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What’s That Thing? – Public Art Through East London

The London Ambler leads a new series of extraordinary guided tours exploring public art across the capital

Join The London Ambler for ‘What’s That Thing?’ a special collection of tours focusing on weird and beautiful outdoor artworks inspired by The Spectator‘s annual award for the worst addition to UK public space.

Whether grand public commissions, street graffiti or performed acts in civic space, public art is playing an ever more prominent and increasingly contested role in city-making. Embracing its potential for transforming and enhancing urban reputations; public bodies, private developers and regeneration consultants have all lept on the power of public art.  At best this work is popular, beautiful and compelling. At worst it is garish urban bling; costly, irrelevant and loathed.

In recent years, popular activist campaigns have admonished monuments to the flawed heroes of yesteryear, while some local authorities consider their weight in gold against the backdrop of ever squeezed budgets and the fear of litigation. While some revere others are left aghast, uniting all is a simple question ‘What’s That Thing?

Revisiting the passions stirred in our 2017 debate in partnership with The Spectator, the AF presents a new season of bike rides and walkabouts for autumn 2018 exploring London’s bad, and brilliant, public art up close and in the open air led by urban historian and explorer Mike Althorpe – also known as ‘The London Ambler.’

Between September and December, four events will explore the city’s public art revealing the contrasting stories and ideas behind their making and the places they inhabit.

In this first outing, The London Ambler heads out on two wheels with a bike tour exploring public art out on the streets and spaces of East London with a tour starting in Stoke Newington and weaving a route through Dalston, Hoxton, Bethnal Green and Stepney. Taking in postwar landmarks, community-led responses, flagship millennial commissions and corporate gifts, it explores the politics, practice and purpose of public art through the stories of London’s evolving and ever shifting inner city.

More events in October, November and December.



October 13
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


60 Highbury Quadrant, London N5 2TH
60 Highbury Quadrant
London, N5 2TH United Kingdom
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Duration: 3 hours
Start: 60 Highbury Quadrant, London N5 2TH
Canary Wharf

Participants must bring their own bicycle and are encouraged to wear a helmet and appropriate clothing. Children are welcome to join free of charge.