E1 Storytellers: Dave Stuart, the street art guide
In the first in our new series profiling storytellers in and around our E1 neighbourhood, we talk to Shoreditch street art guide Dave Stuart. From witnessing the creation of political street art to narrating the works of Banksy, Dave reflects on how his devotion to storytelling came ‘easily’ – and shares his must-see guide to east London.
In one sentence, what do you do?
I am a street art tour guide for Shoreditch Street Art Tours.
How and when did you discover your passion for storytelling?
I did my first street art tour in 2008. It lasted about seven hours and combined a lot of art and a fair bit of beer – both easy things to become passionate about!
Has working in E1 affected your storytelling?
In Shoreditch, art by people with no formal training and created without permission sits cheek by jowl with brilliant murals from some of the best street artists in the world – such as Banksy, who came to prominence doing street art here.
Exploring, photographing and writing about local street art and hanging out with artists built the expertise I now use in my role as a tour guide.
What’s the biggest inspiration for your work?
I am inspired knowing that new street art in Shoreditch is created every single day of the year. I love seeing guests’ reactions on my tours when they hear information and anecdotes about art that might have only been created in the past 24 hours. Hearing what they think is immensely supportive, gratifying and motivating all at the same time.
If you could experience one story for the first time again, which would it be?
The Pure Evil Gallery in Leonard Street in Shoreditch has hosted brilliant art shows and events over the years showcasing indoor gallery art made by street artists. Pure Evil himself is a street artist. If I could, I would relive a particular favourite evening there where the legendary electronic group The Orb played a live set. As the evening progressed and people raced off to other galleries, the crowd thinned until it was just Pure Evil and me watching The Orb lay down serious ambient dance vibes. It was an incredible privilege.
Can you share one anecdote about E1 that would surprise our readers?
My involvement with the street art community has given me the privilege of seeing many pieces of street art being created in circumstances which may not have involved explicit permission.
In 2008, I accompanied political street artist K-Guy to the City of London and photographed him setting up a shrine against the lamppost outside the Bank of England. It had wreaths, crosses, RIP notices, fake bank notes and a piece of plywood that looked like a grave headstone with ‘In memory of the great boom economy’ stencilled on it. This was two months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the event that triggered the financial crisis.
His timing was perfect, his art was simple and brilliantly executed. The City is not particularly fond of street art, but that installation lasted about four days! Photos of mourning bankers staring at the shrine even appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
What makes a great storyteller?
You can’t be a great storyteller if you don’t know the story! It is so important for you and for your guests that you absolutely master your subject. Do not fake it.
What does the future of storytelling look like?
It will be kept alive on a diet of intergalactic worm protein and cell transfusions and will look about 1000 years old but will carry on talking about street art without ever using the expression ‘back in the day’.
Dave’s must-see guide to E1:
Best place to eat:The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club for evenings and Roving Café at the Nomadic Community Gardens for lunch
Best night out: Owl & Pussycat
Favourite street art: It changes daily
Most Instagram-worthy spot: Nomadic Community Gardens and the New Inn Yard Connectivity mural
You can visit the Shoreditch Street Art Tours website here.
Lead image credit: Tal Ophir, All other images: Dave Stuart