Tag Archives: Graffiti

FemmeFierce, International Women’s Day, Leake Street and more gorgeous graffiti. 17/100

Cherie Strong


 Sunday was International Women’s Day. And so the dreaded F word was bandied about more than usual. I know how unpopular the word is these days, not least among young women. My own teenager daughter rolls her eyes and sneers at anything describing itself as “feminist”, including (if not especially) her own mother. But I am a feminist. Of the old school variety. My “issue,” to use another unpleasant term, is nothing more than the desire for a fair shake. Let me have a go. I may succeed. I may fail. But give me the chance. And you know what, I get that chance. All the time. The only person who tells me “no” is myself, usually from lack of will or outright laziness. But feminism today (my version anyway) isn’t about trying to get more for myself. I am an embarrassment of riches. It is about getting a fair deal for all the others. The girls affected by FGM and child marriage and rape as a weapon and honor killings and lack of education and beatings and….oh where does it stop? I don’t know. What I do know is that organizations like PlanUK work to end child marriage. And celebrations like International Women’s Day and grass roots activism like FemmeFierce remind us of our responsibilities. In the most amazingly fun, very coDSCN6540DSCN6538ol, thoughtful, inclusive, gorgeous and just plain fantastic way possible.

Sunday, FemmeFierce, a movement started by the inspirational Ayaan Binksy (or so she is known), a woman who definitely has a go at life, took over Leake Street, the official name of the graffiti filled road under Waterloo Station. 150 street writers from around the world came. Mostly women, but several men too. And I was delighted to see them there. Hey, you can’t change the world with only half the population. Interestingly, their work tended to DSCN6555be the more political, with themes of anti-violence and bravery of Malala. The women produced everything…from the hauntingly beautiful, but terrifying anti-FGM message to flamboyant tag names and sexy portraits. And humour. Lots and lots of humor. My youngest child particularly loved the one of school girls with spray cans. The headline read “School is over Girls….Reload!” and a handwritten sign was taped to the wall “Please don’t tell my Mum I’m not at school.” IMG_20150308_135526 DSCN6552Perhaps it was the overload of spray paint fumes, but the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Street writing, by its very nature, tends to be a solitary activity. But this was a festival of creativity, a celebration of humanity. Complete with a hip hop and can rattling soundtrack.

The morning began at 8. All the walls were painted over in the light blue of IMG_20150308_093053 IMG_20150308_142654 (1)PlanUK, for which FemmeFierce was raising awareness and encouraging donations. Children were more than welcome. My Katherine grabbed a roller and started her public art career. As the artists chose their spaces and waited for the blue to dry, they were more than willing to chat. A police officer wandered down to admire the work. He told me he often comes along to check out the new pieces. Later kids, or “the new generation”, were encouraged to try their hand at some spraying. Mine eagerly joined in, to varying results. Artists worked throughout the day, chatted with each other and patiently answered questions about their work and where they came form and all the general nosiness of an interested public.IMG_20150308_093808 Stereotypes were checked at the staircase. Not a pair of dungarees in sight. Instead I saw heels and skirts and lacy underwear. DSCN6539Multiple earrings and nose piercings and fabulous wild hair. Some girls seemed barely out of their teens, others much older. One man spent much of the day holding his tow headed toddler in one arm while using a paintbrush with the other. All were very agreeable to having their photographs taken, and at times there seemed to be more photographers than artists. Many of younger women had no links to social media at all, shrugging off all suggestions that this was the norm. Refreshingly reassuring that not everything is thinly disguised self-promotion. Comforting to learn that sometimes self-expression is just that.


And through it all Ayaan, the organizer, glided, being affectionately called to or hugged every few minutes. IMG_20150308_141652Beautiful and charming, she gives that impression of effortlessness that the truly driven and determined often do. I am quite sure that hours and hours and hours of tedious, frustrating, hard work went into making this event come together so smoothly. Yet she almost had me believing she did nothing more than make a wish and snap her fingers twice. That she simply stated her intention out loud and the universe responded “as you wish.” I love people like this.

And of course I love London. A city that has a tunnel where street artists can come from all over the world and create things to honour women, to remind of us those in trouble, in pain, in fear, to invite us to look at the world in a new way, to make us laugh or just say “wow, that is terrific.” Well done FemmeFierce.

Sarah Gillings

Hannah Adamaszek

I returned to the Vaults on Monday, hoping to enjoy the space in quiet. It was quiet, but I wasn’t alone. Several photographers were still there, capturing these images that won’t last. I don’t know how long it will take until it is all painted over again. That is the nature of graffiti afterall. And maybe that sets me up for the perfect analogy. Days like International Women’s Day and projects like FemmeFierce are important. Because they are fleeting. Reminding us that life is precious and needs to be protected. Throughout the world.

John Feeney

For more information about PlanUK and its life-changing work, please visit: http://www.plan-uk.org

For more photos from the day visit: https://www.facebook.com/FemmeFierceEvents


On Tunnels, Vaults, Art, Theatre…what isn’t there to be passionate about? 13/100

10552536_1427137550909118_7034979627679131449_nMany, many years ago when Secret Cinema was secret and affordable I had the local mini cab company drop me at the location, indicated by a series of oblique emails, of the evening’s festivities. My lovely driver was horrified. “No, no Lady,” he implored, “you can not get out. It is too dangerous.” He was quite insistent. Of course I was even more insistent. And I had my brawny husband with me for protection. So out of the cab I raced….and into the other wordly Old VicTunnels.

Years later and many, many more events attended, these dark, wet tunnels under Waterloo Station have been renamed “The Vaults,” and are anything but a no-go zone. The hip spot for art and alternative theatre , pop up restaurants and parties, and yes, circus. The long entry way is still very popular with young men who are handy with the spray paint, often to exquisite results, but the atmosphere is more intentionally seedy than actually nefarious.

The film on the night above was The Battle of Algiers, a French film in black and white chronicling the start of the Algerian uprising. Made in 1966….however….I don’t think I need to state the obvious. The tunnels on the night were transformed into a kasbah. A dark, spooky, scary kasbah. with shouting French soliders and veiled women carrying bombs. And despite the fact that it all seemed a bit too real at time, I loved it. And loved the tunnels. And vowed to go to back. As often as I could.

But it is not a place for happy, in the traditional sense at least. Bedlam, an art exhibit on the treatment of the mentally ill through the ages, was made all the more tragic by the coldness of the walls and the darkness in the corners. Fiona Shaw’s movScreen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.47 PMing, physical rendition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner left us no doubt as to the narrator’s despair. Another night I followed a modern dance troupe through the cavernous spaces as they used their bodies to re-enact Brian Keenan’s book An Evil Cradling on his time as hostage in Iran. The fact that the walls were actually dripping with water from the pouring rain outside made what we were watching, entitled Without Warning, even more catch in your throat frightening.

Lately, I like to pop down the stairs from the station just to see the recent streeDSCN4656t art, which is always on a grand scale.

This past summer I saw a short circus performance. Which wasn’t at all scary. Until the circus ended and a band started up. Suddenly everyone of a certain age disappeared. “Lucy,” I shouted to my friend, “we have to go. Someone is going to think I am the singer’s mother.”

DSCN4659But hey, I was there before it was cool and rebranded. I suppose I can let the kids have the tunnels for a while. But I will be back. For something fabulous, I am sure.