Iconic ‘street art’ wall in Shoreditch at risk as ‘Shakespeare’s development’ draws close

PUBLISHED: 13:20 05 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:46 06 January 2017

Street artist Gnasher's work on the art wall

Street artist Gnasher's work on the art wall


The future of a wall for street artists known the world over is in jeopardy as a development where Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre was unearthed draws near to completion.

Baroness Grey Thompson looks at an image of herself on the artwallBaroness Grey Thompson looks at an image of herself on the artwall

The wall is the last remnant of a demolished railway arch in Shoreditch on the former Broad Street main-line which is used to promote up-and-coming street artists and has raised £100,000 for charity.

The likes of Ant Carver, Gnasher, Louis Gomez and rap artist MF Doom have left their mark on its brickwork. Marriage proposals have been made at the spot.

Charities benefitting include ‘Save the Children’ and ‘Save Syria’s Children’ in the five years since the art wall was set up by Peter Mackeonis.

But the wall may only survive for another three months, because of the £715 million development, The Stage, behind Great Eastern Street next to Curtain Road where the foundations of the Elizabethan playhouse were stumbled on eight years ago.

The wall has featured its fair share of marriage proposalsThe wall has featured its fair share of marriage proposals

Peter was given permission five years ago to turn the railway brickwork into a ‘street art’ wall. But now the 37-storey luxury apartment and office complex which is preserving the playhouse foundations is threatening the last remnant of the old Broad Street Railway.

“We worked with hundreds of artists from around the world—it’s become iconic,” Peter explains.

“They arrive from Brazil Australia, America, Germany—we let them rip. They can paint exactly what they like. We have had people contact us from America saying they’ll be in town and wanting to ‘book’ a space on the wall. If it’s available, they can.”

Olympic champ Tanni Grey-Thompson unveiled a mural of herself on the wall highlighting the need for wheelchair access. Michael Bates who walked an epic 3,000 miles from Olympia to London supporting a peace resolution during the 2012 Olympics unveiled the ‘Walk for Truce’ mural there.

Street artist Zabou's work 'Shoreditch Curtain'Street artist Zabou's work 'Shoreditch Curtain'

The wall not only draws in street artists, but also shy lovers wanting to pop the question.

“Men walk their girlfriends past and there’s this huge artwork asking ‘Will you marry me?’ on the wall,” Peter adds. “That’s free, but we raise a lot of the money for charity charging for space. It’s not a profit centre.”

They have also promoted the Prince’s Trust, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Peter Gabriel’s human rights ‘Witness’ programme, a campaign for testicular cancer and an anti-‘child bride’ campaign.

Galliard Homes, the developers, initially wanted the street artists gone by December 31. But now they are letting them stay until March 31—as long as they use the first panel to promote The Stage.

“We don’t know if the wall will be knocked down,” Peter says with some concern. “It’s part of a railway arch, so they might demolish it to make an access to the yard. What a sad loss that’s going to be.”

He was hoping it would be “nice to have a bit of Shoreditch left, or it ends up like Singapore, all steel and skyscrapers”, he fears.

“We’ll be asking ‘where did London go?’—it’s fast disappearing.”

That happened once before at this spot back in the 16th century, when Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre was dismantled overnight and hurriedly carted off to the Southbank—it took another 400 years before any traces were rediscovered.

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