Written while listening to: “Spinning Wheel” — Black Honey
I went to London for all the wrong reasons.
I wanted a souvenir of a British boyfriend and to get adopted by the BBC. Instead, I got three different versions of Adele’s “Someone Like You” stuck in my head and some tea…that I forgot on the plane.
Just kidding. Between the friends I made along the way, growing immensely as a person, and the newfound knowledge that “spotted dick” is an actual real dessert, I took countless things from my time abroad.
But the most important thing I learned? London is super weird.
And then? There was the street art.
I know that gushing over street art is kind of in line with someone who loves Dave Matthews and thinks shirts that say COOL STORY BRO are a good idea.
But there’s something profoundly different about the street art in London. You constantly feel the ebb and flow of modern vs. archaic. Just outside the city you have the mystery that is Stonehenge. And in the middle of the city is the Tower of London, where Monarchs lived and people were tortured. The past is an inescapable shadow interspersed and ever-present, only broken by the shine of modern skyscrapers.
Much London’s street art is fueled by politics and social commentary, from the ominous, Orwellian “CCTV is Watching” signs everywhere, to the monarchy (see “God Save the People”). Banksy is the most famous street artist to date, many other artists inspired by his work. And his pieces constantly carry a dark commentary on modern society.
Even the use of “Keep Calm and Carry On” in modern artwork carries the weight of what that phrase actually meant. It was WWII propaganda designed to keep the morale of the people up after the German invasion of Britain…but it never happened. The “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters were only seen by the public post-WWII when one was discovered and since made into a heavily popularized print.
And what else is awesome — they embrace the two things that shamelessly inspired me to fall in love with London in the first place: Doctor Who and Sherlock. And when you get off the train to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum, you’re immediately greeted by a giant tile Sherlock mural…that’s made up of tiny Sherlocks.
And lots of places with the word “cock” in their title. That was pretty great too.