Friday, November 2

Heygate estate street art

Every day my cycle route to work takes me through the near-derelict Heygate Estate near Elephant & Castle; over the years as more and more of the blocks became empty, life was gradually drained out of the huge blocks and nature started to take over, much as I imagine the city deteriorating in the years after the Day of the Triffids.

In some respects I am glad - some bastard once dropped a massive traffic bollard off the overhead walkway onto me as I cycled home, missing me by inches and shaking me up badly. But Southwark Council's proposed redevelopment and regeneration of the estate has been a long, drawn-out and contentious process that as well as decanting a whole community, has seen bullying tactics employed against local community groups who have put forward credible proposals for interim uses of this huge site.

Despite, or maybe because of, its urban grittiness, I love this part of the ride. There are mature trees along the length of the road (in fact the estate still supports hundreds of trees) and in spring, the grass verges that flank the estate walkways on both sides of the road erupt into a huge sea of daffodils. Every time I see them, I think about the people who must have laboured to plant so many bulbs, and wonder if they know what pleasure the flowers are still giving, so many years later.

A couple of months ago the blocks and garages on one side of the road were transformed by several huge pieces of street art, which have been making me smile ever since. Today I cycled up there specially and took some photographs so that I could share them.

The first photograph, taken from the other side of the road, gives an idea of the setting, and the art basically has a crazy bespectacled man chasing a load of animals along the disused garages and around the corner.

Here's his face - his arms with their scary talons reach out for the wayward animals along the ramps that  link the upper walkways to the ground level. He always reminds me of the crazy teacher in Gerald Scarfe's video for Pink Floyd's song Another Brick in the Wall video.

In front of him, perpetually out of reach, is a kind of Wacky Races scene, with a bunch of crazy animals in a crazy bus. One of these creatures is at the back, taunting him by roasting a smiling sausage on the flaming exhaust of the bus. At the front of the bus, another worried-looking sausage is being dangled in front of the eyes of the bus-cum-monster, presumably to keep it moving at top speed.

Up close there are some lovely details and the colours are superb.

In front of the crazy bus is a huge goggle-eyed blue dog whose tail stretches all the way along the connecting walkway and whose body is probably forty or fifty metres long. It's a massive piece of work.

I particularly like the fact that the garage doors have been made into his teeth, and that one of them is gold.

There are more (better) photographs here, along with the names of the artists who are apparently Malarky, Mighty Mo, Gold Peg and Sweet Toof.

1 comment:

Rowan said...

I used to through the Heygate on the bus every day. The street art has improved it immeasurably :)