February 2017 Archives

Great Spitalfields Pancake Day Race 2017

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Today is Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day), which marks a special day with religious roots that takes place 47 days before Easter where flour, milk, sugar, and fatty foods were used up before fasting began. It used to be a day of holiday in England, and many villages held races. Pancake Day is also the day of the annual Great Spitalfields Pancake Race, held on Dray's Walk and located off Brick Lane; it is in its 23rd year this year. I've watched the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race before as it takes place outside the office. I always find it good fun during my lunch hour.


The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race is organised by London Air Ambulance with charity collections taking place during the event. Anyone can sign up to take part in the race or simply turn up on the day with their team and a frying pan. Usually, about ten teams take place in the event, and the first prize is an engraved frying pan. There are also prizes for second and third place and additional prizes for best costume and nicest team.


The crowds gather to watch the start of the race, but I found the crowd dwindled and was not quite as large as in previous years. Many people stayed to watch the first laps but left and did not stay for the semi-finals or finals. This year, all three "clowns" were in attendance in order to gather support, but they did not engage the crowd as much this time as in the past.


The major difference that I noticed this year when compared to previous years was that many people with cameras, video cameras, and mobile phones were attending the event. I found the cameras to be a problem this year as it affected the mood when compared to previous years. They engaged the "clowns" in interviews, which prevented the rapport with the crowd. Also, a couple of the camera men were very rude and kept barging/shoving in front of people (such as myself, who was early to grab a spot and stick to it). They also kept running into the areas where the runners were. Idiots. You'll see one of them who kept popping up in some of the shots and prevented me from getting some of the best shots in the semi-final, when the race was in a serious mode. I've always loved photography, but I don't want to ruin the fun for anyone else, so I stay in one place and make sure that I am early to grab a good spot so I do not cause others to suffer.

And, having a camera does not give you an entitlement to run around and be a jerk, when I alerted to you that you in my way, in the way of the runners, and completley blocking the view of a shorter lady who was standing next to me. Your comment "we're photographers; that is what we do" makes you sound like a wanker. 

















This year, the costumes included a group dressed up as the Minions (which won 'best costume'), a group dressed up as Pancake-flipping kittens (third place), a group dressed up as animals/birds (best-behaved), additional charities, a group dressed as PacMan, and a group with members dressed up as Darth Vader and Batman. The winning team was "There's No I in Pancake", which had members dressed as Darth Vader and Batman.

Past Spitalfields Great Pancake Day Races are listed:

Great Spitalfields Pancake Day Race 2015
Great Spitalfields Pancake Day Race 2014
Great Spitalfields Pancake Day Race 2013

Exploring Down Street Abandoned Tube Station

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to explore the disused Down Street tube station in Mayfair. Down Street is on a side road between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, and the Piccadilly Line served this station. The station was not open for very long. It was opened in 1907 and shut its doors in 1932 due to lack of use. Its placement here was controversial because many people that lived in the area did not use public transport. Although it was closed in 1932, it had a new lease of life in 1939 as a secret headquarters for the railway board executivies during World War II. It is often referred to as "Churchill's Secret Bunker". The staff at TFL (Transport for London) are continuously researching and discovering how the station was used during the war times, but most of the government secrets are off limits currently and won't be accessibly by the public until 2040.


The tube station is easy to notice because of its glossy tiles that identify it; in Down Street's case, the tiles are dark red. The large arched windows and wide doorways also identify it as a tube station, although one of the doorways has been bricked over while the other is home to a small shop.


Upon arriving on the train/platform level, we were told about the station's use during World War II. The first bit of tunnel was sectioned off and became the area for typists. The walls were painted a mustard yellow colour, and we could see where the floor was levelled and the partition wall was added on one side. The side with the partition wall formed a room with an aisle down one side. The aisle was just large enough for a tea trolley (or a person to walk single-file). On this wall, there are directions to the Enquries and Committee Room, and there's "Way Out" signs in the same style on other walls. Before the room was a gas seal-off door, and there were several of these throughout the station. The rooms were all purpose-made, and the public was not aware of the secret bunker here.



We were also shown the glow-in-the-dark strips along the lower part of the tunnel walls, which enable visitors to find their way in case the electricity is off.


