While in London, 12oz visited the Stockwell Hall of Fame. Solo1, who manages the infamous legal spot, said it is in danger of being flattened by gentrification. Walls by Bonzai, Part2ism, Roids, Vibes, more…
As well as being the manager of the Hall of Fame, Solo One is an old school UK graffiti writer, an activist, and an educator. He is extremely intelligent, well read and articulate. Issues important to him are the politics of graffiti, London, class issues, and positivity, as emphasized in the name of his blogspot: Say Something Beautiful Or Be Quiet. This is also evident in his warmth towards visitors, especially the locals in the neighborhood. Anytime he noticed some kids looking into The Pen, he immediately invited them in and started talking to them about what it means, making suggestions about how they can get involved and the positive aspects of the art. They loved to listen to him. You can tell he is a natural educator and really cares about what is going on with the people around him. Read his interview below to learn about his history as a writer, the issues facing the Stockwell Hall of Fame, and where you can write to support. For more about his community work, visit The Signal Project. If you want to write a letter of support, visit the Community Trust Housings website, or email it to him at email@example.com
What is your background as a graffiti writer?
I started writing in a small town in the midlands and used to travel around the country to paint. I started writing around 1986. My name comes from an Australian TV show but also I like to be alone and do my thing without too many people. I was attracted by the rebellious nature but by also being able to convey a message. I painted and worked in a lot of community centres growing up. They are where I really like to work and involve people. I was early influenced by Phase 2 as I used to sell IGTimes by mail order and wrote to Phase a lot. In 1992 I met Iz The Wiz for the first time in London and went to visit him in 1995 with Pulse who I painted with. I’m in VOP a london crew and TNB. I am inspired by fellow crew mate Dane and Bonzai, Lovepusher and GF.
What is the genesis of the Stockwell Hall of Fame aka The Pen?
I have painted Stockwell since 2000 and really when I gave my studio up in 2008 I wanted to have an outdoor studio but also a place where the best art from our culture would be presented. I took it on myself to eliminate the toys from the spot and get the more serious players in this game to commit to do bigger and better work. All this was self financed in the beginning but I have some financial backing now. It gets painted all the time so no real data or specific patterns. It’s the best place in London, I do my best to keep it that way.
Who has painted there in the past?
I mean we have had Slick from LA, TATS, Ivory and Tich from New York, Rasty PCP crew from Joburg and generally the backbone of writers who make up this great culture who are not neccessarily catching the spotlight in mags but who shine in what they do. We also had Rolf Harris who is like a celebrity artist in England but who most artists grew up watching.
What do the locals think of it?
The locals love it and really show support and kind words. This is an example of how Aerosol Culture can work within a community to create art that inspires and uses a space that would otherwise sit empty. Even though it’s a basketball court and a football pitch the young people prefer to play at the pitch at the end of Aytoun Rd so that leaves the Hall of Fame available to paint on 7 days a week. We have not had major events there but lots of paintouts which again support the local economy and bring people to this estate in South London.
As a teacher, how do you use graffiti and in particular the Hall of Fame to help the community and the kids you work with?
I think the Hall of fame serves the community by presenting new and challenging artwork to them, for free so that they may enjoy it. Obviously not everybody likes it as you would expect but this is such a unique thing to have and over the years thousands of pieces have been created. Any writer who has been to London has probably painted the Pen at Sockwell Park Estate. I teach Graff with www.positivearts.co.uk and I find for young people who happen to come into the court whilst we paint, they get to see how it’s done and all the art is explained to them so they get a good understanding about what we are doing. The Inspirational aspect of creating outdoor artwork is so important as most people are always indoors glued to TV or video games.
Why is the neighborhood trying to get rid of the walls and create a different kind of courtyard?
Higgins Construction PLC on behalf of Network Housing Group are tasked with re-designing the ball court. They have put out a early consultation with residents about how they see how the ball court should look. If they take down the main wall in the main court to street level this will completely change the look of it. I feel this site is of major cultural value to culture in Lambeth so therefore should be re-thought. There are more people that use it for painting purposes than for sport and this should be taken into consideration by the powers that be. If people could go to Community Trust Housings website at www.cth.org.uk and mail the director Delroy Rankin and let him know how important the preservation of this court would be, that would be a great help. You could also mail me firstname.lastname@example.org with any letters of support and help to save this space. This is something I feel to be so important especially in a city like London that already has lost legal paint sites to developers and will lose more.
This video was shot in The Stockwell Hall of Fame on August 2011, featuring Solo1, Nicer, Bims, BG183, Bonzai, Bio, Rems, Goldie, Fans. Tats Cru came over from NYC, which brought Goldie out to paint for the first time in 16 years.
Text and Photo: Daniel Feral