During lockdown, when non-essential travel was discouraged, I walked. A lot! We are lucky that we can get to a many places we like relatively easily on foot, and it was a great way of discovering some new places too. When we were allowed back on public transport, we would occasionally use the tube to go further afield than our feet could take us, but I wasn’t comfortable about getting on a bus (weird for someone who previously always got the bus over the tube).
Unfortunately, to get to one of my favourites places – Penge – the easiest route is via bus, the 176 to be precise which is one of my favourite routes (you can read more about my love of the buses in my blog post on the buses). More recently though I’ve been feeling ok about getting on the bus for a long journey, so a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Saturday, I ventured there for an exploration.
If you aren’t from south east London and / or a follower of street art, you may wonder why Penge is one of my favourite places. I’ll admit, I only relatively recently discovered why myself. Penge is, I would argue, the street art capital of south east London. I was off on a street art hunt!
In the old days, I wouldn’t venture to Penge that often, not as often as I visit Leake Street Tunnel or Shoreditch for example – two other London street art hotspots – as it’s not as convenient to get to. But not going for over a year I was excited to see what I might discover.
Over on @goingonastreetarthunt, my street art dedicated Instagram account, I’d been seeing a lot of new pieces appearing that I didn’t want to miss. Top of the list was a Trust Icon covid themed take on Forrest Gump. Fortunately, the turnover of street art in the area isn’t as fast as in some other places and I knew exactly where it was; it seems some artists have walls they ‘own’ so if a piece gets painted over it’s often replaced by something by the same artist. I made it my first port of call.
I’ve learned of a few regular spots and normally follow a similar route, but on this visit I thought I’d go off piste and take an alternative route. I’m glad I did, spotting work by Woskerski, Aspire and Hunto that I would never have discovered otherwise. I also discovered some work by new, to me, artists such as Wild Drawing.
As it was such a warm day, I couldn’t resist stopping off for a quick beer at the Southey Brewing Company where I got to enjoy work by another of my favourite artists, WRDSMTH, while I drank my beer in the shade.
Back on my usual route, there were a number of pieces I’d spotted before but there were a lot of new ones; I’m pleased that lockdown didn’t stop the artists from getting out and about. I even discovered that one of my favourite artists Alo, who I was lucky enough to meet last year, has paid a visit to Penge.
As I ended my route with one last spot before jumping on the 176 home, I got chatting to a couple of other street art hunters. One of them was the man behind London Calling Blog, a blog dedicated to sharing street art in south east London, who advised me that there are now more than 70 walls painted in the area. It turns out he is the conduit between the artists and the local residents and business owners who offer their walls up to be painted. They have curated a street art guide to Penge and Anerley to find them all. The route takes over four hours to complete and includes a lot of tucked away pieces that you probably wouldn’t just stumble across.
I’ll admit that for me part of the fun is just roaming and seeing what I find, but I’ll admit I’ve had to be given directions to some pieces – like Trust Icon’s Snoopy tucked away in a residential area. Knowing there is a route to follow I’m sure I’ll take some time soon to check them all out. It’ll be a great way to see some art and further explore the area.
I’ve included more photos of work I discovered in the area in this Flickr album which I’ll update with older pieces from my archive over time. Let me know which are your favourite pieces in the comments.