Shoreditch Unseen

Street Art & Street Cred

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I’ve lived most of my life in London and there are some parts I think I know pretty well, yet there are still so many places that I don’t know that much about at all. So if I have free time on a weekend I love to go for a wander with my camera, often trying to find a new part of the city to explore and learn about.

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One weekend a friend of mine suggested we do a walking tour in Shoreditch and I realised that although I’ve been there many times for a bite or meet up with friends I’d never really stopped to look around or explore.

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This was going to be a tour with a difference, as our guide had a unique understanding and experience of the area, which he was going to share with us on the tour.

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So we met Henri outside Old Street Station on a Saturday afternoon, a lively, friendly character and our guide from Unseen Tours – alternative walking tours of London led by people who are or have recently been homeless. Being a guide gives them the opportunity to talk about the areas they know from their own unique perspective, as well as earning some money (they are paid 60% of the cost of the tour).

Henri gave us a brief introduction and history of the local area outside the station, having lived homeless there for a number of years. As we continued he pointed out both historical sites, such as William Blake’s grave in the Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds, or the secret location of a MI5 ‘detention’ centre, along with sites of personal significance to him. Sharing some parts of his own life, his stories and people he had encountered, made the tour so personal, like walking around with an old friend.

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Our tour took us from Old Street through to the streets of the hip and trendy Shoreditch. Once off the main streets Henri guided us through a labyrinth of side streets covered with some wonderful street art.

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This is where Henri was in his element, coming from an artistic background having studied sculpture at Art College himself, he spoke very animatedly about the artworks we were seeing and his own personal memories and encounters with some of the artists that made them.

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The tour was fantastic, I felt Henri gave us a good mix of history, local culture and his personal stories gave us an insight into a side of Shoreditch we wouldn’t normally see. Also the street art was incredible and some of the best I’ve seen in London.

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If you are thinking about doing an Unseen Tour I would definitely say go for it! I think I’ll be back to do the London bridge and Covent Garden tours myself soon!

If you would like to read more about Henri’s story or find out more about Unseen Tours and the great work they are doing visit: sockmobevents.org.uk

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