The earliest piece of graffiti that I can remember on the Island (well, almost the Island) was opposite Emmett Street, at the start of ‘the Walls’ in the 1960s. It read: “FREE THE TROTSKYISTS IN PRISON IN MEXICO“.
It was signed by RWP(T) – the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist) – which, according to Wikipedia, was “an organisation which adhered to the theories of Argentine Trotskyist, J. Posadas, who tried to create a synthesis of Trotskyism and Ufology. His most prominent thesis from this perspective was Flying saucers, the process of matter and energy, science, the revolutionary and working-class struggle and the socialist future of mankind (1968). Posadists believed that extra-terrestrials visiting earth in flying saucers must come from a socially and scientifically advanced civilisation to master inter-planetary travel and that the working-class should welcome the alien invaders as their liberators.”
Just a little further south along the Walls was this mural, created in approximately 1980 I reckon, apparently by some kind of missionary organisation who roped in local kids to help them create it.
Wasn’t too long before it had been amended by somebody else:
The following piece of grafitti was on the same wall – a play on one of the first health warnings to appear on fag packets: ‘Think first, most doctors don’t smoke’.
A few metres to the left was this one:
All the way round the Island, close to where Preston’s Road met Poplar High Street, was the following mural, perhaps the work of the same missionary group who created the mural along the Walls?
Somebody messed around with this one, too, though:
Just round the corner from the chip shop opposite Christ Church the ISLAND was WELL ARD, a piece of graffiti framing a fading reference to the TV Orphans (the Island’s first punk band who could play the opening bars to at least two Clash songs).
And opposite this wall, evidence of the state of the education system – kids can’t even spell ‘cannabis’ properly any more.
During the 1980s, after the closure of the docks, virtually all industry along the river was demolished, to be replaced largely by houses and flats which were unaffordable to most Islanders. There was some resentment felt towards the newcomers who lived facing the river with their backs to housing estates such as the Barkantine Estate, where this was painted:
Sometimes, the target of the grafitti was very personal, like this one in Cahir Street (for years, the bin doors in our block were adorned with ‘Micky Lemons is going to get his head kicked in’, Micky Lemons being my nickname at the time):
Swastikas were also often painted, the work of fascists, racists or people just wanting to shock:
But, mostly, the grafitti was more mundane, with declarations of love for each other, or for a particular music group or football team – or just to point out that “I woz here”….
Whatever the reason, never forget….