Street Source is an irregular feature showcasing photos taken in Brighton. The idea is to share spontaneous moments around town – be it street scenes, snapshots of people’s lives or city landscapes. For each instalment we ask a different contributor to participate. This time, SOURCE editor Ben Bailey talks us through his phone pics of street art, toilet graffiti and conspiracy rants.
The first thing you should know is that I’m not a photographer. You’ll see that for yourself soon enough. I prefer words, which is probably why most of these photos feature writing of some kind – whether it’s barely legible graffiti or nonsensical slogans. I rarely take pictures of people, but I have lots of shots of random stuff on walls. I only realised this recently while looking back through a bunch of photos from the last few years. However, I lost quite a few when my phone died last month, so the ones here are what survived. The others were much better, I assure you.
Anyway, I guess I find it curious (and somewhat reassuring) that even in the age of social media people are still driven to express themselves on public walls with stickers, stencils, posters and marker pens. But just because you like the medium, it doesn’t mean you’ll like the message. In other words, some of the things that have caught my eye are frankly a bit weird.
I’m amused by the specificity of this complaint. Who exactly is it aimed at? I can’t remember where this was taken, but I think it was in the toilets at the Hope & Ruin. You’d think anyone who had a problem with retro fusion would have more immediate concerns given the random decorations around the venue. Nope, putting half a caravan in your pub is a legitimate architectural choice.
Imagine my surprise when, having dismissed that last bit of graffiti as pure whimsy, I discovered a hidden mural in Brighton depicting a hoplite in a temple – which I guess makes it Greco-Georgian? A friend organised a socially distanced garden gig during one of those odd periods between lockdowns, and this was over the wall next door. I have no idea why it’s there, but I quite like it. I suppose that means I’m a T.W.A.T.
Hell hath no fury like an indignant Lord of the Rings fan. I found this poster on Upper Lewes Road, on the wall that curves up to Wakefield Road. Prior to the whitewashing there had been a stencil of Martin Luther King Jr. under the words “I Have A Dream”, courtesy of local artist and rolleskate enthusiast Agente Petruscioni. Passersby were encouraged to write their hopes and aspirations on the wall. Many did, and the space slowly filled up with handwritten scrawls ranging from the deadly earnest to the deliberately silly. It was hardly an eyesore, yet someone at the council decided it would look better with a thin layer of white paint on top, thereby obliterating the dreams of local residents. It was a crappy thing to do, but the politeness of this poster made me laugh. I love the fact that it’s invoking a fictional creature to threaten a council worker. I also like the lightly decorative handwriting and the use of an asterisk to convey additional information. The only thing that lets it down is the misspelling of ‘Tolkien’. If you’re going to recruit Oxford professors to your cause, you’ve got to get their names right. The wall now hosts a long and colourful mural of animals, which is… fine. But I can’t help feeling they should have included some walking trees* (*otherwise known as Ents).
It’s a belt on a road. The road is called Belton Road. That’s it.
This impressive collage appeared one summer on the side of a student house on Rose Hill. It reminded me of the eloquently defaced library book covers that landed the playwright Joe Orton in jail (which were later proudly put on display in Islington library). I wondered whether this would be considered graffiti to be whitewashed or art to be preserved. I guess it’s the same question that titillates art critics when they think of Banksy. In the end, neither happened. It rained and the whole thing peeled off.
This photo evokes a particular emotion which I associate with being drunk in London. It’s something like loneliness mixed with the acceptance of living in an environment that’s so routinely ugly you barely register it. So I guess it’s apt this charming diorama was situated on London Road. Note the indelible blotches of chewing gum dropped by people who couldn’t quite make it to the bin. The pointless tags covering every vertical surface. The trickle of what can only be beer or piss. We take all this for granted. And then there’s the broken toy bike, lying there like the pink elephant in the room. Was it ditched by a stressed parent in the hustle of a bus stop queue? Was it casually stamped on by the two lads ahead? Or did it fall apart as soon as it left the pound shop? Why do we take all of this for granted?
