Event review: Femme Fierce freak-out, Sunday 15th February


By - Friday 20th February, 2015

Imagine artist and urban photographer Wes Baker’s excitement on hearing the Femme Fierce ladies were coming to town


Photo author’s own.

Last May, I wrote an article titled ‘The Urban Gallery‘ about street art, and how it how it would be able to lift the profile of Croydon. So you can imagine my excitement to hear of the Femme Fierce ladies’ plans to head into town. Sunday 15th February saw this street art collective of women founded by Ayaan Sunday descend on St George’s Walk and Park Street for a takeover event.

In association with RISE gallery, Kevin Zuchowski-Morrision enlisted the Guinness-world-record-breaking team of 35 artists to spend a day freshening up and adding to the existing collection of murals on shutters and hoardings in the Croydon arts quarter.

The smell of spray paint was instantly identifiable as I stepped off the 109 bus with my pull-along suitcase and camera equipment. I spotted a man browsing the early starters’ work, accompanied by his toddler daughter. On chatting, it turned out that back in 1984 he was a prolific graffiti artist and number 3 on the profession’s most wanted list, choosing the sides of trains as his canvas. That day he’d travelled from Epsom to bring his daughter to see what was going on.

Photo author’s own.

It struck me how cool it was that an event like this one allowed me to see the work that the current generation of women is doing and to hear stories from back in the 1980s when such work wasn’t so embraced and women doing it were few and far between.

John Bownas, director of Croydon’s forthcoming Ambition music festival, brought along a nice big speaker hooked up to an iPod and later there was a DJ in RISE gallery with decks and everything right in the window. Dare I say this? It all looked really trendy, like something out of Shoreditch or Hackney Wick. Then by the time I got home, I saw that loads of people had pipped me to the post and uploaded masses of pictures of Femme Fierce’s new artistic creations.

Photo author’s own.

There were at least forty people remaining in St George’s Walk at the end of the day, chilling outdoors on what thankfully was a mild and sunny Sunday. Music was playing, with artists like FKA Twigs on the decks. What a day it had been – in addition to street- and shutter-art down at Reeves Corner and Jubilee Bridge, we now have about forty examples of work, by both male and female artists from other parts of the country and around the world, in Croydon town centre.

Everyone on the day kept saying: ‘Wow! I’ve never seen this number of people walking through St George’s Walk!’ It’s sad that footfall is so low and that it’s been so neglected. I’m very excited about the changes that the developing arts quarter will bring – and Femme Fierce is back on Thursday 26th February for a takeover of RISE gallery.

Will there be another street takeover in 2016? I really hope so. Brixton has the Urban Art Festival every year on Josephine Avenue – just a residential street directly off Brixton Hill where there’s nevertheless a great turnout, street food and artists of every type from beginners to seasoned professionals. I can’t see why this can’t work in a pedestrianised precinct with restaurants serving food from around the world – if we want it.

So let’s get a team together, look at doing a crowd sourcing campaign and find the artists who’d want to sell work and at how we can really attract the people of our town. There’s Croydon College just across the road with students working in art and art groups like the Thornton Heath Collective. I’ve organised live music events in the past and know of other people with far more experience and contacts. With inspiration like Sunday’s, and working together, we could create something really special.

Wes

Wes

Street photographer, 1st of the Frohicans and Croydon's No.1 fan according to my parents. I graduated in Transport Design at Coventry University summer 2012 and made my way back to the town I love to continue working on my Croydon facebook page. I eventually met some of the other local creatives with the same enthusiasm and soon knew it was my mission to engage with and hopefully help to get the word out about the creative potential and future of Croydon.

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  • Marco

    Nice write up Wes

    • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

      Thank you

  • Anne Giles

    Excellent. This is art, which is not the same as graffiti, which is vandalism.