Interview with Martin Bull

Banksy Location and Tours: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs in London, England

1. How do you keep up-to-date with the new Banksy artwork going up around London?

Because of the internet (in particular) and digital cameras/camera phones it’s now so much easier. New street work by Banksy (or possibly by him) gets photographed and spread around the world very quickly now. I keep in touch with several internet sources, especially the Banksy group on flickr, which I now hep to run. I also sometimes get told of new work by my friends, and have also been fortunate enough to be the first to ‘discover’ and spread the news about a few new ones myself, such as the ‘Maid’ and the ‘Old St Cherub’ (both in Hoxton, London).

2. You said you have had weird experiences discovering the artwork. Please explain?

It’s not that weird I guess, but it seems strange how I decide to go down a particular street that I have not been down for ages (or never been down), or to visit a certain area for no obvious reason, and then I find something I’ve not seen before (and sometimes a piece that very few people have ever seen before). Or something might take me away from my original plan (e.g. a bus diversion, traffic problem, or talking to a random stranger) and it’s at that point I find something. Maybe it’s just the law of averages (I do wander a lot, and maybe I block out all the times I haven’t found things!), but it does seem to me as if I find more than can be expected this way, and somehow I find things I never expected.

3. What can people expect to experience on the tour? And what about London, apart from Banksy art?

I don’t actually run the tours anymore (I did 4 in 2006, but after then there were hardly enough to see, and I had moved away from London), but people can still use the book (and the free ‘status updates’ on my website) to do their own DIY tour if they want. It might have to be a shorter tour now though, or they might need to lower their expectations compared to how many used to exist. But doing your own tour means you can do whatever you want. It’s perfect freedom, and more challenging in some ways.
London is apparently an ‘exciting’ city but I found that unless you could use its opportunities you might as well live elsewhere. I prefer the countryside really, although I do love the graffiti and the hustle and bustle and multi-culturalism of many parts of the city. It’s full of graffiti, especially in East London, and there are some great places on the outskirts, in places you might not expect to be fruitful, such as Feltham, Hanworth and Twickenham in West London. My favourite alternative graff area is Hackney Wick; an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling Hackney / East London, and loads of good graff. The Olympic village will probably seriously change this area soon though.

4. With artwork disappearing and new pieces turning up, is it fair to say no tour is ever the same?

Two of the tours I only did once each, but the Hoxton/Shoreditch tour I did twice, and yes, they were different. Sometimes things literally change overnight, even though you might have walked some of the route the day before. When I return to London I still often wander around that area in particular, because it changes all the time; that’s the nature of graffiti and it’s not a real problem, although it does sometimes seem strange to see something really good or very old that suddenly disappears, especially if it’s been gone over by something weak, or by the graffiti cleaning squads.

5. What feedback have you had about the tours?

I had good feedback about the tours, and people who came left pretty happy I think (probably helped by the tours being free, and me giving away a free hand printed B&W photo of mine, plus some rare stickers or postcards kindly donated by Pictures On Walls!). A few armchair critics came out of the woodwork though to criticise what i did, with comments such as ‘a tour is a weird idea’ (expletive removed!), or that a tour spoils the ‘serendipity’ of finding graffiti (I had to look ‘serendipity’ up in the dictionary). It’s strange that everyone these days seems to have an opinion about everything in life (usually negative; and usually from people who never get off their sofas to try to do anything themselves). I think people who have opinions should be shot. That’s just my opinion though J

6. Is it strictly a walking tour, or do you catch the tube?

The tours in the book are deliberately walking tours, and you don’t need to use any other transport. They could also be done by people with baby buggies or using a wheelchair, as any steps can be avoided. With more and more of the locations now gone there is more distance between the remaining locations, but you could still do the tours if you wanted, or you could just make your own DIY tour. The tours and the book were made as a bit of an accidental DIY effort, so I encourage people to take from them whatever they want. Have a nice few hours wandering around, chill out, talk to strangers, buy a copy of the Big Issue, and have a good time.

Back to Banksy’s Artist Page | Back to Martin Bull’s Author Page