The Waterloo Graffiti Tunnel: Hidden Treasure of London Town

Taste Tablet – Feature Article

If you’re lucky enough to hear London calling, there are undoubtedly sights that are a must see. I am sure you’ve heard of the major tourist hot spots; such as the musically famed Abbey Road, the all-seeing London Eye, and the towering presence of Big Ben.  These are all sights worth taking in while abroad, however, there is another spot equally worthy of viewing that is not as infamous.  Just because it has not earned a massive claim to fame does not make it any less immaculate.

This hidden treasure is located hardly a hop, skip and a jump away from shining wonder wheel that is the London Eye. The Waterloo Graffiti Tunnel (formerly known as The Banksy Tunnel), just around the corner from Waterloo Tube Station on Leake Street, is a cave filled with color and street art from around the world.

Graffiti is a highly punishable crime in London. While well-known graffiti artists such as RUN, Phlegm and of course Banksy have pieces in Brick Lane and Camden Town, they could suffer serious consequences by law if caught. While most artists tag their name at the bottom or edge of their work, they also include their time. It is a race against the clock and police to get their piece completed. While the graffiti on streets such as Brick Lane are still incredibly talented, even within the somewhat rushed environment, The Waterloo Tunnel offers a space for aspiring and veteran graffiti artists to showcase their work legally. The works found in this space are made at a less sporadic and more focused pace is utterly breathtaking.

Over the dismal and dark entrance of the tunnel, a sign spotted with colored tags reads, “The Tunnel: Authorized Graffiti Area. No Sexism. No Racism. No Adverts. You don’t have to be a gangster to paint here, so please don’t behave like one.” Artists are encouraged to craft their pieces and speak their minds, but respectfully. They are asked to clean up their empty cans, stencils and other belongings to keep the area open for fellow artists.

It is difficult for the eye to adjust to the contrast in atmosphere. The walk down Leake Street is quite dark and run down, but as soon as the corner to the 656 foot tunnel is rounded, the eye is battered by brilliant color, immaculate images, and in-depth design.  The artwork pushes off the tunnel from ceiling to floor. Sounds of spritzing and spraying echo down the color-blocked hall, accompanied by the faint sound of music; playing like a choir rehearsing in unison. Every inch of the wall is like viewing a new perspective; a different artist, a different design. It is a tunnel of creativity, beauty and expression. All are welcome to contribute to the tunnel, no matter what city, country or town they hail from.

The city of London is filled to the brim with sights to see and moments to experience. It would be a shame not to embrace the passionate and beautiful street art that can be found within the Waterloo Tunnel. Honestly, get a move on. London’s calling.

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