I've mentioned chewing gum artist Ben Wilson on a number of occasions over the last few years. For the uninitiated, Mr. Wilson paints tiny pictures on pieces of chewing gum that people have spat on the floor. He's been making masticated art on London's streets for over a decade, but if you walk over the Millennium Bridge, and look down, you'll be sure to see his handy-work adorning what Londoner's call 'the wobbly bridge'.
On today's east London walk, which has been previously described as a street art walk with a few other bits about London thrown in, we soon discovered that in the last week or so, Ben Wilson, (the chewing gum man) has been on what Gary (one of the walkers) described as a 'chewing gum painting bender'. I'm sure there are more recent additions, but these are the ones that we spotted today around Old street, Shoreditch and Rivington Street.
Most weekends I do three regular 'pay what you want' walks around London; two in central London on Saturdays and an East London walk on Sundays. Over recent months I've been a bit lapse at writing up these walks, but every now and again I get people who are returning for a second walk, or even their third ... for ...'The Trilogy'.
Last Sunday Geoff and Desne who first joined me for a walk last year, returned to complete 'The Trilogy'. They brought it to my attention that friends of theirs who have also been on my walks, got mentioned on the website and had their picture included. They seemed a little despondent that for no particular reason, I had never included either of their previous walks in this manner. So, to make amends, here is Geoff and Desne on the Sunday East London walk. They were joined by a nice young chap from New Zealand called Brendan and I took their photo on Rivington Street, with one of street artist Stik's stick figures behind them.
At the beginning of the year I did a few walks with a lovely couple from Australia, Berni & Louise. They also came on the first Saturday morning walk of 2016 from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's and were joined by Angelina & Michael from Germany. You can see them below standing in Wardrobe Place in the City of London. To their right, standing by the main front door to St Paul's cathedral is Brigid, who was the only person on that particular walk.
For the last few years I've done a walk with a group of American and Singaporean students. They came along for a wander around the east end one Sunday. I took their photo in Corbett Place, part of the Old Truman Brewery building, which is festooned with street art, including work by Invader, Shepard Fairey, Ronzo and D*Face to name just a few.
I mentioned earlier, Geoff & Desne completing 'The Trilogy'. Often this momentous occasion is achieved over a number of months or usually years. However, every now and again a real keeno emerges from nowhere, intent on doing all three walks in a single weekend; an ordeal ... sorry ... pleasurable activity that involves listening to me warbling on for about 9 or more hours, whilst doing a fair bit of walking, very possibly in not particularly great weather. On the second weekend in January, Susi from Germany rose to the challenge and did all three walks in a single weekend. Below, you can see her on her second walk, with Linda, David and Andrew who were visiting from the States. We were down on Bankside, next to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and you can see the magnificent dome of St Paul's cathedral behind them.
The following day, Susi returned to take on the final leg of 'The Trilogy' around East London. She was joined by Jane & Dan. Jane is a London based life coach, so if you're at a career cross roads or think a life coach might be useful, then maybe Jane's a good person to get in contact with. I wasn't going to include their photo because I was trying to be a bit arty farty by taking their picture under a railway arch, with the sun behind them. All it achieved was that you can't see Susi, Jane or Dan, but it looks like Dan is wearing a pair of stick on glowing ears. He actually had perfectly fine ears, what could be called 'normal' ears. I just wanted to make that clear.
I've included the next photo below because it includes Tim & Sarah, also completing 'The Trilogy' as well as Sue and Anne (aka Petal) back for their second walk and Lucy who had also been on a few walks with me, as I'd done some walks with the charity she works for. It was all go. They were joined by a lovely bunch of friends having a bit of a reunion, as well as Tim, a hardcore Aldershot Football team fan. Here they are clustering around the area that was the original site for the world famous Globe Theatre, which opened in Bankside in 1599.
So there we have it, a few of the first weekend walks I've done in 2016.
