Subterranean Blues

The Bearpit: A classic mashup of naive 1960's modernist planning and 21st century social fragmentation.
It's no surprise that the pharmaceutically unpredictable and the rough cider crews have made it their home.
Cut off from the rest of the world by swirling traffic and accessible only through graffitied tunnels it was a foregone conclusion.
Despite brave attempts to turn it into an alternative art quarter with cafes and wholesome food stalls it remains a forbidding place, especially after dark.
People scurry through it quickly, careful not to make eye contact with the heavy drinkers, mindful of the skaters and their clattering boards, anxiously stepping round the rough sleepers in the underpasses.
It's reputation is justified, as the records prove, but its isolation also makes it a perfect place for artists to work.

I've walked through the Bearpit many times; chatted to the drunks and the homeless and never had a problem.
Friends have regularly painted the tunnels and had to cope with no more than the odd self styled art critic breathing napalm fumes at them as they worked.
It makes you think about the invisible partition between 'responsible drinking' and alcoholism; the safety of home and the short journey from there to living in a doorway.
There but for the grace etc...

With the help of some friends, on a warm, late summers evening, we created a 1000 beer bottle mandala, and placed a heavily weathered figure at its centre.
The average social drinker would polish off that much in a year without even breaking a sweat.
No end of passers by stopped to chat, not all of them sure which planet they were on, but only one of them threw a bottle and even he was just trying to join in.
Maybe its reputation is exaggerated; maybe it's a genuinely dangerous place, or just maybe it's somewhere that makes us confront some difficult issues of our own.
And that is an uncomfortable place to go.