Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Banksy, No Lions, Eelus Group Show

Or Cans Festival: you created a monster

Words: NoLionsInEngland; pictures NoLions, Howaboutno and Alex The Greek

The gauntlet was thrown down. Cans Festival includes a come-one-come-all stencil participation event and…well, you can’t get onto the ramp unless you are a registered artist.

Brooding about this on Sunday night, I wondered how the heck I could get onto that ramp to photograph some of the awesome shit being thrown up on the un-scripted walls. Monday morning had held promise of a lie-in as it was a bank holiday, but a bolt of lightening hit the NoLions boudoir in the night – to get on that ramp, just got to somehow discover the artist within.

What image though? First thought was keep it small and simple, an animal silhouette, perhaps a butterfly but oh bugger hasn’t that been done to perfection by Messrs Evil and Walker already. Maybe a Leopard, but you couldn’t compete with Bansky’s Tag Leopard in the show. Then slowly slowly the penny dropped – how about a Lion based image.


The story behind the name No Lions In England is that the lyrical wizard Ian Brown, previously lead singer in the Stone Roses, subsequently multiple album releasing god-like genius and also long standing street art aficionado many years ago was in a group panel discussion on TV when a demonised rasta man leaps up and started querying where the lions on the England badge came from as there had never been any lions in England. Ian Brown went on to record the track No Lions In England with a thumping bass line so low the bass strings hang somewhere down near the guitarist's ankles.

Having adopted the monikor about 4 years ago, it just seemed a good idea to create an image involving the three lions of the England football badge, and add red crosses through them.

After breakfast, an image of the badge was found on the net, tidied up, transferred to cardboard and luckily having an unused set of Stanley knive blades, the lion stencil was born. The cross was simple, and my daughter drew the words.

We checked in at Cans Festival reception,
“you got a stencil?”
“you got cans?”

Some marshall guy allocating spaces comes over and takes us to the Colditz barrier separating the rock-up-and-spray talent from the rubber-neckers and suggests we slap ours under the Eelus tag. He then got us the black and the red sprays. By this time I realised the wall was as rough as a badgers rear end and as grubby as an ant-eaters breakfast, so our new friend gets us some white to prep. I believe this guy, dark top heavy mop of curly hair if that helps, may work for PoW though we hadn’t met before, and credit to him, he couldn’t have been more encouraging and helpful – we salute you.

Ably assisted by the young Miss No Lions, 5 minutes later we have both wielded a spray can for the first time ever and suddenly – this stencilling thing works!

And we were able to get close up pics of all the other un-billed genius’ art on that ramp - mission accomplished! Pictures of the have-a-go hereos work are here, and a description of the fun is in an earlier blog entry "Let Us Spray".

One thing the experience lacked was any kind of frission, it was legal, authorised and totally lacking that key element of graffiti – the danger of being caught. Why stop there? Realising that stencils can be re-used and with blog compadre HowAboutNo confessing to having a stencil of his own ready to go, a couple of pints of Guiness was all it took to generate sufficient dutch courage to have a go on the streets.

How can we avoid standing out like spare pricks in Shoreditch at home time on a Wednesday evening? That’s easy, pair of chinos, pink shirt, cufflinks, 20 marlboro. We almost faded into the walls.

3 pints of Guinness and 30 minutes pass, and next thing several walls in Shoreditch appear to be ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly more vandalised than before. It seems a sort of very polite dis-obedience.

Tomorrow, we may return to the scene of the crime to get some snaps of our handiwork which we may add to this blurb.

Did it work? Tonight’s mindless wall daubing is a minuscule vindication of what the organisers of Cans Festival set out to achieve, to spread wider the use of the spray can and stencil as a means of public expression, to unleash the un-suspected and hidden talent in us all. We like to believe that this is being repeated up and down the country and the seeds sown last weekend at Cans will flourish over the coming years.

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