The next tunnel was also divided into rooms: offices and the committee room. One of the rooms here was where Churchill stayed during bombing raids. Throughout our tour, we were shown photographs on the wall of people inside these rooms, and we could identify where walls, lights, and clocks had been attached. In the photograph above, the placement of the table in the photograph is outlined on the floor. The aisleway would have been to the left, and the flooring also demonstrates how the rooms were broken up.


Off of the meeting room, we were shown the toilets and bath facilities, which were located through a door that went up a staircase. These separate rooms were divided up with the facilities. Apparently the women had to kick up a fuss to have separate facilities. The furnishings were also top of the range. The next few photographs shows some of these rooms and what remains.






Further down the hallway, we came to the section where we could see the tube train passing between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line. There were sections throughout the remainder of the tour where we could see the trains, separated by just a thin wall. We continued until we branched off into a separate tunnel where the exchange and switch board are located. These were located in two separate rooms. 


The switch board has fine wooden panel, which we could see by shining a light to it.


Opposite the switchboard is old-style tiling forming a very Art-Deco "Way Out" sign.


We arrived at further rooms that were used by the executives. Some of these included the original lighting. Many of these rooms were painted grey over the mustard yellow. Someone suggested they may have been painted for preparations on tube evacuation teams or filming a submarine movie.


A map of the layout of the rooms is also present.


We were shown the executive rooms and the bedrooms, and we could see which rooms were fancier because they had wallpaper. After this, we were shown the kitchen and dining area.


The new development and research suggests that the last part of the tour is exciting because it's the area at the back (by the air flow) that Churchill had asked to be purposed into his area. Rooms were created here with a toilet near the top of the step and a room on the left. The room had a phone line that went direct to the USA. They're not exactly sure who used these rooms, but it is clear that they are used by VIPs. A picture of the room is below, but there's actually another similar bricked-up wall a few steps down the tunnel. It's completely bricked up, but it probably has some significance. 


On the other side of this area, we saw more yellow paint, and this is covering the original signage. "To The Trains" can be seen beneath the layer of paint.


Also, the original signage showing the platform directions can also be seen here. Finsbury Park points to the left, and Hammersmith points to the right. Unfortunately, someone ruined the wall and lettering when they installed some ladders and pipework over the top of it.


Next, we saw the lift shaft. My photographs did not come out because there was not enough room to see, and the lighting was not bright enough. On the other side of the lift shaft was the tile manufacturer name Simpson & Sons, who created the tiles. This is a rare find.


Out of the lifts, the commuters would have been directed to the trains via this "To the Trains" sign.


On street level, we received a booklet with more information about Down Street station.


I would love to know more about this station and the history of it as it seems that there's still so much more to know that cannot become the public domain until 100 years are up. Unfortunately, by that time, the people who did work in the tunnels would no longer be able to talk about them.

For readers who have enjoyed this post, I have also visited additional disused and abandoned underground stations in London. I also have a couple of more trips to visit other ones coming up, so be sure to keep following me. Below are previous posts:

Paddock World War 2 Bunker
Aldwych Station
Euston Station Tunnels

On Thursday, at the height of Storm Doris ripping through London and the rest of the country, street artist Amara Por Dios returned to the streets to start off her year of murals in London. Born and raised in Sweden, Amara por Dios has been painting graffiti since she was 12 and she prefers to paint her feminine tribal-inspired characters. These are usually painted in bright and bold colours, usually pink or purple. These have significance to her Chilean and South American heritage, and she moved to London in 2013 and is a regular street artist painting walls in the city. 

Her newest addition is a portrait of two feminine characters in Star Yard.




Previous posts about Amara por Dios in this blog include:

Amara Por Dios and Flesh031 Collaborate on 'Urban Jungle' in Soho
Amara Por Dios paints for International Women's Day
Artista and Atomik (with Amara por Dios)
Street art by Amara por Dios glows in the dark
New street art by Artista, Saki, and Amara Por Dios
Amara Por Dios: Village Underground wall and other walls
New street art on Bacon Street by Amara Por Dios, Saki and others

Street artist Pang has returned to create her first large-scale mural in London this year, named "Carnival of the Weird" which depicts several body parts and faces in odd positions and situations. I originally covered Pang here, when I happened to see a lot of her early ash trays and cowboy figures appear around London's walls. Since then, became well-known in the street art scene and has even collaborated with Ben Murphy and Christain Nagel. She moved to Lisbon in July of 2016.





