Back in May 2008, Banksy organized the first Cans Festival, and it happened at the Leake Street Tunnel. The idea of the festival was to exhibit the work of famous street artists that he hand-picked and invited personally by Banksy.
This is how this disused road tunnel in south London became the Graffiti Tunnel.
During the Cans Festival, whose name is a play with the famous French film festival, the artists invited by Banksy picked up a section of the wall and started painting using their style.
This changed the Leake Street Tunnel forever since it turned the space into an area where artists could paint without fear of getting arrested by the London police.
All of this happened because the tunnel goes under Waterloo station, and that station changed management from Eurostar to Network Rail. Network Rail decided to change the use of the tube to pedestrian-only. This was the opportunity needed to turn this space into the Graffiti Tunnel.
Nowadays, street artists can work calmly without fear of getting arrested by the police. At the graffiti tunnel, they can decorate the walls and ceiling with bright colors, beautiful lettering, and fantastic characters and turn this space into an open urban street art gallery for everybody that finds their way there.
I visited the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel when I visited London in March 2018. And I found it by accident after a long walk along the Thames River. After arriving next to London Eye, I was looking for the closest subway station to take me back to my hotel when Google Maps showed me something I wasn’t expecting to see. I made a walk there and loved everything about it.
When I walked into the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, some people walked around and took pictures like me. But some artists covered the walls with another layer of paint and added even more color to this tunnel.
If you visit the tunnel after reading this, try to find our Fotostrasse sticker next to the entry. I placed one there, and I was wondering how much time it it would survive in a place where new art is coming up every other day. If you find it, take a picture for us!
And for more excellent street art, here’s a free tour to follow!
The Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel in London
Leake Street – London, England, SE1 7NN
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