Yinka Ilori's billboard

Flâneuring around Bethnal Green

READING TIME: 3 MINUTES

flâneura French term meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘loafer’ used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire to identify an observer of modern urban life.*

Anyone can be a flâneur or pursue the pleasure of flâneuring if they want to experience the heartbeat of a city. I only came across the term recently and the act of wandering around aimlessly never gets old; rather, there’s an adventure waiting at every street corner. The current situation is dire to say the least: the UK is in lockdown 3.0 and with many businesses shut, the streets are devoid of much activity. Yet a resilient city like London always has some hidden gems worth exploring. My recent stroll around East London’s Bethnal Green in the borough of Tower Hamlets was one such excursion.

Yinka Ilori’s street artwork

Yinka Ilori is a London based multidisciplinary artist of a British-Nigerian heritage. His work fuses his British and Nigerian influences to convey positive messages through contemporary design. I first came across Yinka’s billboards while crossing Broadway Market near London Fields, Hackney — they’re hard to miss anyway. Find them at a side street, over a bridge pass or near a park entrance. His latest work, a riot of colour splashed across the country, manages to brighten a nondescript street corner almost immediately, turning it into a moment of self reflection for the onlooker. The bold pink type contrasts against bright greens, blues and yellows easily drawing the attention of most passers-by.

TheBuiltEnvironmentReview-YinkaIloriBillboard-Street

IF YOU CAN DREAM THEN ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

There’s no subliminal message designed to keep the viewer guessing; it’s literal and direct. At a time where the human spirit is being tested with each passing day, it’s an encouraging reminder to stay hopeful and to continue to dream. Yinka and I share the same sentiment in that art should be accessible to everyone, especially in the current climate. While galleries and museums are great exhibitors of art and design, having artwork displayed at public spaces removes the need for a ticket or the idea of hierarchy, as Yinka so eloquently explains in this interview with creative agency, Jack Arts.

TheBuiltEnvironmentReview-YinkaIloriBillboard-Wall

Pritchards Road, Hackney

A quick Google search on Pritchards Road doesn’t exactly bring up the most exciting of results. Yet one has to do a double take while passing this quiet street situated just off of Hackney Road. A row of industrial buildings, painted in shades of olive, pastel pink and azure mimic the suburbs of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990). 

TheBuiltEnvironmentReview-PritchardsRoad

Not much else goes on here but it’s worth a visit. I assume a lot of creative businesses and start-ups, such as London based food delivery service Karma Cans**, are based here. The visually pleasing olive green facade prominently features a simple white roller shutter with the company name painted on it. A painting of fruits and vegetables on a door to the left offers a subtle glimpse into what the business is all about.

TheBuiltEnvironmentReview-KarmaCans

* Flâneur  – Art Term | Tate

**Karma Cans catered for frontline NHS workers by preparing around 1,000 meals a day during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

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