North London Food & Culture

Why are the world’s street artists coming to Camden?

Want to get a different perspective on a well-trodden neighbourhood? Then take this brand new daily tour, says Alex Wilks

On tour: exploring street art in NW1 and surrounds
On tour: exploring NW1 and surrounds. All photos: Alex Wilks

The best street artists from all over the world are flocking to Camden to paint its walls, bridges and hidden corners.

After being fascinated by the art in and around the doomed buildings of Hawley Wharf, I decided to go on Camden’s first tour dedicated to discovering more about what’s behind this booming scene.

Camden Street Art Tours was launched last month and runs daily two-hour walks pointing out the brilliant artwork that lines the postcode’s thoroughfares and backstreets. Better still, they share the stories about the artists who created them.

Guide and tour founder Nelly Balazs first started taking photos of graffiti three years ago and is now a blogger closely involved in the blossoming scene. She aims to give people an alternative insight into Camden, not usually seen by visitors or Londoners, and to show how our cities are not static spaces but dynamic environments where artists leave their creative marks.


It’s not just Camden’s bohemian reputation that attracts the artists, with the market seeing over 200,000 visitors every weekend, its walls open-air galleries to a huge potential audience. Artists utilize social media to push their latest work, and the area’s footfall means that it’s an ideal location to showcase.

We learn that Brazilian artist Alex Senna boosted his Instagram following by 5,000 just one week after putting up pieces in Camden and around. Their work is made easier by locally-based collectives such as The Real Art of Street Art coordinating permission with the relevant authorities to provide legal walls for the artists.

The tour takes in jaw-dropping works by locally-based and internationally-renowned artists from Italy, Brazil, Japan and Chile, such as Mau-Mau, Alex Senna, Himbad and Otto Schade. Nelly brilliantly explains the stories behind the pieces and their creators. And it’s not just about the large scale works: it’s truly surprising how many smaller pieces lie hidden away in obscure corners that I must have walked past every week: tiny paper dolls, ceramic tiles with imprints of the artists face, porcelain babies and octopuses.

You can understand Nelly’s enthusiasm for the project when you see that this is a medium which is ever-changing, with artists constantly finding new techniques and materials, and pieces being ‘buffed’ and replaced with new art. In just three months’ time, you could have a completely different tour.

The best part of it all? This definitely isn’t one just for the tourists, it’s also for locals to see how exceptional public art can enrich people’s perspectives of their neighbourhood.

See another gallery of street art in Camden here. Camden Street Art Tours was launched in February 2015 and run once a day from 11am, six days a week, £15 per person. More info here.

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