Aberfeldy Street Murals
If you were to think of colourful London streets, you might imagine the pastel block colours of Notting Hill or Chelsea. But in East London, Aberfeldy Street has had an epic makeover.
Aberfeldy Street is the High Street of the Aberfeldy Estate, an area decimated in the Second World War and rebuilt in the 1970s.
You might recognise the name Aberfeldy as a borough in Scotland. In fact, there’s loads of Scottish names in this part of Poplar because in 1823 it was bought by the Scottish Civil Engineer Hugh McIntosh, who had come to London to work on the construction of the city’s docks.
Aberfeldy Street before the litres of paint got involved. Image from Google Street View.
Today, the street is overlooked by Balfron Tower and a new joint redevelopment plan from Poplar Harca and EcoWorld, named Aberfeldy Village.
A Colourful Makeover
In March, as a nation-wide Lockdown became inevitable, the shops and restaurants along Alberfeldy Street were dreading the loss of business.
In a bid to encourage people to shop locally where possible, Poplar Harca commissioned a new public artwork.
For six weeks during lockdown a team of 15 people worked on the project. The London Mural Company said 874 litres of paint and 300 spray cans were used. The entire project was only finished by the end of August.
Designing the Aberfeldy Street Murals
The designs were planned in a joint venture by Jan Kattein Architects and Meanwhile Space. The patterns were inspired by local residents and business-owners who donated old clothes or textiles.
Mikey, who runs The People Speak, told me that he was surprised when his Psychedelic shirt made the cut!
Aside from a nice way to involve the community, the idea is also part of the wider social history of the area. East London has been associated with garment manufacturing since the 18th century with Spitalfield’s silk. This later developed into the cheap, second hand clothes dealers, referred to the ’rag’ trade and was taken up by immigrants into East London like the Jews and later the Bengali community.
In Tower Hamlets today there is a high proportion of residents originally from Bangladesh and Pakistan and in that region there’s a tradition of ‘kantha’, recycling sections of embroidery and stacking them together to make a thin cushion.
As well as the stencilled and hand painted designs, there’s also a portrait mural from one of the most famous Street Artists in the world.
This is Tommy Flowers, painted by Jimmy C. He worked at Bletchley where he developed and built Colossus, the first programmable, electronic, digital computer.
The portrait is taken from a photograph of Flowers which is thought to have been taken around the time he was working at Bletchley Park. It’s placed on the side of the Tommy Flowers pub.
Why here? He was born at 160 Abbott Road, a stone’s throw from here.
More Street Art in progress on the corner of Aberfeldy Street and Dee Street
So will they improve footfall? Or is it all a bit of a gimmick from developers? When I spoke to some residents and business owners they said they enjoyed the new colourful murals on the whole but felt it was still very quiet and that it wouldn’t make much difference. Still, It’s nice to feel a renewed sense of pride for your neighbourhood right? Let me know what you think of them!
Visit the Aberfeldy Street Murals
You can visit Aberfeldy Street and admire the colourful murals any time. It’s in Poplar, E14 and the easiest way to get there is by DLR. It’s a short walk from Langdon Park, All Saints or East India.
If you fancy discovering more about East London’s vibrant history, you can join my “Spirit of Spitalfields” tour. Find out more here.
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