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International Women’s Day and Femme Fierce

Saturday was International Women’s Day. Some celebrate it by showering love and affection on the women in their life it and apparently, in Russia it’s the day when women receive the most compliments.

It started off as a Socialist event to big up equal rights. Across the world it was celebrated on different days, but the message was just as strong. Through protests and demonstrations, women demanded the same rights as men in the workplace and everywhere else.

Since 1996, International Women’s Day has had a different yearly theme, from uniting for peace to ending violence against women. This year, the theme was “Inspiring Change”. Check out this new Ban Bossy campaign which was launched the next day and wait for Beyoncé to do her thang at the end.

There were heaps of events going on around London, including a impromptu sing-a-long on the Southbank and a night of performance at Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel.

I ended up taking a walk down Leake Street, where lady graffiti writers were inspiring their own changes. The event aimed to raise money for charity and also attempt to set a world record for the largest spray-painted mural. Put together by The Street Art Agency, Cre8 Gallery, Paint My Panda and GOT (Girls on Top), the gals came forth and took over the tunnel as part of Femme Fierce.

Cat by Susie Lowe

Cat by Susie Lowe

Lady with shiny hair by Harriet Wood

Lady with shiny hair by Harriet Wood

The sun was shining and Leake Street tunnel was dark. Over 100 lady painters lined the sides and the fumes hit you full in the face, like the air from a passing train. Despite the tunnel being a stones throw away from eager tourists, the London Eye and corporate businesses, there’s something nice and secret about the dingy underpass.

Gal by Hannah Adamaszek

Gal by Hannah Adamaszek

Fire women

Fire women by Georgie

Artists and the art-keen hung about the space taking photos, showing their support and trying not to trip over spraypaint cans. The walls had been rolled over with pink paint in association with the Breast Cancer Care charity, who were collecting donations at the event.

Nuns by Zabou

Nuns by Zabou

Nice peace piece

Nice peace piece

It was great to be in such a strong, creative atmosphere. Talented women and others who were just giving-it-a-go expressed themselves on the walls and it was wonderful to see them doing it for the sisterhood. Graffiti and street art has a male-dominated image but let’s just say, women can wear beanies, hoodies and new era caps too. Which they did.

Face by Cbloxx

Face by Cbloxx

Whilst women running the shop, men were welcome and I saw a few dotted around. A male duo accompanied the artists with some beatboxing. The cans of beer and good vibes made it feel like a little tunnel festival. And the dark plus paint fumes made it all the more fun.

Beatbox men

Fuzzy beatbox men


Save The Crane on Brick Lane!

Whilst I have fully come to terms with the fact that I will never understand everything (the Higgs Boson malarkey tends to escape me), negative public opinion regarding street art and the laws that surround it, generally comes as somewhat of a surprise.

I always think of my Mother when it comes to old fashioned thinking.  The kind of people who still find it shocking when they see men holding hands and who insist that girls should be chaperoned after dark.   Madre deeply mistrusts any hooded, young person with a spray can, assuming they were up to no good and tends to shudders at the word “graffiti”.

She’s been hailed the “female Banksy” at 10 years old.  My Mum would probably give her an ASBO

It seems like there’s a team of graffiti whistleblowers, who rule the streets across the world, whacking Perspex over every Banksy paint speck and clearing off everything else.  In Sao Paulo, the authorities also went so far as to wash away the work of a “reverse graffiti” artist who had cleaned skulls into a dirty underpass.  No one owns the dirt!  The artist, Alexandre Orion was trying to highlight the shocking pollution and when push came to shove, the authorities only washed off the part of the underpass Orion had been working on!  You’ve got to question what the actual problem is; it seems less about vandalism and more about power and government ego.

And the legalities! We could bang on about the legalities forever.  I won’t, but I WILL point out that the maximum sentence going for those “caught in the act” of graffiti is ten years; similar sentences go for drug trafficking and sexually assaulting a Chihuahua.  True story.

But even when permission is granted, pieces have been created and landmarked, street art still has no rights.

Two years ago, Belgian artist ROA came to town, saught permission to paint and proceeded to create a 40 foot crane.  Originally intended to be a heron, ROA’s design was swayed when he found out that cranes are sacred in Bengali culture.  Since then, people flock (no pun intended) to Brick Lane to take photos of the fantastic painting that ROA gave to the community.  In short, it’s a fantastic piece, it’s well loved and it is has a special place in the hearts of those who live and visit the area.

However, last week someone thought it would be a great idea to install a 10x10m corporate banner right on top of the painting declaring “Banglatown, Brick Lane, Curry Capital 2012).  They did not wait for permission (the decision won’t be finalised until 29th May), they’ve covered the crane and it’s a bloody ugly banner.  Talk about obnoxious!  Plus, once you’re up that end of Brick Lane, it’s pretty obvious that there is a lot of curry to be had.  There are 52 restaurants there, for Christ’s sake.

Do you reckon they’ll get ten years in prison for this shameless vandalism?  As if.

There’s an online petition put forward by Alternative London which needs 5000 signatures to make the council take notice.  So what are you waiting for?  Let’s unite and set the crane free!  Authorities can’t just bung up corporate advertising willy nilly and especially not over fine pieces of art.  Who do they think they are?  Art not advertising; let’s get talking.