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the story of the Shoreditch mural

Shoreditch is London’s capital of urban art, boasting work by the likes of Banksy, Thierry Noir and RUN. Yet one of the area’s best-known landmarks is Village Underground, where converted tube carriages perch on a disused railway viaduct and play office to some of the city’s most creative communities. Below, emblazoned on a disused Victorian warehouse, the Holywell Lane mural serves as London’s largest piece of permanent street art. Every three months, artists of global fame repaint the wall and, situated opposite, citizenM Shoreditch is lucky enough to have a front-row view. We take a look at some of our favourite works and the stories behind them.

1.you saw it in the tears of those who survived

“You saw it in the tears of those who survived.” These poignant words from North Kensington-based poet Ben Okri form the most recent installation at Holywell Lane in honour of the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in West London. Taken from the poem, “Grenfell Tower, June, 2017” – written just days after the fire – the words were painted on the wall by renowned local street artist Ben Eine. The poignant work forms part of the Paint the Change initiative, a street art and social justice project which aims to use the arts as a platform for discussing social issues.

Photo: Village Underground

2.journalism is not a crime

It’s unsurprising that a wall so big is used to carry a big message. Polish street artist Zbiok used Village Underground's wall in the summer of 2015 to exhibit his solidarity with imprisoned Iranian artist Atena Farghadani. She was jailed in the January of that year for drawing a cartoon which satirised members of the Iranian parliament. Zbiok’s work formed part of the Journalism is Not a Crime campaign which aimed to help oppressed journalists in Iran. Farghadani was released in May 2016.

Photo: Village Underground


Spanish painter Sr. X is famed among the urban art circuit. He put his distinctive stamp on the Holywell Lane mural in January 2017, capturing a surreal wisened man whose long, flowing beard seemingly contains remnants of last night’s dinner. Mr Twit, you’re thinking? Us too. Painted over three days using giant stencils – and marking the artist’s largest ever project – the image’s meaning remains cryptic. When questioned about the piece’s name, Sr. X said that “penitenziagite” was a war cry used against the rich in Umberto Eco’s book The Name of the Rose. What wouldn’t we give to take a peek inside the artist’s mind?

Photo: Village Underground

4.i am somebody

This is street art for street children. Painted by Joel Bergner in September 2015, the striking image of a young child crying “I am somebody” through a megaphone marked the global summit of Street Child United, a UK-based NGO which promotes the rights of children living rough across the world. Having worked with child refugees, the artist modelled the mural on Jessica, a who grew up on the streets of Favela, Brazil. Notice a smaller speakerphone on the right hand side of the mural? Passersby were encouraged to interact and take pictures with the hashtag #iamsomebody.

Photo: London Calling Blog

5.sea of knowledge

In the 41st installation on the Holywell Lane wall, Argiris Ser invited viewers to step into another, much more joyus, world in which comic books come to life. For the Greek artist, street art is an open gallery that gives back to and educate the community. With bright pink smiling creatures floating on turquoise water, he hope to draw attention to the Iranian government’s refusal to allow the Bahá'í people access to higher education. The building on the mother’s back represents a school while the three younger creatures follow with wide open eyes.

Photo: Village Underground