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Can Street Artists Survive a City in Lockdown?

May 1, 2020

By Alex Marshall May 1, 2020

Buskers, musicians and muralists have been entertaining London for centuries. But now the capital has gone quiet and the future of their activities looks uncertain.

Before the pandemic, London teemed with street artists and performers: Buskers sang to commuters on the Underground, street magicians entertained tourists, graffiti artists covered the city’s walls.
But now — with a few exceptions like Mr. Bowen — they are all gone. What has happened to the artists who used to add so much life? And when the pandemic is over, will they be able to go back out?

The day that London went into lockdown, Mr. Bowen, 35, had a different reaction to the news from most others in the city. He was walking home from a friend’s house, he said, when he saw a storekeeper boarding up their windows.


“I just saw that blank board and thought, ‘Yeah! There’s going to be so many opportunities to paint,’” he said.

“For me, this lockdown works in reverse,” he added. “Everyone’s left the city now, so it’s time for the underworld to come through.”

The next day, he went to the store he’d seen and painted the boards with a construction worker in a face mask, holding open his jacket to reveal a thank-you message for the National Health Service.

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