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The Writing's On The Wall
The Irish graffiti scene is part of a vast international subculture with its own brotherhood and traditions. Monica Heck meets a couple of Irish practitioners, RASK and A.K.A.CRAP...
Monica Heck, 12 Sep 2012
Hopping a fence and scrambling down the overgrown banks of the river Boyne by the side of a bridge in Drogheda is an unusual activity for a hazy Sunday afternoon. A cloying smell of spray paint hits about half-way down, as three young be-hoodied pups, taking it in turns to cover a side wall with colour, look up and then carry on with the task at hand.
Under the Bridge of Peace, groups of older lads are having a smoke as they contemplate their work. On both sides of the river, the gigantic internal supports of the bridge are covered in half-completed large-scale graffiti work. At the foot of the walls are dozens of cans of spraypaint; ladders and pulleys rest against the stone-work.
It’s the annual Bridge Jam in Drogheda, the biggest event in the Irish graffiti calendar. It is a highlight of the year for the Co Louth town and one of the longest-running and most reputable events in the world of international graffiti. The Jam is organised by RASK, the ‘godfather of Irish graffiti’. He had chuckled at the description a few days earlier, saying that, having recently turned 40, he was more like the grandfather of Irish graffiti.
Indeed, his birthday surprise took the form of a remarkably lifelike joke portrait on the bridge wall. He doesn’t seem too worried about the fact that it helped me recognise him in the crowd, despite the general tendency among graffiti ‘writers’ to avoid images and photos which show any recognisable body art. “Look at my artwork, don’t bother about who I am,” he says. “They hunted until they got Banksy’s photo. Why does it matter?”
RASK has been an active ‘writer’ since 1987. He says most of the crew present at the bridge this year have been painting for nearly 20 years. Some have flown in from Denmark, others the UK. TDA Klann is Ireland’s first and longest-standing graffiti crew, founded in Drogheda in 1991. The walls under the peace bridge were “given” to them in 1993. The idea, according to RASK, was to follow what was happening in New York and seek permission to do walls. That way writers could come out in daylight and really excel. “They liked our first mural and we’ve run the event since 1994. It’s become engrained in the fabric of the town.”