Leake Street Tunnels And The Resurgence of Urban Art

The Leake Street Tunnel, an underpass just around the corner from Waterloo station is a truly unique place in London to visit. With a tremendous amount of street art scattered about the city, Leake Street is different. Down here it’s not street art: its urban art.

What is Urban Art?

It is somewhat difficult to describe what urban art is, as it is so emotive — urban art related to the city and city life. It’s a combination of street art and graffiti and is viewed publically, so people see it as vandalism. Things are changing though. Urban art is raw and gritty, and only in the last few years, it is something that has become more acceptable — in particular through the likes of Banksy and huge painted murals. The location of skate parks and tunnels, like Leake Street, change the context of the art, giving that urban feel. It feels more spontaneous and dynamic, like the city itself.

What makes Leake Street So Special?

Well, the infamous Banksy promoted the tunnel in 2008. So it’s got a pretty serious history. The tunnel was the host of the ‘Cans Festival’ in 2008, and as long as you didn’t cover other artists work, you were free to do spray whatever you wanted. No legal consequences. At over 300m long, it is one of the most extensive legal graffiti walls in Europe.


Leake Street is found a short walk from Waterloo Station. From one of Waterloo’s many exits head towards the Old Vic Theatre (best to exit via the Jubilee line onto Waterloo Road). From the Old Vic head towards Lower Marsh and the entrance to Leake Street is almost at the far end of the road.

Take lots of photos. Leake Street has an electric feel, the brightly coloured artwork and sense of rebellion. When taking photos of the artists though do ask them out of courtesy, some will prefer not to be in the image. Head to Leake Street to appreciate one the London’s best free art displays.

Photography Tips

When photographing street art there are some handy tips to remember

  • Edit raw images with as much high definition or dynamic range as possible to make those colours pop
  • Change your perspective – use natural framing where possible and think about the content. Get up close and personal, grab your wide angle and even shoot from the ground up.
  • Enjoy – it’s easy when behind a camera to forget what you are through the lens finder is in front of you, so take your time and appreciate it

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