For more information about Pang, view her official Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pangpangus or her website at https://hausofpang.com

For more posts on Pang, see:

Street art: Pang
Collaboration with Ben Murphy
Collaboration with Christain Nagel

Previously this year, London-based street artist Zabou painted a collaboration piece with Koeone on Hackney Road. This week, she has returned to paint a portrait of Salvador Dali and the crazy mustache, looking intensely at the viewer and holding one of the "melting" clocks that the artist Salvador Dali is famous for painting. The clock has been incorporated into the shutter and falls onto the pavement.



Zabou is originally from France, but she has been based in London for awhile. Her unique style is to create portraits of people, usually depicted in a witty or thought-provoking manner. Previous examples of Zabou's street art can be found on the following links in my blog:

Koeone and Zabou Collaborate
"Keep Out!" Street Art by Zabou
Zabou's 'Cabinet of Curiosity' Street Art
Leake Street Tunnels Street Art, Spring 2016
Recent Street Art by Zabou
Street Art: Zabou

Old Newspaper Archive

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I love looking at old newspapers, magazines, and advertisements. They display aspects of life of days gone by, from illustrated images to old-style fonts, the stories published and how these stories were written, and letters/poetry/short stories from readers. In today's world, the newspaper is not as popular and more and more people seem to be accessing news from the Internet on their computer or on their mobile phone. (I commute by train and underground to work, and although we have the option to obtain free publications in the morning and the evening, I still notice many who simply use their mobile phone or browse a news website during their lunch break.)


I have come across copies of old publications on newspapers on Google's website, and an archive of these newspapers is here: http://news.google.com/newspapers

Although an extensive list, I would love to see more newspapers added to Google's archives.

Visiting Caerphilly Castle

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After touring The Royal Mint Exhibition, I decided to head over to one of the castles that I've not visited in order to tick it off my list: Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly Castle, located in the village of Caerphilly just north of Cardiff, is a Norman castle that was built in the mid/late-1200s. It was Wales's largest castle and survived a siege and was the place where a king took refuge. The castle fell into disrepair in the 15th century with the lake being drained and stone robbed, but was taken over by a rich coal mining family in the late 1700s and repaired in more modern times. 


The castle is surrounded by a moat with a bridge leading up to the gatehouse. The earth has been built up so the castle is on a hillside, and the perimeter of the earthworks can be walked around. The castle is located in the town centre, which is the other side of the earthworks.


We walked walked across the bridge over the moat to get to the first gatehouse. Inside this inner area was the gift shop where we purchased our tickets and a statue of a red dragon. Some of the castle grounds could be accessed here, but in order to get to the main castle area, we had to walk across another bridge.


On the left as we approached the gatehouse, we saw the leaning tower. The tower has been leaning since the 17th century. 



After we entered the gatehouse, we decided to see what was inside. We passed through a few white-washed rooms, a garderobe, and some larger floors with large chimneys and an area with seating. We could also walk onto the old walls from the gatehouse. Below shows the interior of the castle yard, a view from one of the walls.




After we explored that gatehouse, we walked to the end gatehouse. On the left is the Great Hall, but sadly this was closed for us because they were setting up for Macbeth. In fact, a lot of areas were off limits to us due to this play. It's a pity we could not see it because the Great Hall is the finest building in a castle.


At the back side of the gatehouse, the defenses were stunning. This was a dead end with huge, thick walls.


After walking through the gatehouse, I looked back to the opposite gatehouse that we explored earlier. The Great Hall is the building on the right.


At the back gatehouse, we could climb for a view, and it had impressive interiors.



We then walked the last of the walls. On one side of the walls, they re-constructed the wooden hoarding. This hoarding offered a little more protection. This is where the archers would be, and they could shoot through the small windows here. On the other side is the wall.


After that, we had seen everything, so we headed out. In the main entrance, I said goodbye to the red dragon here. The ground was muddy, and goose poo was everywhere in the grass, so I didn't get a better photograph.


