Tag Archives: Street Art

On Being a Woman Phenomenally…running into the next decade…99/100

cofBirthdays are a funny thing. They are supposed to be meaningful, monumental even. But I’ve always found them to be rather like New Year’s Eve, overhyped and ultimately disappointing. And as we get older, depressing. A few days ago I turned 49. “Oh, its the beginning of the end,” people told me. “The big 50 next year…it’s  all downhill from here.” and other such ridiculous nonsense. “But why?” has been my consistent answer. Why should it be depressing and downhill and the end? I am so looking forward to turning 50. I have long thought that my 5th decade is going to be my best yet. 50 and fabulous. 50 and fighting fit. 50 and fearless. And technically this is my 50th year, so why not start celebrating now. I don’t generally do much birthday celebrating. Instead I use it as an excuse to do more Londony things, as if I ever need an excuse for Londony things. Last year I stretched it out and did a full week of Londony things with different people, IMG-20170908-WA0004including breakfast in the Sky Garden with Sara, sculpture walk with Milly and drinks in the London Eye with my husband, Craig. But this year I wanted something a bit more. Not expensive, fancy more. Not exclusive London more. Not once in a lifetime more…just me more. As in how I see the future. And would remember forever. A tall order, perhaps, but my passions are widespread and I know clever people. One of the cleverest is Vanessa, the woman behind the amazing Secret London Runs running tours. “I might like to run on my birthday,” I said to her back in June. Almost without hesitation came the response, “why don’t I write a Famous Annes of London tour.” Why not indeed.

But this wasn’t just a super fun run in honour of my famous London namesakes, with Philippa and Alice and Vanessa, it was a flamboyant start to my year long pre-50th celebration. Yes, year long.  If I want to celebrate for a year, why not. It’s my beginning of the beginning. (Most certainly not the start of the end!)


So at 6:10 pm on the 7th of September, 2017, my 49th birthday, Alice, Philippa and I met Vanessa at the Duke of Wellington statue outside of Bank station for an adventure through the City, the West End, Soho and Camden.  Along the way Vanessa introduced us to the most wonderfullyIMG-20170908-WA0010 colourful and interesting Annes. Naughty, powerful, rich, talented and sainted. We saw where Anne Bronte met her publisher, who was of course expecting a man, not a provincial young lady. We admired a statue of Shakespeare and agreed that being left his second best bed in the will didn’t mean he didn’t care for his wife, Anne Hathaway…she got the money too.  Poor Anne Askew was racked so badly for her religious beliefs she had to be carried in a chair to the stake, to be burned alive for heresy. Anne Redshawe ran The House of Intrigue in the 18th century, a lesbian brothel frequented by ladies of the upper classes. Anne Morrow LinIMG-20170908-WA0016dbergh, Queen Anne, and her mother Anne Hyde all have great stories. St. Anne, Jesus’s granny, got two stops. The second included oznoran extraordinary mural. Art! Plus a few more Annes (I can’t give all the secrets away!).

By the time we arrived in Camden, tired but full of happy history, Craig, Ange and Paul had a table waiting and wine cooling. The evening rolled on. The laughter rang out. It was the BEST birthday ever!!

But that was just the start. Shortly after we came up with the plan for the Anne run, I decided it would just be the first of….well….50. To prove that I am not afraid of turning 50 by literally running into it…..50 times. That is the challenge I have set myself, to run 50 races or events (of course Secret London Runs will feature often in this experience!) in the year. So after each one I will have either a medal (I do love a bit of bling) or some fab photos of London (can you ever have too many?).

cofAs I started to look at the options, and there are so many running options in London, I quickly realized that the challenge isn’t really going to be the running so much as one of logistics. Stephen, 3rd child, age 13, has so many rugby matches this Autumn I need to figure out how to be in two places at once. But I am a mother, I can do it! In fact, as I type I already have 3 runs under my belt. Two days before the Anne run, I went on the Street Art run with Secret London Runs (same week counts,cof I need all the events I can get!). Not only was it great to run through East London and find some incredible street art, we were filmed by a young, local woman who couldn’t believe we were doing such a crazy thing. Running! To see art! Later, one of the men in my group stopped to help a collapsed homeless man, “I am a first aider,” he explained. With impressive efficiency he established the man was breathing but unconscious and helped arrange for an ambulance, and then we carried on. London life.

cofYesterday morning I ran the Clapham Common 10k with Run Through UK. No watch, no earphones, nothing but London sunshine. And the peace of mind to enjoy it. A terrific medal too. It was then that I realized this isncof‘t really a challenge at all. It is a privilege. More than a privilege, a gift. I have the health, the time and perhaps most importantly, the freedom in which to make this happen. Suddenly a silly, self-indulgent idea becomes a feminist statement. Maya Angelou rings in my ears. “I am a woman PHENOMENALLY.” Now I do love that. Passionate about that. My London Passion. xxx


Instagram: @mylondonpassion



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