Leake Street Tunnel is a hidden celebration of urban art in Central London.
Located just off the bustling Southbank, under Waterloo station is perhaps the most colourful tunnel in the UK. Spray painting is normally something that is shunned, but down in Leake Street it’s encouraged. The tunnel was last open to traffic when the Eurostar was located in Waterloo. But now, it’s a pedestrian only area, full of magnificent art.
In May 2008, the Bristolian artist Banksy curated the “Cans” Festival in Leake Street. The festival extended an open invitation to urban artists to come turn a dark forgetful tunnel into a vibrant, modern art exhibition. 11 years later, in some ways the party continues. Walking through, people of all ages can be seen creating new compositions. Their canvases are previous masterpieces. Spray painting over the toiled work of another may seem unfair, but that’s the beauty of street art, it is dynamic and ever changing. This means that Leake Street is an attraction that rewards multiple visits, always with something new to see.
And it’s not just the art that makes it one of London’s best kept secrets. As I walked through one Saturday evening, one group are putting on a powerful break-beat musical display. Each with their own turntable, amazing skill and a host of records, they scratch away creating some truly unique sounds that crashingly complements the atmosphere of the tunnel. Many people are stood, quietly listening.
So, if you want to see something a bit more fresh than the usual tourist traps in London, grab a camera and head down to Leake Street.