Banksy Cans Festival Leake St

Cans Festival

Leake St, 3 May – 5 May 2008

words/pictures: nolionsinengland.

LA got its elephant in the room (has anyone else noticed the “Elephant In The Room” drawing added to, curious since everything else on his site is publicly seen work), Notting Hill had the rats, Waterloo’s tunnel hosted possibly the finest selection of global vermin to ever paint together in anger.

Banksy’s Cans Festival is one of the most electric and eclectic shows of art I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. With a glorious cluster of major Banksy murals to take in, several aspects of the Banksy pieces are worth mentioning. For execution, the graffiti cleaning squad buffing the cave painting is breathtaking. Whilst the murky cave painting details echoes previous Banksy cave painting exercises (British Museum), the trick on the eye that the cleaner has sprayed a swathe of the wall clean is just spot on. A little amusing detail is the red hand silhouette implying that primitive homosapien had spraycans. Nice to see the Banksy tag on a wall piece again after such a long time.

Banksy – Caveman

The battered Budha on close inspection is nursing a shiner, has a bloody nose, has wrenched his neck and has his left fist swathed in bandages, Banksy’s comment on the beatings, suppression and state bully-boy tactics in Tibet. This picture doesn’t get close to showing the quality of those details.

Banksy – Buddah

The CCTV tree installation echo’s many previous installations, pictures and the recent One Nation under CCTV piece. Skilfully and wittily Banksy deploys a burned out wreck of a car wrapped around the tree supporting the cameras to make the point that all the video footage in the world will only record crime, not wipe it out.

Banksy – CCTV tree

The Beach Hut installation is more than just a chill out zone, it echoes and perhaps takes on Tracey Emin’s similar beach hut piece from the 90s. The structure is actually a child’s toy play house, which would give it a relevant relationship with the Noddy car on bricks next to it.

Banksy – Beach Hut

All told, there are 6 or 7 Banksy wall stencils, and at least four, possibly six installations. For sake of brevity a link is provided lower down to a more comprehensive set of pictures but let’s not forget, Banksy isn’t the only can-slinger in town.

Eine’s recent east London pixilated “HELL” is echoed with its obvious partner word HOLE. The word hole obviously also can be associated with the word SHIT, which has been added by roller above it and in a non-Eine style suggesting someone else’s intervention. Sweet.


NY’s Faile are present big time, a monstrous cast metal door has been given the treatment with no fewer than ten major Faile stencils, and a Faile van rammed into a concrete wall has its flat tyre being hastily hand inflated by a addidas three-striped yob with an exploding head. Other minds think the car and the exploding head stencil are completely un-related, but if they are then this just becomes a pointless car covere in re-hashed Faile motifs.


Logan Hicks, also from NY, has done a pair of awesome photorealistic walls, bringing a whiff of NY into this heaven-in-hell.

Logan Hicks

Asbestos has a pair of fish-tailed pink Zebra trying to flip-kick their way off the walls, quite unlike anything I have ever seen from Asbestos on the streets.


One of the beauty of have time to peruse such a galactic array of talent is that previously mysterious street pieces suddenly become attributable. Among this lot, the anonymity of the un-tagged leaf-carrying ants is revealed to come from the hands of Dotmasters. Our Ant messengers this time tell us ”What a Load Of Rubbish” (possibly this piece below should be attributed to Dotmaster’s alter ego Bagsy).


Pure Evil’s reputation will be further enhanced by the stunning quality of his collection/installation of a variety of but by no means all of his recent output. Street lights shine through the suspended Pearly King stencil sheet making it stunningly luminescent and the Mash-up latex bunny girl, bunny hands, neon evil bunny and butterfly wings rocks the show.

Pure Evil

With delight the presence of Cartrain can be confirmed, this is a good thing since firstly he is at least as “real” as any of the artist here in terms of being out there all the time and getting up, and also like all of us he can only learn and get better when rubbing shoulders with art and artists of this calibre.

At this early stage (hours after the opening) there are a large number of, to me anyway, un-known artists and this is part of the thrill of this show, we learn all the time folks until we close our minds, then we die. Here are a further highlights with quite a few un-attributed pieces, feel free to share if you can identify any.




Daniel Melim

Panda Dreams, by….?


Broken Crow,

I don’t agree with the view that “this event is what graffiti is all about”, or that this is Banksy “keeping it real man”. This is about a whole bunch of things including Banksy being a great artist, with an un-rivalled ability to speak humorously through art in a way ordinary people can relate to; about a diverse range of talents and subjects opening our hearts and minds to the quality currently being achieved in street art. It is also fully authorized, legitimate and frission free, it has nothing to do with risk, danger or law-breaking spontaneity and those key elements make graffiti even more admirable. Sanitised anti-establishmentism anyone?


The point was un-intentionally illustrated by the security. Minutes after the gates opened a city gent mannequin in pinstripes wearing white shoes with a white briefcase stuffed with twenty pound notes was hung by the neck over a wall on the tunnel exit ramp. In terms of execution the quality was right up there with Banksy, the political point was a laser-guided sniper shot and indeed the situation was reminiscent of Banksy’s Disney Guantanamo stunt. A panicked steward radio-ed for help, and tried to usher us away from the scene of the crime saying “No, don’t look; not part of the show; it’s illegal”. Moments later three security guards, doing what security guards do, arrived, hacked down the doll, frisked it, gave it the kiss of life, trousered the money and took it off in an ambulance. Sorry, I mean they threw it away. But the point was this un-authorised and un-regulated rule-breaking intervention was exactly what street art is about, far more than the art on show in the tunnel. If this wasn’t Banksy, he has a damn fine imitator (rumour says “George”).

Unknown “illegal”

A portion of the tunnel, actually the slip road up at the end, is relatively clean at the moment and it seems the plan is that anyone who fancies trying out a stencil can come along and throw it up. It will be interesting to see how this pans out, hopefully by Monday evening a whole new slew of un-sung talent will have revealed itself.

It would be great to show pictures here of every piece on show but sadly that would be taking far too much of your time, so please feel free to browse a much fuller collection by clicking here.

This whole show is free, like street art and graffiti should be but clearly a lot of expense has been incurred staging this so, to whoever is backing this, huge thanks.


Cans Festival and its successor event cans II proved to be something Graffoto was to devote a lot of time and love to, far more than just this post. Here is the full set of related posts:

Cans Festival – the first preview night visit
Cans Festival – Let Us Spray – what went on in Banksy’s pet project, the public access spray zone
Banksy, No Lions, Eelus Group Show – Banksy wanted anyone apart from artists to take up stencilling, we accepted the challenge
Cans Festival – One More Sniff – How the Cans wall art evolved in the first month or so after the event
Cans Recycled – First Peek – An un-scheduled sneak peek at the second version of Cans Festival when the tunnel was closed for a few days.
Cans Recycled Opens – Like it says on the tin
Alphabet Soup – The Cans 2 Letter Hunt – A Rarekind of letter game played at Cans Recycled
Cans2 Recycled Revisited – more.

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