South of London, torrential rain. I’m about to take refuge in one of the last authorised graffiti areas of the capital city. Located behind Waterloo, the Leake Street Tunnel caught people’s attention when Banksy set up the Cans Festival in 2008, where artists such as Blek Le Rat, Broken Crow, C215, Cartrain, Dolk were invited to join in and paint their own artwork. The festival led to the authorities designating this tunnel as place where one can legally paint. Since then, it is still attracting graffiti and the tunnel has remained a safe area for street artists to display their work. A guy at the entrance called out to me :
“Hey you, you shouldn’t stay too late in here !”
As I’ve got the muscle mass of an 80-year-old Ethiopian woman, I became worried and I entered the tunnel with the audacity of a prepubescent about to lose his virginity. But a few steps later my fears disappeared. Vibrant colors illuminated this place, which didn’t look anymore like the last act of a horror movie where the protagonist would be surrounded by heavy fog while his girlfriend, the blonde cheerleader with fake boobs, would utter a long loud piercing scream before dying in grotesque circumstances.
I came across people living a colorful dream, with powder into their nose (no, not that one) like in a traditional festival in India. I was revisiting a Bollywood classic, without the adverse effects of the tourista. Magic. Graffiti bombs, freedom of expression and poetry; this is what life should look like, this is what the Leake Street Tunnel looks like.