Tortoises have the right idea don’t they? Instead of facing the relentless grim grey of winter, they tuck them selves up and nod off until the spring. Sadly, hibernating just isn’t an option for us bipeds, so here we all are, trudging around in the rain, feeling thoroughly sorry for ourselves. Sunday was a typical grey winter day when I was jealous of sleeping tortoises. I was out and about running a few errands, my shoes were leaking and the rain was dripping off my nose. With hood up and hands stuffed deep in to my pockets, I stomped around the streets of E17, complaining to myself as I went. By chance, my route took me past some pretty incredible street corners, and slowly, my mood lifted, errands were abandoned, and I was taken by the magic of the street art of Wood Street Walls.
The first wall I stumbled upon on Sunday is between Queens Road Station and Walthamstow Central. Painted by Conor Harrington, this wall depicts two blokes in period dress having a fight, at least I think they are having a fight. One of the great things about some of these walls is that you can interpret them for your self, create the story that inspired the mural. I like to think that these are two brothers, fighting over the ownership of the family estate following the death of their father. Or perhaps it is a bar room brawl, the sons of rival families fighting for family honour. The possibilities are endless.
I left the fighting men to their argument and went on my way. I passed the mural in the car park at Central Station that declares This Is E17, and walked towards the village. Walking across West Avenue Bridge I passed what I call the whispering wall. This mural is a female face surrounded by leaves and vines. The mouth is poised as if the painted woman is speaking, but speaking softly, whispering. She could be saying anything, but I think she’s whispering goodbye to an unseen lover.
I took a short cut along Aubrey Road. My favourite mural here is the Woodcock, painted by ATM. Framed in bright green, this giant bird lurks on the narrow road like some kind of harmless prehistoric beast. The detailing on this mural is incredible, like a drawing from the Observer Book Of Birds that I used to read when I was a kid. It always feels like the birds eye is following me when I walk past, like the bird is just waiting for me to go away so it can continue about its business.
By now, my errands had been abandoned and I had instead decided to hunt out more of the murals. I stopped off on Hoe Street to admire the foxes next door to the Rose and Crown Pub, a moment of tenderness captured on a wall. A young fox nuzzles the neck of the another fox, but the older, wiser urban fox, keeps one eye open to look out for danger. From there I headed down Ruby Road to the Useful and Beautiful mural, a quote from William Morris painted opposite his former home. And then to the big man himself, the towering mural of William Morris that gazes out from the car park next to the gallery. His looks thoughtful, but what is he thinking about? What would he think about the world in which we live in today?
The murals come thick and fast on Forest Road. There’s one on the side of the Chemist shop at Bell corner and there’s a space invader on the side of the Bell, which is also home to the amazing x-ray like dog skull. I continued along Forest road, and before long I could see another mural emerging through the trees in front of me. Trip The Light Fantastic is on the top of Spruce Hills Road. It pictures a dancing girl, but is she dancing through choice? The Spruce Hills Girl is being controlled like a puppet, but who’s controlling her? who owns the hands that are making her dance?
By now I was drenched, but that didn’t matter because my mural hunt was coming to an end. I was on Wood Street, which as you might expect, is home to a number of Wood Street Walls Murals. The Flower Pot pub is now the canvas for a mural by Static. A woman looks down on the street, her hair morphs in to flowers which flow around the front of the pub and embrace it in colour. The lady of the flower pot is like a mythical god, looking on the comings and goings of Wood Street, she’s not sad, but she’s not quite smiling either. She’s simply watching, waiting, but we will never know what she is waiting for.
My walk ended at the Dukes Head where a spray painting fox proclaims, All Good In The Wood, and it is all good, this public art is more than good. Wood Street walls have bought colour to our street corners and filled gable ends with countless stories. A simple walk around E17 is now like visiting an art gallery, and all that art is free to see. If you ever find your self at a loose end, go for a wander see what wonders you can find. For more information on Wood Street Walls, click here.