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The Cans Festival, 2008


The Cans Festival


Banksy hosted an exhibition called The Cans Festival in London, over the weekend of 3-5 May 2008. It took place on Leake Street, a road tunnel formerly used by Eurostar underneath London Waterloo station. Graffiti and stencil artists were invited to join in and paint their own artwork, the only condition being that their art could not cover anyone else’s.
Over the May bank holiday weekend in 2018, London got a new art gallery in one of the least likely locations one could think of. The Leake Street Tunnel runs under Waterloo Station and was, for years, a route for taxis picking up passengers. It was a pretty dismal place, notorious for reeking like a toilet because, well, many folks used it as one. In the past it had been home to a couple of Banksy works: a cop snorting a line at the entrance and further inside, in a doorway, a monkey detonating bananas.

“It was the kind of place you wouldn’t want to linger –
a cut through you never quite felt safe walking through.”

All that changed in a few days at the beginning of May 2018. First, the tunnel was shuttered off at both ends to prevent access while Banksy got to work creating several new pieces before hosting (in collaboration with Pictures On Walls) a bunch of curated stencil artists from all over the UK and around the world to fill several hundred yards of walls with their best work. A few days later, it opened to the public and they came in spades to experience The Cans Festival. One end of the tunnel even featured an area for them to try out their own stencil work. It’s probably fair to say that quite a few stencil artist’s careers were launched or inspired that weekend.
Open Wall Stencil Area
Ever since that time, the space has taken on a new life. It is now a kind of cool, cultural hang out, and is a permanent, legal graffiti space that street art tourists from all over the world flock to. It has bars, gig venues and other flexible spaces.

Banksy even set up his temporary Leake Street cinema for the release of his film Exit Through The Gift Shop in one of the ancillary tunnels. It has a radically different “feel” to it now than it did before the festival. It’s a bit ironic that graffiti actually transformed this previously uninviting, dangerous area into a space that is an asset to the community.


Banksy Murals at the Cans Festival


Graffiti Remover
Injured Buddah
Wall Paper Paint
Tagger Leopard

Other Artists at the Cans Festival


Blek Le Rat