This was on a wall outside a chip shop in Hastings. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t put there by the owners of the shop. Warm and moist I agree with, old and unwashed sometimes, antisocial maybe. But since the sticker encourages us to “apply some actual science”, I feel it’s worth pointing out that a mask that wasn’t able to be aerated wouldn’t allow air to pass through it. And a mask that was medicated would mean it was somehow impregnated with medicine. So whoever made the sticker seems to be outraged that we were expected to wear masks that both allow you to breathe AND contain no drugs. Mind you, if you also believe that masks are intentionally “designed to propagate disease”, the fact they’re warm and moist is surely by the by. And just for the record, it should be: “You’re not coming in.”
This was spotted on the same day trip to Hastings. It features a recipe for a ‘cock-tale’ called a Tyranny Tonic that is able to cure both cancer and covid. The principal ingredients are lettuce, mushrooms, black pepper and grass cuttings – although the poster also recommends adding orange juice to mask the mushroom flavour. Click on the image to see the whole poster (should you wish to follow the health advice of someone who thinks cancer is merely a fungal infection). Down the side it says: “Quite pretending strong logic you understand is ‘Anecdotal Evidence’ .. You are a Rational Adult, not a Science Fan-Child.” Whether it’s braindead nonsense or not, this wins the trophy for the most typos ever seen on a single sheet of A4.
Poor old Theresa May. Only a few years ago she seemed like the worst prime minister ever. How naïve we were in those innocent days of relentless Brexit turmoil! I’m sure you could argue that it’s a bit iffy to sexualise female politicians like this, but there’s something to be said for this brutal approach to satire. It reminds me of something you’d see in Viz magazine. At the very least, it was startling enough to make me reach for my phone during an otherwise pleasant walk along Hackney canal.
Someone has clearly never heard of Blink-182. But that can only be a good thing. I generally like how graffiti gets worked on and added to. However, whoever altered the original statement here isn’t contradicting the message, they’re just making it more blunt. Why bother? I came across this on the way to an indie-pop festival in Cardiff. Is indie-pop an oxymoron too? Sometimes I miss the hardline stances people took towards subcultures in the 90s, but mixing up genres is often fun and probably inevitable. Besides, Buzzcocks are pop punk really, aren’t they?
Nothing like a motivational message encouraging you to hang yourself. I found this in a squat in Amsterdam and again it reminded me of the 90s. I think I’d find this more comical if I didn’t recognise the sense of desperate frustration behind it. This streak of self-destructive nihilism sometimes emerges from the anarchist scene, but nowadays you’re more likely to see stuff like this expressed on incel boards. It’s the kind of mindset that ends in school shootings. Nice contrasting shades of pink though.
Adrenochrome is a chemical compound found in the human body. It’s also a key component of the QAnon conspiracy theory which claims there’s a satanic cabal of celebrities who enjoy eating children. During lockdown I was dismayed to find the ‘theory’ was spreading to the UK. It seemed like a peculiarly American concoction, like marshmallow spread. Yet here it was, daubed on a wall on Roundhill Crescent. But this cryptic slogan struck me as absurd in other ways. Firstly, it only makes sense if you know what the word means, which defeats the point of a slogan. Secondly, the phrase “no more” suggests that it’s simply gone too far – as if adrenochrome is fine in small doses, or as part of a balanced diet. On the plus side, it’s a tricky word so at least they got the spelling right.
I later found the same slogan stencilled on street furniture which made me suspect that it might actually be a name of an edgy club night or a local fashion label. I don’t know which form of cynicism is worse: believing that the government is run by satanic paedophiles or assuming that everything in Brighton is some kind of hipster joke.
This one looks like it was taken in the toilets at the Prince Albert. Not sure why I took a picture of it, but I think the use of board game iconography is really effective. You could argue it’s saying nothing new, but sometimes people just need to be reminded of all the crap they put up with, especially when the rents in Brighton are so insane.
The best toilet graffiti makes you laugh. The worst toilet graffiti makes you fear for the fate of humanity. How did this person reach this conclusion? Unfortunately they didn’t provide any sources so I wasn’t able to verify these claims. I think I spend too much time in public toilets.
There’s a secret staircase in the Roundhill area called Cats’ Creep. There are huge private gardens either side, both with ponds. Once a year an army of frogs converge on the staircase for a mating ritual that lasts for weeks. A local community group has become zealous about alerting people to this event and regularly put up signs asking people not to squash the creatures. Head down there when it’s raining, taking care to step lightly, and in the light of the old lamppost you’ll see a squirming mass of randy frogs, all piled on top of each other in an almighty amphibian orgy.