The Canals Project is made up of the work of four international artists, commissioned to paint large scale walls in Hackney Wick. We asked the Canals Project curator Cedar Lewisohn to keep a diary of its progress as it unfolded. From missing Banksys to a tour of the sewers, this journal offers a unique insight into the staging of one of the biggest street art shows of the year.

Wall by Zezão. Photo courtesy of the Canals Project and the artist, 2013

Wall by Zezão. Photo courtesy of the Canals Project and the artist, 2013


FEBRUARY 22 2013
It’s snowing in London today. I took a bus tour of the post- games Olympic Park… It all looks a bit bleak. The park is facing the canal where the works are and due to open in July – hope they get it sorted for then.
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FEBRUARY 23
Planning work is interrupted by a call from Channel 4 news asking for a quote about a Banksy that’s gone missing from the wall of a Poundland in Turnpike Lane, North London. There is a bit of a fuss in the media as the painting’s been put up for auction in New York. I go all the way down to the scene of the crime, which takes about an hour, give the quote, which takes about two minutes, go home – another hour – wait in anticipation for the news broadcast and see myself on it, for about three seconds. This is modern media life.

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MARCH 6 

Picked  up a great fanzine about hobo/freight train graffiti. I am now in love with hobo/freight train graffiti. The cover, by Barry Magee, also helped.

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MARCH 24

I saw a work by Edwin, Edwin Has Cat Breath, in Hackney Wick, two weeks ago, now buffed. I think it’s great. I don’t know Edwin, but I’m now a fan.

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APRIL 15

Mark Lyken and Teo Moneyless installing. They are both great to work with. Teo, who’s Italian, seems a little disturbed by English cuisine. He asks me why the English eat “sweet beans” for breakfast.

Mark Lyken

Wall by Mark Lyken and Teo Moneyless. Photo courtesy of Ian Cox 2013

Wall by Mark Lyken and Teo Moneyless. Photo courtesy of Ian Cox 2013


APRIL 24
Behind Mark Lyken and Teo Moneyless’s wall is an energy centre, producing low carbon fuel. We get a tour and the spaces inside are amazing, it’s like some kind of Lego science fiction lm set. With some piles of wood.
APRIL 27
Mark Lyken and Teo Moneyless finish their wall. I love it.
April 29
The Canals Project’s lm programme starts this weekend at Hackney Picturehouse, with Edo Bertoglio’s cult NYC movie Downtown 81 showing on Saturday, and Michael Wadleigh’s no less cultish Wolfen on Sunday. I nearly had a heart attack when it turned out the copy of Downtown 81 won’t play on the cinema’s machine. Eventually, an online appeal leads to the help of some super nice people and I get one which will work. The film is amazing, incidentally, made up of footage of original street artist turned ’80s superstar Jean-Michel Basquiat complete with a great soundtrack.
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MAY 15
Yesterday we took a trip to London’s sewers with Brazilian artist and second in the series of commissions, Zezão. It’s actually National Sewer Week, would you believe, so there were a few other culvert enthusiasts along for the trip. Here is the Canals Project curator getting kitted up while Zezão takes a break for lunch. It was interesting to visit the sewers, but very nice to leave and get some fresh air!
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JUNE 5 
Today we did a drawing workshop with some year 6 students from Gainsbourgh Junior School in Hackney Wick. Ekta Ekta’s finished wall at Gainsbourgh School, Hackney Wick – made in collaboration with students from year 6 – is shown above.
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JUNE 21 
Etka Ekta’s wall is proving very popular. Its made up of loads of stories he collected from people he’s met while working in Hackney Wick.
 

Wall by Ekta Ekta. Photo courtesy of the Canals Project and the artist, 2013

Wall by Ekta Ekta. Photo courtesy of the Canals Project and the artist, 2013


12-19 JULY 
Went off and curated a show at The New Art Gallery, Walsall.
23 JULY
We had load of bigwigs from the Canal and River Trust, the Legacy List and the Arts Council come down to look at the work today. It’s always quite funny to discuss street art and graffiti with official art people, but they seem thrilled with the project. e new chair of the Arts Council is Peter Bazalgette (previously Chairman of Endemol UK); he’s the guy who brought Big Brother to the UK screens. I talked to him about art and food, as he’s into all things culinary; in fact he put loads of food programmes on TV. Peter also happens to be the grandson of Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (the civil engineer who oversaw the construction the capital’s sewer system). He loved Zezão’s work.
25 JULY 
I’ve just been for lunch at the German deli with the Graphic Surgery guys from Holland; they have finished their first wall and are just doing some details on a second. It’s minimal, abstract and very bold; it will look amazing from the new Olympic Park or the new bridge they are building to get in there. e site the work is on is going to be a bar and restaurant, with loads of music events, so I think the work will fit right in with all the tech house kids.
I’m really exhausted; it’s been a busy few months. I still have some bits and bobs to do but it’s fantastic to have the four completed walls. I hope people will like them. Here’s to a great summer hanging out in Hackney Wick.
Wall by Graphic Surgery, in progress. Photo Ben Hopper, 2013

Wall by Graphic Surgery, in progress. Photo Ben Hopper, 2013

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