Regrettably I find myself increasingly shocked at the cost of modern living particularly when entertaining my children. You practically have to take out a mortgage to go to the cinema these days never mind 10 pin bowling or a restaurant. My sons aged 13 and 10 will only tolerate galleries and museums in small doses (which must be genetic) so I am always on the look-out for inexpensive family entertainment. Fortunately, they share my penchant for street art – or ‘graffiti’, depending on your viewpoint, the appreciation of which is virtually cost free.
‘Banksy’ is the most celebrated and one of the most prolific practitioners of the genre although the authenticity of some works attributed to him is hotly disputed. A paperback copy of BLT – Banksy Locations and Tours, by Martin Bull, is a worthwhile investment at around £10 and will facilitate some definite sightings, but part of the appeal of street art is its ephemeral and transitory nature – some entries will have disappeared but new pieces appear all the time too.
Say what you like about the cost of living in the 21st century, public transport in London is inexpensive for children and kids enjoy jumping on and off tube trains and buses. The Clerkenwell and Farringdon area around Smithfield and Exmouth markets is an old Banksy stomping ground and we had great fun tracking down some of his earlier work in the locale. Some of these are pretty faded now but many are still recognisable and Alfred and William were keen to be photographed alongside some vintage originals.
Once you have got a feel for the type of sites favoured by street artists (which seldom detract from any natural beauty) it is surprising how many pieces you spot. There is no substitute for just ambling round the Metropolis with a camera. While walking through Bloomsbury during half-term we found this pristine rat picture, already preserved under Perspex, and a group of American tourists were politely queuing to have their photographs taken with it.
Of course Banksy is just one of many street artists and we enjoyed finding works by lots of other illicit illustrators too. Although street art has many detractors it does have tangible benefits – it’s free to view, brings in valuable tourist revenue and it keeps kids entertained for hours on end!