The town of Caerphilly greeted us on the other side of the walls.


The geese and ducks also greeted us on entry and exit of the castle grounds. 


As the weather was so chilly, a hot chocolate bought from the shop opposite the castle grounds was in order.


Have you ever visited Caerphilly Castle? Leave your comments.

Street Art: Elly What The Funk

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Elly What the Funk (also known as Helen Martin) paints images of people on pages of old novels, newspapers, and sheet music. She pasted up a few of her artworks in London at the end of January and earlier this month. Some of them appear to be in a series with teary eyes while others are more stylised. I do not know much about the artist and cannot find a lot about her online.

Tears and Shhhhhhhhh

No more tears

Valentine's Day tribute


For more information on Elly What the Funk, visit her Pictaram site here: http://www.pictaram.com/user/elly_what_the_funk/856026944

Recent WRDSMTH (Wordsmith) Street Art

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In January, California-based street artist WRDSMTH added more paste-ups to the streets of London. I originally covered the artist last spring when he collaborated with C3. WRDSMTH creates stenciled typewriter artwork with additional paste-ups with typed though-provoking or silly quotations. He adds these to walls and telephone boxes. When the artist isn't adding to the street art scene, he writes for Hollywood. I've managed to photograph a few of WRDSMTH's paste-ups, but I wasn't able to get all of them. The telephone box pieces never seem to last long.

No matter what happens, I'm coming with you

I'm secretly building a time machine. Don't laugh or I'll come punch you when you're nine.

I've fallen in love. The falling is great. But it scars.

Smile. It's an old school status update.

WRDSMTH's work is always popular in London, and I notice a lot of people enjoy it and get their photographs taken with the quotations. For more information about WRDSMTH, visit the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WRDSMTHinLA/

Colourful Portrait Paste-ups by Manyoly

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Manyoly is a street artist from Marseille, France. She is a self-taught painter and opened a gallery in her teenage years. She has travelled around Singapore to create and study art. Portraits of women are the primary subject of the artist, who enjoys hearing stories of the subjects painted. Last month, Manyoly went to London and added several colourful poirtraits of women to the walls. Most of the images are multi-coloured, but one uses blues and others are in monotone.


Manyoly pasted these up at the same time as Donk arrived to London to paste up a few pieces of artwork.

Manyoly and DONK








For more information about Manyoly, see the official Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/manyoly.artiste/

Happy Valentine's Day with Lola's Cupcakes

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Today is a Tuesday, and it is Valentine's Day. Last year, it fell on a Sunday, and the bloke and I have done something for the day for the past couple of years. Last year, we went all out for it with dinner at the Great Hall in Harry Potter's Hogwarts (at Warner Brother Studios). On the big day itself, we had a trip in the cable car with champagne and chocolates. The year before that, we played Swingers Crazy Golf pop-up (before it opened a non-pop up branch) in Shoreditch. This year, we've just had a normal day at work. However, I received a surprise tin from Lola's cupcakes when I arrived home. (We're not able to cook as we don't have a kitchen yet, and flowers are off limits as we are confined to sharing a single room with the cat; cats prefer to eat and play with flowers instead of admire them.)


Lola's came with a cute decorated tin that has four cupcakes, a miniature bottle of champagne (with two straws, but don't try to drink champagne using a straw as I found out the hard way), and a single red rose.



Happy Valentine's Day!

Lush Valentine's Day 2017 Range

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Everything is up in the air at the moment with renovation work, so I am living out of a small double bedroom with the cat (Merlin), and every tiny amount of 'free' space is taken up by a stack of boxes. It's not at all glamorous, and everything I own is now covered in a thick layer of dust. I am missing the chance to be able to buy special Valentine's Day food (I really wish seeing the advertisements would stop as I'd love to buy the Marks & Spencer's special offers, but I don't have a kitchen or any appliance to be able to cook right now, and I don't have any plates/cutlery to eat off of.) We found out that the water system had to be replaced. We were already changing the boiler to a new system, but we then discovered the previous occupants stupidly paved over the water stopcock, and it was broken. Further discovery revealed that tiny lead pipes were being used for the water mains, and this then needed to be taken up and new pipes put in. Goodbye, lead! 

