Friday, March 18, 2016
A hidden London garden
Some days the unexpected happens, which always delights me. I had one of those days a little while ago. A bus I was on stopped unexpectedly at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road, so I had to continue on foot, taking a small side passage leading to the back of Shaftesbury Avenue. As I turned the corner behind St Giles Church I found myself walking along the pavement by the side of a small garden, closely surrounded on all sides by buildings. I had been there before, and remembered being so happy to see a community garden tucked away here, obviously well-cared for by those who used it. It's called the Phoenix Garden, an appropriate name, for it seems to be rising continuously from the ashes as a living symbol of nature striving to exist amongst all the new anonymous high-rise office blocks surrounding it.
I always feared for this garden, as it seemed just the sort of place in Central London which would entice developers. But to my delight, not only is the garden still there, but it is being renovated at this moment. Looking at its website when I got back home (www.phoenixgarden.org.uk ) I was happy to see that the building work going on at the moment inside it (ominously I first thought) is only to build something to replace an old shed.
But apart from relief that the garden was still there, I suddenly saw something new, for on its side wall, the wall abutting the church, there had now appeared a large wall painting by a street artist I have great admiration for, who calls himself Stik. (Look him up on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stik.) The photo above shows this particular graffiti embraced by the branches of the trees in the garden. Stik paints these beautiful stick-like figures (hence his pseudonym, presumably) on walls in places which are under threat from developers, not only in this country but around the world. You can't really call them graffiti, because they are much larger and more expressive than that, but that is what they really are. A patient of mine told me he had seen one of his large paintings on a wall facing his hotel room in the States. If you want to see more of his work, look at his website www.stik.org which shows some beautiful photos of his work from many countries. And Penguins have published a lovely book, too, just called Stik.
Seeing these little people there on the wall cheered me up enormously on a day when I felt burdened by the dreadful news pouring in from around the world. How good it is to know that there are people like Stik around who use their art to fight injustice.