Wandering to the next page

London Town

91 x 116 cm
Pen and ink on cotton board
Drawn over ten years, London Town tells a real-life tale of time spent exploring the geography and personal impact of the city, investigating its irrefutable shaping of self. The work interrogates both lofty events that occurred in the city, as well as its daily life and multifarious history. Many of its early vignettes are emotive, naive; later maturing into more robustly developed themes. The work is edited in size, a realistic dimension unable to hold the true scope of walking every borough of London. Through a decade-long exploration, London Town presents a detailed, idiosyncratic look into personal identity and place.
The map is one of the most personal pieces of cartography I’ve ever seen and goes to show just how essential maps are in drawing a bond between who we are and the places we inhabit

— Tom Harper Curator of Antiquarian Mapping British Library

A decade exploring

A teenager thrown into the clamour of London’s rhythms, I landed my first job as a newspaper apprentice when I first got to the city. This would inform my exploration into London Town, which began in 2005 and unfolded up to 2015. My technique developed in line with the growing city.
In 2005 London won the bid to host the Olympic Games. This drawing shows the first significant event marked within the intricacies of the wider artwork.


Hyper-detailed drawings present a documentation of personal experiences, as well as the undefinable currents that hold London together. The city is a never-ending palimpsest of activity, with all walks of life converge into a ‘super culture’ that captures and bewitches its inhabitants. Every borough walked and explored upon became a village in my mind, the work taking shape through bouts of intense solitude and information overload.

My interest in social housing and community derives from childhood, when I lived on a council estate. I wanted to document the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate, South London. People are seen here amongst the demolition – both angry and positive – about the future of their community.

Below is a nod to Arments Pie & Mash, an outlet operating since 1914. To the north is the legendary Corsica Studios, a music venue. Charlie Chaplin, who lived at Elephant & Castle, is noted by his bowler hat and cane above the gimmicky but innovative Strata tower, with its rooftop wind turbines. A shotgun reminds us of the filming location for Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in the hyper-gentrified Borough Market.

Tapas Brindisa, today, still serving to the masses, crassly symbolised here by a bull and bottle of wine. Guy's Hospital is depicted as a soft drink and fries, commenting on diet and wellbeing. The Elephant & Castle, home to the London College of Communication, has a telephone and graduation cap on top.

London’s light and dark

The work anticipates the city’s future, despite being drawn in the present. Its subject-matter is at times emotionally burdensome, delving into the darker sides of London life. Peppered with comments on contemporary society, it unravels the experience of the city though the exposure of personal thoughts and memories. The city activates a spectrum of stories, from the loss of friends in accidents to the discovery of a secret place, to chequered tales from history.
A future design for London; dreamy elevated cycle paths weave amongst buildings and across the city, passing by Star Lane DLR station.
Two bombs inside the London Underground train signify the terrorist attacks that took place on 7 July, 2005. The people, jammed together, in despair, reflect on that day and the feelings of insecurity we had for many months after.
Rain clouds and lightning on Bishopsgate symbolise the mood during the 2008 financial crisis. A demonic depiction of the Gherkin building, and a turning handle, bellows currency symbols into the sky that float towards the west.
Beside the spooky Royal Victoria Patriotic Building and Wandsworth Prison, Crossrail 2 is yet to be built. Here, it winds its way from the south to north of the city.
By the River Thames, on Millbank, stands Buxton Memorial Fountain that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom. It is marked here by the memorial itself and a hand in shackles holding a key to freedom. Later in history, Millbank became the headquarters for British American Tobacco, who, even today, are accused of modern day slavery.
Street Bollards were used as ballast in returning vessels to the Isle of Purbeck, after delivering Purbeck Stone for construction across London and the South East.
The Millennium Dome, officially now known as the O2, has always been a controversial project. Since its inception, its huge cost and ambiguous plans plagued its reputation. The National Lottery logo is drawn inside the dome, the once largest in the world, to symbolise the nation crossing its fingers and hoping for the best.
Pink Floyd floated Algie the pig above Battersea Power Station in 1976 to create their album artwork. A gust of wind broke Algie free, when the pig eventually landed in a field in Kent it upset a herd of cows.

The inroads to identity

London Town is a homage to adolescence, the coming of age and arrival into adulthood and the manner in which place can shape the future of the self. If all London is life, then London Town is mine. Long days and nights of revelry sink into and meld with the process of exploration, powered by a fascination to document London in its endlessly fluctuating, eternally compelling authenticity.
Home sweet Hackney; London Fields, The Dove, Passing Clouds, the Jazz Bar, Broadway Market, The Haggerston, Mare Street and The Dolphin.
The London Pigeon. Friend or foe? Throughout the artwork, these feral scavengers create a world of their own. The under-birds; falling in love,
standing over the city worker and keeping a watchful eye.
On top of Shoreditch Town Hall stands a spiky potato, a tribute to the many spotted on bus stop roofs. The Bricklayers Arms serves pints above Curtain Lane, where a party-goer leaves a club donning their shades. Hoxton Square, home to the bastion of bars, Happiness Forgets, and the White Cube Gallery, which has since left to take over the world.
The Houses of Parliament are playfully converted into a circus tent. Below, protesters camp on Parliament Square, no longer a common sight.

I fell hard into London’s nightlife. This work is littered with its venues, clubs, bars and pubs – some still entertaining Londoners today; sadly, many are not. From the sweat-ridden walls of Bagley's to the ease of Jazz at the Vortex, those secret doors in Soho – a love for London’s scene is lifelong.

Here is Fabric – an institution for music and a well-known survivor. Nightclubs have steadily dwindled in London. But people want to party. They want to unite, share ideas and dance. It’s a badge of honour for all cities, a sign of tolerance and respect.

“Over the past eight years, London has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs and 40 percent of its live music venues. This decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour city with a world-class night-life,” Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, 2016.

London Town was unveiled inside St Pancras Clock, London, in 2015.