The system was finally working on Friday, after six weeks of no heating and things in a half-finished state. I noticed the big difference straight away. There's actually water pressure. When I moved in here, there was next to no pressure with spurting water when you turned the taps on. It took at least ten minutes to fill the small bath to a comfortable height. Now, the water warms up very quickly; the pressure is so much that the shower doesn't need to be on full-blast, and the bath fills up in a couple of minutes! I can now actually have bubble bath again! The water pressure was so bad originally that bubbles wouldn't form.

This now brings me back to Valentine's Day. As food is out of the question, I decided to treat myself to a couple of bath bombs and new soap. I opted for the Lush Valentine's Day range at the Liverpool Street branch in the station at lunch. Unfortunately, they were out of a few items. Read below to see what I bought.


Fizzbanger: This is the only product not in the Valentine's Day range that I purchased. It has a trong and fresh lemon scent and smells a little of apple. It changes colour when it fizzes about in the bath.

Kiss me quick: This lemon-scented card is great for travel as it lathers up into a soap.

Love you, Love you Lots soap: This is a floral-scented soap that smells like roses and is beautifully decorated with hearts and LOVE.

Two hearts beating as one: This is a pair of heart-shaped entwined bath melts. Cocoa butter, ylang ylang and rose are used.

Lover lamp: This bath bomb is cute with its red hearts. It has a more 'adult' smell and smells like vanilla and orange oil. I thought it had a slightly spicy smell.

Four years ago this month, my friend Paula and her boyfriend got married at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I'm only now just getting around to editing my photogaphs of their wedding because there were so many photographs that I liked that I struggled to edit them down. First of all, I cannot believe that it was four years ago. Second, I had a seven-hour flight last December, and used that time to go through and edit the photographs that I wanted to post. When I was looking through the wedding photographs, I was reminded of the good memories of that frosty February afternoon at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.


We arrived early at St. Paul's Cathedral. The day was a typical London February day with grey skies and a beautiful view of the cathedral. I took a few photographs outside before we went inside, and I tried to get a sneaky photograph of the interior of the dome and was told off. Because we were attending a wedding, we did not have to pay the extortionate fee of £20.00 per person (or whatever it was). I know that it costs a lot of money to maintain a cathedral, but the price tag is hefty for a Londoner who pays taxes and wouldn't mind visiting every now and again.



Other notables who got married at St. Paul's Cathedral included various royals, such as Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981. (Prince William and Katherine Middleton got married in Westminster Abbey in 2012.)

Weddings at St. Paul's Cathedral take place in the crypt in the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire. The crypt is also where many famous people are buried, including Christopher Wren (who built the new cathedral after the first one burnt in 1666). 

To get married at St. Paul's Cathedral, you or your immediate family need to be a VIP. Only members of the cathedral or members of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, the Order of the British Empire, holders of the British Empire Medal, and members of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor and their children can get married. Paula's father was a member of one of these orders/societies due to his charity work regarding medical conditions.

Without further delay, the photographs of the wedding are below. The bride wore a beautiful white gown and veil with pearls and a boquet of roses that were primarily orange and white with yellows and spring greens. Despite the cold weather and the sleeveless gown, she happily came outside to get photographs taken in front of the cathedral. I can't imagine how cold she was in the sleeveless dress, but you cannot tell it in the photographs. She did have a stylish and warm white fleece and gloves to help keep her warm.











I loved the photographs that I took of the couple goofing around and enjoying their big day, and I also loved the photographs with the groom's friends and the bridesmaids on the iconic stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral.




While the groom and his guys were dressed in black and white, the bridgesmaids were dressed in beautiful beige dresses, holding similar boquets and wearing similar white fleeces.














At the ceremony, the children were also dressed very smart and were very polite. They look so grown up. What a memorable day!





Thank you Paula and Andrew for inviting us.

Vera Bugatti, an artist from Italy, arrived in London at the end of December in order to paint a massive 9x13 metre wall at the corner of Old Street and Goswell Street in Clerkenwell, London. Bugatti studied art and has painted walls and produced chalk sidewalk art all over the world. Her latest piece in London is a striking one on the massive wall. It depicts a young girl with green hair holding what appears to be a chicken, at quick glance, and wearing a fishbowl on her head. The irregular brickwork of the wall adds to this piece.   