Special Award to Geoff & Desne for no particular reason - Geoff & Desne
Recipients of the much coveted 'Trilogy' Award - Geoff & Desne, Tim & Sarah and also Susi
A few years ago I was standing outside St Paul's cathedral, just next to the statue of Queen Anne. We were coming to the end of my regular Saturday morning walk, and I was busy boring everyone to death with stuff about Christopher Wren, the architect who built it and whatever bits of scintillating information happened to spew forth from my mouth. I looked down and noticed that exactly where I was standing was a bit of chewing gum painted by a guy called Ben Wilson (who I've actually mentioned previously). It looked very much like this:
This particular bit of painted chewing gum has since been stolen (that's right ... stolen), but the artist, Ben Wilson spends a great deal of time painting tiny miniature landscapes (amongst other things) on bits of chewing gum around the capital. There's nothing to give you any idea about scale, so you'll have to take my word for it, that it was approximately the size of a ten pence piece. When I pointed it out to the group I was with, it was very obviously the most interesting thing I'd mentioned in about 3 hours, so ever since, like to include bits of Ben's chewing gum art ... if I find them on my walks. He's been doing it for over ten years, so they now run in to their thousands. Above is a picture of the area where I was standing at the time I saw this particular art work ... it depicts the front of St Paul's cathedral with a black cab driving across the front.
The cathedral seems to be a particular favourite subject of Ben Wilson, and you'll find it rendered perfectly in bits of masticated and well trodden gum on the Millennium Bridge, the pedestrian bridge that joins St Paul's to the Tate Modern ... if you care to look. The Millennium Bridge seems to have become a bit of a pet project for him, and apparently there are now over 400 painted bits of gum on it. You might even encounter Ben himself lying there painting one. I found a nice piece recently which includes the bridge itself with the dome of St Paul's in the background, which is below, plus a few more I found in Old Street and just generally around.
I often think that many charities become a little bit complacent, believing that because they have charitable status, people should automatically feel inclined to donate to their cause. The hand of the charitable giver is usually forced, guilt tripped in to handing over cash or setting up a direct debit with a sob story, often with considerable pressure applied by the charity or person doing the asking. Having spent a year working as a charity fundraiser, this is an approach I am familiar with.
There are some charities however who obviously see that this approach might plug the occasional hole, but have set themselves up to be more sustainable, as a business, with the money generated filtered back in to their charitable work. I've been lucky enough to be involved with the Hackney Pirates, a kids after school club trying to make learning fun; an adventure. In the process of creating and learning, the children produce products that can be bought by the general public, thus helping to keep the Hackney Pirates afloat. Another charity that was brought to my attention, by someone who came on one of my walks, that takes the same approach, is DePaul UK, a charity that helps young people who are homeless, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Last year, they set up the DePaul Box Company, effectively a cardboard box business for the kind of boxes you need when you move house. As the money they make goes back to the charity, their boxes change lives.
DePaul's latest campaign is called 'Don't Let Their Stories End On The Street' for which they have teamed up with a number of east London's street artists. The likes of Ben Slow, David Shillinglaw, Best Ever, Josh Jeavons and Jim McElvaney have all produced work that tells the stories of the young people the charity supports; people who have either become homeless or are at risk of homelessness.
All the artists involved have given their time and talents for free, and as you can see from Ben Slow's piece above, certainly grabs the attention. The important part of the whole campaign however, is that each piece of street art directs people to DePaul's 'Street Stories' website. Here you will find a kind of virtual wall, filled with work by the different artists. Each piece of the wall represents a limited edition, signed, screen-print of the original and by purchasing one, you will be helping to 'clean' part of the digital wall, symbolising that gradually, through the art and the work of DePaul UK, an element of homelessness has been removed from the street.
So, as you're wandering around east London, you might come across David Shillinglaw's piece (above) which tells Shelly's story, and if you go to the 'Street Stories' website, can purchase the screenprint below, seen here, alongside another by Jim McElvaney.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.