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Mychael Barratt’s Mile End Mural

September 10, 2015
by the gentle author

Every time I walk down Mile End Rd, my attention always wanders to Mychael Barratt‘s mural high on the wall beyond Trinity Green Almshouses, conjuring the presiding spirits of this corner of Whitechapel. So I was delighted to visit Mychael’s studio under the railway arches in Bermondsey yesterday and meet the artist in person on the eve of his new exhibition which opens today at For Arts Sake.

“No artist can refuse a mural,” Mychael admitted to me with a grin and a shrug, introducing the unlikely story of the origin of his vast painting, executed over six weeks in the summer of 2011. When lawyers, TV Edwards, who have been established in the East End in the vicinity of the docks since 1929, were refused permission for a large advert on the side of their building, senior partner Anthony Edwards, saw the possibility for a creative solution to the bare wall in Mile End Rd. So, after noticing Mychael Barrett’s work on a hoarding while going over Blackfriars Bridge in a taxi, he gave the artist a call.

Mychael came to London from Canada in the eighties. “I was travelling around Europe and I was only supposed to stay in London for a week, but I never left,” he confessed to me. Yet Mychael’s Huguenot ancestors first came here three hundred years ago as refugees and the history of the capital has proved an enduring source of inspiration for his work. The centrepieces of his new exhibition are A London Map of Days, illustrating 395 events from the history on the city, and Sweet Thames, charting the path of the Thames lined with mud-larking finds.

Mychael at work on the mural in the summer of 2011

The mural was painted by Mychael Barratt, James Glover & Nicholas Middleton

1 George Bernard Shaw was an early member of the Fabian Society
who regularly met on the Whitechapel Rd
2 William Booth started The Christian Mission and  The Salvation
Army on the Mile End Rd
3 Captain James Cook lived at 88 Mile End Rd when not at sea
4 Prince Monolulu was a gambling tipster who frequented Petticoat Lane and
Mile End Market with his famous call “I gotta horse!”
5 Frederick Charrington turned his back on his family’s brewery to start a
temperance mission. He is here depicted taking a dray horse out of service
6 Dockers – This is loosely based on the statue of dockers at Victoria Dock
7 Vladimir Lenin planned the Russian Revolution in Whitechapel
8 Joseph Merrick also known as The Elephant Man was first publicly
exhibited in London in a shop on the Whitechapel Rd across the street
from the London Hospital
9 T V Edwards started the law firm T V Edwards in 1929
10 Anthony Edwards is the senior partner of T V Edwards. As a young boy he
would accompany his uncle on his rounds, carrying his briefcase
11 Bushra Nasir studied at Queen Mary University and became the first Muslim
headteacher of a state school
12 Mahatma Gandhi stayed at Kingsley Hall in 1931 when he came to London
to discuss Indian independence
13 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 2009
14 Samuel Pepys frequented the Mile End Rd, as his diary attests
and his mother was the daughter of a Whitechapel butcher
15 Isaac Rosenberg was a First World War poet and a painter who was one of
a group of artists known as The Whitechapel Boys
16 Mark Gertler was another of The Whitechapel Boys
17 Edith Cavell trained as a nurse at London Hospital before working in
German-occupied Belgium during World War I
18 Reggie & Ronnie Kray frequented The Blind Beggar.
19 David Hockney had his first exhibition at The Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1970
20 Scout This is my dog
21 Eric Gill’s sculptures grace the New People’s Palace on the Mile End Rd
22 Gilbert & George live nearby in Spitalfields
23 Market stalls that line the Mile End Rd
24 A reference to London’s docks
25 30 St Mary Axe also known as the Gherkin
26 Christ Church, Spitalfields, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor
27 House by Rachel Whiteread was a cast of the inside of a house on Grove Rd
28 The East London Mosque
29 Clock tower from in front of The People’s Palace
30 The Royal London Hospital
31 Guernica by Pablo Picasso was displayed at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1939
32 The Whitechapel Art Gallery
33 Blooms, famous kosher restaurant on Whitechapel Rd
34 The Whitechapel Church Bell Foundry
35 Trinity Almshouses, Mile End Rd
36 The first V1 flying bomb or Doodlebug fell in Whitechapel in 1944

Mychael Barratt at his studio in Bermondsey

Arnold Circus and the Breathless Brass Band, oil painting

Sweet Thames, print  (Please click to enlarge)

A London Map of Days, print (Please click to enlarge)

Images copyright © Mychael Barratt

Mychael Barratt‘s Solo Show opens tonight Thursday 10th September from 6-9pm at For Arts Sake, 45 Bond St, W5 5AS, and runs until 11th October

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Colin Lennon permalink
    September 10, 2015

    I love the mural, although I have sadly never seen it. I must go and hunt it down as I do like his prints; my favourite is a scene based on The Hollybush pub in Hampstead. I used to live in West Hampstead and the Hollybush was one of my haunts. His more recent work revolves around take offs of other artists done in the style of that artist, although you can still see Mychael’s own style shining through.

    Enough rambling, I guess I should organise myself and go to his exhibition!


  2. Glenn permalink
    September 11, 2015

    I too love this mural. Even more now that it has been explained to me.
    Thank you GA and Mychael Barratt.

  3. September 28, 2015

    Thanks for mentioning the exhibition in your article – you may be interested to know that Mychael is giving a talk at For Arts Sake gallery on Saturday 3rd October from 2-4pm. This is a great chance for people to discover all the hidden meanings in his work!

  4. November 17, 2020

    We give the mural a big plug in our latest episode!

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