The mural, named "Teratology" has much more meaning. On her website (1), Bugatti claims that the subject is inspired by environmental concerns. She choose to paint creatures with abnormalities, which can be caused by environmental factors and toxic chemicals to alter growth, development, and so on. A longer glance reveals that the rooster is not as it seems as it has furry hooves instead of chicken feet. The mouse on the girl's shoulder appears to have a fish's head, and a random fish is appeared in mid-air. They are abnormal creatures - monsters.


The girl is also not what she seems. When I examined this work, I took note that she stares blankly in space as if possessed (but also in awe) of the creatures. The image reminded me of something in a horror film. She is holding on tightly to the leg of the rooster. According to Bugatti, she is embracing and unwilling to let go of the creature, and her face is child-like, but her arms are not. 


This is really a striking piece and better to see in real life.


1) Bugatti, Vera. My huge wall in London! Street art save my life. http://www.verabugatti.it/my-second-huge-wall-in-london-street-art-save-my-life/

Okuda Paints Bear on Sclater Street

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Okuda San Miguel Erice (who paints under the name Okuda) studies and lives in Madrid, Spain. His work normally consists of colourful geometric patterns that are sometimes accompanied with organic shapes. Painting since the later 1990s, Okuda has exhibited and produced artwork all over the world. He's currently exhibiting in London, and he painted a wall on Sclater Street at the end of last week. According to Okuda's Facebook page, the subject of the artwork is a bear (1).


The new piece is a welcome addition to Sclater Street, which I've found to have grown a little dull over the past several months. I am hoping that this is the start of a great year ahead on the street.


For more information, visit the artist's official Facebook page, shown below.

1) https://www.facebook.com/OKUDART-202312969832570/

The bloke and I visited The Royal Mint Experience yesterday and got to see and press our own one pound coin with the new design that will be circulated later in the year. The Royal Mint Experience only opened in May last year, so it's not even been open for tours for a year. I've previously done a tour of the US Mint in Colorado; there's also one in Philadelphia, PA. The experience is located at the site of the factory where all coins are made for UK circulation and for other countries. This post is about my experience.


We arrived for the first tour of the day and had a wander around the factory, which is located near Cardiff in Wales. The building looks new and has coin-coloured panels (gold/silver/copper) along the front. At the front is one of the Shaun the Sheep charity statues that The Royal Mint made; the Gromit that they made is inside the building.


Also inside the building is a classic MINI car covered with coins. 


We had a few minutes to wander around the shop before the tour began. We were then ushered into a room with a short introduction video before being taken to the factory building to be shown some equipment and demonstrated how coins are made using the various bits of machinery. We were not allowed to take photographs here or anywhere inside the factory; we were allowed to take photographs at the museum in the original building later. 

The coins are made of mixed metals, and we were shown how they were given their 'edge' to prevent them from sticking together. We were then shown how the coins were struck with the designs using the moulds. The machines pressing them work very quickly and press using two tonnes of weight. After the discussion, we could watch some of the workers making/inspecting the coins. We could see coins fall out of the machinery into large boxes. We had to look at this from a distance. 

After looking through a couple of these windows, we went into another room where a pressing machine was waiting for us. The workers were controlling this, and we paid to press our own new pound coin. The new pound coins are going to be circulated later in the year, and they have several sides and two-tone colour. The problem was that the old pound coin was easy to copy, and many of them are fake. Workers had the blanks (unpressed coins) and put them into the machine one-by-one while we pressed a button for the machine to press two tonnes of weight onto the coin. The new pound coins have to be pressed twice. 

The different colour of material 'locks' in together due to the rim created along the edging of the coins, so they are two separate pieces. This is how the two-pound coin is made as well.


After we struck the coin, we were ushered back into the original building where the tour resumed. This was the museum area, and it is self-guided. Photographs can be taken here. I have highlighted some of these bits below.

