A new food, booze and dance spot called ‘Leake Street Arches’ is popping up inside Leake Street graffiti tunnel: see it for yourself on Saturday
‘Leake Street’ was once just the unfortunate name of an abandoned tunnel beneath the old Eurostar terminal that always faintly smelled of piss. That was before 2008, when Banksy saw the potential to turn what he called a ‘dark forgotten filth pit’ into ‘an oasis of beautiful art – in a dark forgotten filth pit’. It’s just over ten years since he ushered an army of graffiti artists into the bowels of Leake Street for ‘The Cans Festival’, an organised burst of street art that filled the dank undercroft with the smell of lacquer and spray paint. The spot became the ‘graffiti tunnel’, a stretch of London counterculture that quickly became a tourist attraction, and a draw for a couple of cool arts venues (The Vaults, an immersive theatre, and the nearby House of Vans).
Somehow, it never became a big destination; the Victorian archway units that lined the tunnel largely remained unused. But news of a development called Leake Street Arches has been bubbling beneath Waterloo for some time, and the first stage of its launch is finally happening this weekend. Those empty caverns inside the graffiti street are going to be taken over by six new businesses packed into eight units. Among them is Banh Bao Brothers, a restaurant that serves punchy Vietnamese food and ‘tahini margaritas’. And Draughts Waterloo, a new incarnation of the Hackney board game bar where visitors are encouraged to switch off their phones and get stuck into some ‘competitive socialising’.
Secretive Leake Street Arches venue Rat Bar will have the original giant rat mural by Banksy from the White Horse pub in Liverpool (which was first removed in 2011) carefully affixed to its main wall. Then there’s the most exciting arrival, ‘Aures London’. This is a sensory space designed around a 50-speaker Pioneer surround-sound system which allows music to be played as it was recorded to be heard. Trumpets blare from one side, vocals pour from the other. It’s like listening to music on the best quality headphones, except with all your friends in the room. Eventually, Aures London aims to create Europe’s first five-sensory immersive venue, complete with scent infusions and a vibrating floor.
All this gentrification may be off putting for the street artists who come to the area for creative freedom, but many of them are working with the newcomers to keep the graffiti culture in the fold (look out for the big Marc Craig piece in Aures).
It’s early days for the Arches, and some parts won’t open until 2019, but this Saturday is a chance to nosy around the new Waterloo. It might not be a loveable ‘filth pit’ any more, but there are loads of new ways to get your Leake on.
Here’s what’s happening at Leake Street Arches this Saturday
Banh Bao Brothers
Want to try Banh Bao’s stir-fried pho but don’t have the funds? Play a game of ‘Roll the Dice’ with your waiter, and you could win free food and drink for your table. Sat Jun 16, all day.
Have a competitive brunch on two-for-one bloody marys with a mini afternoon games tournament. Try not to come to blows over the tote bag and T-shirt prizes. Sat Jan 16, 11am-4pm. Free entry.
Be one of the first to check out the restored Banksy piece inside this new London boozer. The Rat Bar will be serving up half-price pizzas to mark the launch. Sat Jun 16. Free entry.
House of Vans screenings
Leake Street Arches’ neighbour will be showing free Marvel movies (including ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’) and hosting open skate sessions on the HoV ramps. Get shredding. 228-232 Station Approach Rd. Sat Jan 16. Skate sessions from noon. Films at 3pm and 5.30pm. Free.
Taste the bass and drown in sound with 15-minute demos from the incredible 50-speaker soundsystem inside the Aures Sensorium. New York DJ legend Danny Krivit will be performing a set specially crafted for the Aures speakers on the night. Sat Jan 16, demos noon-4pm. Free. Danny Krivit set 9pm-3am. Tickets from £12.50, book in advance.
Leake Street Arches, Leake St. Tube: Waterloo. Launch: Sat Jun 16. Find out more at leakestreetarches.london.
It’s not all about graffiti: here’s where to find more public art in London.
And if you really, REALLY need to see them, here’s where to find all the remaining Banksy pieces in the city.