trotting towards. A new Banksy. The day after it had been created. Imagine! Yes, I had seen Banksy pieces before. I had spotted a couple in Bristol back in the day, when they basically had their own tourist path through the city. And there was even one on my current bus route which I’d first seen in 2008 and then again in 2016, though it had not aged well at all. And I had seen the documentaries, read the books and had watched from Australia as new pieces were revealed in spots around the world. But all this was second hand at best.
Barely Banksy on Essex Rd (and it's even worse now)

As my thoughts continued in this vain, tripping over themselves, I reached a point where I could feel the buzz. I was close. I neared the Barbican and then with little ceremony, I was upon them. Just like that. A small smattering of people and cameras bookended the lane but the crowd was small enough for me to get my own photographic evidence, and then stand back and watch the circus unfold.

People in suits, travellers with backpacks, office workers and retirees, they were all there. The camera men interviewed whomever looked TV ready, while delivery trucks attempted to get on with their day without running over those who had spilled onto the roads, eager to get their selfies clicked and posted.
The circus

The pieces themselves? They’re almost an after though, aren’t they? Though their brilliance and timing, their link to Basquiat and his work, their simplicity and impact are startling and will, no doubt, be overanalysed for weeks to come. But it almost feels as if it has gotten to the point where the spectacle of Banksy has overtaken the art. The discovery more gratifying than what he is trying to say.

And does it matter?

As I walked away from the swelling mass of footpath critics, I was still bedazzled by the experience. And if I was honest with myself, the artwork had taken a backseat to the thrill of the unexpected addition to my Monday lunch break. To the joy of visiting a place I know so well, but now seeing it through the lens of an artist looking to make a point. Looking to make people shake up their routine and interact with their city in a different way. (And I think Basquiat would have approved.)

And then I scrolled through my phone, looking at the photos I’d taken and was amazed again by the pieces and their startlingly accurate commentary. Of which, I will leave up to you to agree with, or not.
An Unexpected Banksy #1
An Unexpected Banksy #2

So, yes, I could plan my blog posts, have them written when it’s convenient, but then I’d miss out on the unexpected.


And, really, that’s the best part.

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