January #SpotlightOn Artist Lionel Stanhope: “The last thing I wanna do is sneak out at 4am and get my collar felt with a spray can in my hand!”

Some of you might know him as the guy who has made your south east London community cooler, immortalised in words with street art even.  I now, also know him as the dude who painted one of the most memorable pieces of graffiti I recall from when I was a wee lass growing up on the wrong side of town. Okay, it wasn’t wrong, it was New Malden but we could argue that point.

Anyway, for the second helping of January’s #SpotlightOn doublebill we met Stanhope to dig – only a tad – into his psyche, find out what gets him out of bed in the morning and to get the low down on what’s next on his agenda for making the walls in our wicked neighbourhood just that little bit edgier. Oh yeh, and why he won’t venture north….


How did the street art signs under the railway bridges in South East London come about?

There was a flood in Herne Hill in 2013 that affected a lot of businesses.  The Herne Hill Forum got in touch as they were looking for ways to help rejuvenate the area, they were keen for something to be painted under the bridge and that’s where it all started.  What I love about this work is that it combines my love of typography and street art

Since the inception of the Herne Hill sign, I’ve painted four more signs – Hither Green, Brockley and Catford got two!  The Forest Hill community successfully crowdfunded to have their sign painted in March which will include the famous giant Walrus from the Horniman Museum. There’s something to be said for this retro style of work that younger and older generations can relate to.  I’m proud to have them up in SE London, I’ve been asked to go further out to North London to paint one but that ain’t gonna happen!


How did you get to where you are today?

My love of street art started when I was 16 – also in the wrong part of town.  Just kidding, but I did grow up in New Malden! It was back in the late 80’s, times were changing and graffiti and hip-hop were becoming popular with my generation. Hip Hop has different elements, you could be a breakdancer, a rapper, a DJ or a graffiti writer. 

I came across a book titled Subway Art, which showcased the best graffiti from the New York Subway system. It inspired me to start sketching and drawing crazy letters and then getting my hands on some spray paint.

There is a cut in New Malden along the railway track,  late one night, my buddy Alex and I ventured out and created our first piece of graffiti to appear on what became an iconic wall and a mecca for other local graffiti artists. It included the Statue of Liberty… It took 8 hours, it was there for a couple of months if I remember correctly.


Did you have a tag?

Yeh, mine was Shine129 and Alex’s was DizzyDee – life was pretty great.  A group of lads,  graffiti artists from Tooting came over to see the work we’d done, word spread, in those days there was no social media.  Now a piece of work can be seen across the pond in the space of seconds.  Street Art has changed so much in that respect.

Then what did you do?

I trained as a signwriter then started painting scenery for theatre, now I work as a scenic artist and I’m head painter @ JW Creative Construction in Elstree Studios.  Some of my recent work includes a few episodes of Black Mirror, the film ‘Hampstead’ starring Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson and we are currently building sets for Channels 4s Humans season 3.


Tell us about Brockley street Art Festival…

It’s a street art initiative and it is in its fourth year now.  This year we are looking to expand, we wanna go out further, reach new areas.  The festival is a fantastic way to give new artists a platform, a space to create and showcase new work.

We get to meet and see so many artists work.  The festival runs alongside the Brockley Max in June. We ask artists to get involved and we look for sites for them to do the work. We approach owners and ask the artists if they’d like to paint – they have free reign pretty much.  We raise funds and can normally cover the artists’ materials and travel expenses.  The festival to date has produced at least 30-35 pieces and this year we are on the hunt for new sites, we want to spread out from Forest Hill to New Cross and Deptford.  So if you’d be interested in finding out more please drop the team an email as we’d love to hear from you…..  www.brockleystreetart.com

What inspires you?

I love my work as it changes all the time, every day is different. New projects, new designers in different locations, producing finishes to deadlines and employing other artists means it’s never dull.

My family – we’re an artistic family, my wife Clare teaches Art and even my daughter teaches me new trends in creative stuff she finds on YouTube. She is into brush lettering and bullet journaling at the moment, it is fascinating.


Where’s your favourite spot in south east London?

Hilly Fields park in Brockley.  I live nearby. We use it all the time, it’s great when you have a young family to go out and use the playground or for walking our dog. There are a couple of tennis courts and a basketball court, all free to use and it has a Cafe now. We have good friends who we often meet in the park with their children or their dog!


So what’s next?

I’ve got the Forest Hill sign to paint next.  Two other south east London communities are in contact about a sign for their hood. Adding the Walrus to the Forest Hill Sign was a good shout by one of the locals when discussing their design and I’d like to explore options to do that for other areas. It’s a great idea to make the signs even more particular to the area.

Thanks to Parlez Brockley for quenching our thirst…


4 thoughts on “January #SpotlightOn Artist Lionel Stanhope: “The last thing I wanna do is sneak out at 4am and get my collar felt with a spray can in my hand!”

  1. Interesting to hear a story of a person training in a craft and then becoming a pro. Almost sounds like something from Dickens kind of old fashioned – in a good way. Thanks for the murals – feel uplifted everytime I see one.

    Liked by 1 person

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