The first coint to be pressed at The Royal Mint (in the Tower of London) was the "Alfred the Great Silver Penny" (1). It was pressed at the time during Viking invasions. Isaac Newton was a warden at The Royal Mint for a few years, and he used science to make coins harder to be counterfeited. His name popped up in The Royal Mint Experience a few times, and we saw a medal produced with his likeness (2). The last coin to be pressed at The Royal Mint at Tower Hill before the factory moved to Wales was an image of the Tower Hill location (3), and it is on display. In 1934, Queen Mary had a tour of The Royal Mint when it was at Tower Hill, and she brought Elizabeth (now Queen) and her sister along. Their signatures are on display in the museum (4).

1) Alred the Great silver penny; 2) Isaac Newton medal; 3) the last coin to be struck at The Royal Mint at Tower Hill; 4) The Royal Mint visitor book signed by Queen Mary and daughters Elizabeth and Margaret Rose

In 1968, The Royal Mint moved to Llantrisant in Wales. The production of coins had outgrown London, so it was moved to Wales due to support by a Welsh Member of Parliament. The new factory was created because of the introduction of the currency system that is now in use (instead of the old decimal system). On its opening day, Queen Elizabeth pressed the first coin (5). A lot of marketing went into getting people familiar with the new currency system (6 and 8). This year, we have a new design for the pound coin, and the design was inspired by 12-year old student David Pearce. A model of it is on display (7). 

5) Queen Elizabeth pressed the first coin at Llantrisant; 6 and 8) Marketing to help with the new currency system; 7) The new one pound coin design

The Royal Mint also creates coins for other countries in the world, and we saw several of these on display. We also saw a coin that has been at the ocean for many years, sunk with a hoard of gold coins and recovered eventually. We also saw the moulds for the presses and learned about the oldest quality assurance in the history of the world: the gold and coin quality. This is conducted every year by the Goldsmith livery company. Samples of coins from all of the batches are kept for this process each year.

In addition to the coins, The Royal Mint Experience museum had a display dedicated to different medals, such as war and sporting medals. They made the medals for the Olympic Games in 2012.

2012 Olympic Medal

After the experience, we went across the road where there is a pub/hotel that were having a carvery. We were really impressed with the food, and the carvery was very popular with local people too.

Have you been to The Royal Mint Experience yet or seen the new one pound coin? You can still visit and press your own coin. (Note that I booked the experience myself, so this is not endorsed by The Royal Mint.)

"Elvis" by Shok-1

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On Thursday last week, Shok-1 finished painting "Elvis" on a gate on Hanbury Street that leads to the entrance of Ely Yard. Shok-1 is a London-based artist who has been painting in London for many years, and his technique is to create an X-ray effect of bones or skeleton using spray paint. The can of paint is held at varying distances in order to create a "mist" effect to be placed onto the wall, and this gives the effect of semi-transparency.


The gateon Hanbury Street (off Brick Lane) was being painted silver the week before, and I was excited because I knew something new must be coming up. My hopes were confirmed on Tuesday when I saw Shok-1 in the early stages of painting in his signature X-ray style. I watched him add the texture with the spray paint for the effect for a minute or so. When the work was not progressed much by the next morning when I arrived at work, I thought that perhaps it may be another artist copying his style. That evening when I left work, the art was progressing more. I had a half day off on Thursday, so I was not able to see the progress in the evening. On Friday morning, I was happy to walk by to see the finished piece, complete with Shok-1's tag and a title for the new work.


The new artwork features an X-ray skeleton of the pelvis area. It is named "Elvis". The work has been completed using black spray paint, and it is painted on a silver wall.


I photographed the progression of the work on Tuesday night and Wednesday night, respectfully. On the first day, I thought that the work was Shok-1 due to its style. I'm happy to see a new wall taken over by Shok-1 and hope that it continues to be used for his artwork and the works of other artists.

For more information and work from Shok-1 in my blog, see the following links:

Shok-1 'MasterPeace' Street Art
Street Art: Shok-1
Street Art Round-up: Spring & Summer 2015
Street Art Round-up in Early Spring 2014

New Street Art Portraits by Dreph

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Toward the end of last year, I posted about London-based artist Dreph and his work around east London. I happened to see him painting the wall on Fashion Street with a portrait of musician and grafitti artist Bunny Bread. I also show-cased quite a few of his murals as he'd been busy painting the area, and I had not featured his work before. (My post about Dreph can be read here.) When I came back from holiday in early January, I discovered that Dreph had refreshed his wall on Fashion Street; he has also recently refreshed his walls on Commercial Road and Star Yard (off Brick Lane). 


