ORGAN THING: The Whitecross Street Party, a taste or two of what went down last weekend…


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1

THE TENTH ANNUAL WHITECROSS STREET PARTY, Whitecross Street, London EC1, July 13th/14th 2019 – The overall feeling at the tenth annual Whitecross Street Party is exactly that, the feeling of a rather good East End urban art flavoured street party; a street party alive with energetic colour, with lots of fun, alive with art, with music and poetry, a street party alive with people, alive with a whole cross-section of communities and groups all coming together at what is essentially an event that evolves around the many tentacled beast that is street art. I’ll declare my interest straight away before you get stuck in to the bones of this piece of fractured afterthought; I was taking part, the Fruit Shop that appeared at the Art Car Boot Fair in King’s Cross a couple of weeks back, the Fruit Shop that appeared at Shipton Street Gallery over on the edges of Hackney for a couple of weeks back in April, is taking the form of a traditional East End market Stall for the two days of the Whitecross Street Party – we’re set up in the middle of the street next to the rather argumentative Labour Party stall for the Saturday and a rather brilliant local church’s history society on the (cricket-fuelled) Sunday – and what a history Whitecross Street has in terms of street markets and lots lots more besides, brilliant history stall run by long-standing informative locals, loads of fascinating conversations and stories shared, brilliant (and I really hadn’t come across the Worrall and Fuller Exhibition Fund until a local vicar came over to ask if I was related to the Worrall in question, I do appear have a name that keeps on cropping up in terms of East London history, have you checked out Worrall’s yard over in Brick Lane?). Anyway declaration of self-interest, blowing of my own trumpet, historical links and the rest out of the way, you know where we stand (about halfway down the street opposite some rather stinky food stalls – that was rather annoying actually, that really wasn’t appreciated, stuck away from most of the art with the smelly sausages stinking up everything. Declaration of self-interest dealt with then, on with the writing about an event that we’re part of and the declaration that this is mostly the view from the Fruit Shop stall and that we didn’t get to escape from behind the stall that often over the two days of the street party, we didn’t get to see everything, it is a long street…


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1

We arrive early on Saturday morning, fruit boxes full of fruity paintings, fresh leaf growth and more, we’re ready to set up alongside all the other artists and doers and makers and performers, there’s big white “blank canvas” boards set up along the street, there’s artists starting to make marks on those fresh white boards, there’s empty music stages awaiting bands, there’s spoken word stages awaiting words and poets and people’s eyes and ears, there’s a giant paint brush on a roof, there’s several installations up above the buildings, there’s people arriving with bags of paint or pieces of equipment, people pulling on costumes, people with musical instruments, there’s a real feel of people preparing, people getting ready to do things, there’s a good buzz brewing up, it feels like good things are about to happen, exciting to be part of it, art should exciting, art should engage, art so often fails to really truly engage or excite or to reach out beyond the confines of the bubble…


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1

The event is essentially a two afternoon thing, some of those who are painting live on day one are well into their pieces by the time the crowds start to arrive – ah, Toasters, not seen a new toaster for quite some time, there seemed to be toasters everywhere you turned a couple of years ago, they’re as slick as hell but it is hard not to rather like the way that simple pop art image keeps on evolving and repeating in such a positive way. There’s art happening all over the place, mostly the Whitecross Street Party is about people though, about the community, about getting involved, the Great Art people (the big art shop on Kingsland Road) are generously dishing out free art material for kids to attack the communal white boards that are set up next to the boards the more established street artists are using, there’s open invitations for people to take to the spoken word stage or the rather excellent “Inside Outside Showing Off Performance Booth”.


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1

Not every piece of street art that goes up on those what boards is great but a lot of it really is rather positive, those artists who don’t play it safe are the more rewarding over the two days, it isn’t really a weekend to be picking out names and offer up some kind of in-depth critique of the pieces though – this is about a feeling, a spirit, about a party in the street, about the event as one whole thing, about strangers talking to each other, smiling at each other. There’s painters up in cherry pickers respectfully painting on (the beautiful) old brick walls, there’s performance artists wondering about – the non-stop argument involving the two very colourful performers with the megaphones was constantly entertaining – “You’re not even a painting”, “You’re not ever a sketch”, “You’re just a dirty mark on a piece of paper” – there’s people hitting drums, there’s a rather commercial gallery in the middle of the street that if we’re honest doesn’t look or feel that inviting, the body language in there was not that friendly or inviting over the weekend, that doesn’t matter though, it really is all about the art on street rather than a not very engaging commercial gallery, This weekend is about the art and artists out on the street, about two days of smiles and conversations, two positive days of things shared, of people asking questions, people having a go, sharing ideas, people watching artists paint or watching graff writers writing or poets performing, this is about watching performers perform, about bands playing on outdoor stages, about open air art installations – the Binnie Sisters were on good form (as they always are), the strange and rather tribal black metal flavoured band who are part of the mid afternoon parade on both days add to it all – “I love this festival, you see the weirdest of things” says one of the brilliant pensioners running the history stall, “this is a little different to the Queens coronation street party that happened back in 1953” adds another of the history group, they’re brilliant, most of the weekend is brilliant…


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1

Okay, so not everything was brilliant, there surely should have been more people, especially on the Sunday (things were far busier on the Saturday), the publicity could have been a lot better – sure, there were lots slick-looking glossy flyers and posters but hey, an actual address or a postcode on the flyer might have been a good idea? Not everyone knows where or what the Whitecross Street Party is – mind you most of the flyers appear to be being handed out at the actual event, being given out to people who are already at the event, surely an exercise that was kind of a just little bit of a waste of time and glossy paper? Suggestions that it might be an idea to go flyer out and about in the other streets of the neighbourhood are met with looks of confusion, the artists and performers putting in so much effort maybe deserved a little more? Some of us might feel a little bit cheated by some of the organisation – and there are a number of complaints from people coming back on the second day in terms of pieces painted on the Saturday already being covered up by new boards on the Sunday, people were coming back on the second day to see how the work they had watched in progress had developed, the Toasters and several other impressive pieces had already been covered up by Sunday morning . Most of it was great though, most of it did feel like the spirit of the non-conformists from back there under the Westway and such, there was a positive hint of artistic rebellion in the air, and art (as Sean Scully likes to point out) is generally a force for good. It did sound like there were some decent bands on the stages, but we’re doing our thing in there out of ear shoot shoved in with the smelly food stalls away from the art so we didn’t really get to see or hear much in terms of the music from where we were, we can tell you the Mayor is a Joan Jett though, there was a short rendition of C-c-c-cherrybomb – it was mostly great, there were lots of good conversations with people about music, about art, about the whys and where’s of street art (“turns out you’re not all a bunch of bleedin’ vandals after all, who”d have thought it”), there were great conversations about East London, about communities, about the history, there’s new friendships struck up, ideas exchanged, little bit of a shame to see some of the original artists from the early years feeling a little pushed out, and no, not all of the art of the boards was great but enough of it was more than good enough to make the weekend and the tenth year a positive success. Yes it was mostly a success, it was mostly a great two day street party, it was art as a force for good, it was about community, a (mostly) good time was had ar the 2019 Whitecross Street Party… (sw) .

Click on an images to enlarge or to run the slide show….



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