Dreph's work is inspired by 1980s comics and Renaissance painters. His subject is portraits, and he primarily paints black British men and women. Using his style, they become eye-catching works of art and become elevated to great importance. Colour, light, and shadow are the techniques used to create these masterpieces.


On Commercial Road, Dreph painted Marcus Barnes. The figure is standing in front of a brightly-lit background of yellow, red, and purple tones. Marcus Barnes is a writer, grafitti artist, and DJ. He wrote for "Keep the Faith Grafitti Magazine" and was the first person to be tried for criminal damages based on grafitti; he was eventually cleared. 


In December, this portrait of Abe Odedina appeared on Fashion Street. Abe Odedina is an architect and painter. His painting style is influenced by African art and story-telling.


On Star Yard off Brick Lane, Dreph painted Nana Yaa Sakyibea. She is also known as Mary, and she is a fashion and furniture designer based in Ghana. Her muted-tone portrait is painted in striking detail on a red, purple, and yellow background. 


The attention is drawn to the face and the beautiful detail of the feather necklace and the chain ear-ring (pictured below).


More posts about Dreph's work on my blog can be found here:

Street Art: Dreph

For more information about the artist, visit his Instagram page where he often discusses the subjects of his work: https://www.instagram.com/dreph_/?hl=en. Also, InspiringCity blog has a nice post and write-up about the artist: https://inspiringcity.com/2017/01/21/dreph-street-art-portraits-appear-all-over-the-east-end/

Don't Fret, an artist from Chicago, visited London last year ahead of an exhibition and collaboration with street artist Edwin. During that visit, he pasted up some artwork and created "Art for the Masses" mural on one of the high profile walls on Hanbury Street. He worked on collaboration with fellow street artist Edwin, creating "Disinct sounds of laughter in the distance", which was at Unit5 Gallery last year.


Don't Fret adds a sense of humour to his political and social cartoon-ish characters. His current series hit the streets at the end of January and featured historical portraits. Many of these did not last long before being removed, and I wished I'd photographed them when I first saw them.


Some of Don't Fret's artworks from last year remain in London at the time of writing this. "Art for the Masses" is currently located on Hanbury Street. It was painted here a few months ago and remains intact. The artwork features a shopfront where people walk by or hang out. Inside the shop, merchandise is being sold. The artist used the original building in order to create some of the art for it to blend in, such as sitting one of the characters on a ledge and using the doorways.


Here is a close-up of what is happening inside the window of the "Art for the Masses" mural.


"Exchange Program" was the title to one of his paste-ups on Brick Lane which featured two men (one dressed with a UK flag and one with a USA flag) exchanging their brains. The artist drew similarities between the political environments in both countries.


A lot of the artist's new paste-ups have not lasted long, but if you know of the locations of any that I have not posted here, then write a comment.

Sr. X Paints the Village Underground Wall

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Spanish street artist Sr. X has painted all over the world. The artist studied art and paints eye-catching murals to get visitors to stop and look. Often, his work provokes thought or meaning, and it can also use irony or humor. The artist is no stranger to London and has produced much on the streets in the past, so it was nice to see his work again. This time, the large Village Underground wall was his canvas, and he spent the weekend painting it.


The subject of the mural is a hooded man. According to the artist's Facebook page (1), the work is titled "Penitenziagite", which means "Do Penance". He had a couple of friends buy him pizza while the work was being completed, which may be why there appears to be the inclusion of pizza (with mushroom toppings) in the art. Or perhaps he is doing penance with pizza, because pizza always makes things a little better (right?). Or he's being punished and cannot eat the pizza. 


The black and white figure of the hooded man (and pizza) is crated with black and white paint. This is painted upon a striking blue background with the artist's style of linear design elements (this time in bright yellow) breaking up the space.



Sr. X has often left behind artwork in London. In 2015, the artist passed through and painted a couple of murals, which can be found on my street art round-up post here. He painted a pair of hands on Redchurch Street and a pig on Hackney Road. He also collaborated with street artist Zabou on a mural, which I covered at Street Art: Zabou.

1) https://www.facebook.com/ArtSrX/


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