New mural of Clara Grant pays tribute to Bow’s history of social pioneers

A new mural covering the entire facade of coworking space Mainyard Studios on Bow Road depicts Clara Grant (commonly known as ‘the Bundle Woman of Bow) inside the St. Mary-le-Bow church, as a tribute to local heritage and history.  

The mural artist and designer, Jake Attewell (who goes by the artist name Itaewon) says he wanted the mural to showcase the history as well as the social values of Bow, which he says Clara Grant embodies. 

‘I picked the inside of the St. Mary-le-Bow church because the Bow Bells are the iconic association with this area. And when I started researching historical people that we could include, I wanted to find someone who helped alleviate poverty or helped drive social causes because that’s what so much of Bow’s history is about.’

Attewell also wanted to include a woman. ‘This area already has so many public statues and memorials of historical male figures,’ he says.

Clara Grant was an educator and social pioneer in the 19th and early 20th centuries who dedicated her life to the education and wellbeing of impoverished children in the East End. She received an OBE for her work and became known as the ‘Farthing Bundle Woman of Bow’, as she would give away gift ‘bundles’ to children for a farthing, the smallest coin in circulation at the time. 

The mural, which covers the entire facade of the Victorian building in which Mainyard Studios is based, is an amalgam of the imaginary and the historical. It depicts Grant standing tall on a vertical protrusion of the building inside the intricate, neo-Gothic stylings of the Mary-le-Bow church (we don’t know for sure if she ever entered).

The design blends the traditional and the modern in terms of its design and colour palette, as envisioned by artist Attewell; as a result Grant stands tall and dignified, painted in beige, while the setting of St.Mary-le-Bow’s earth-coloured interiors is interrupted with bright, abstract patterns of colour. 

Attewell painted the whole mural over the past two weeks, starting off with a white base coat with what looks like scribbles covering the whole building, but which actually functions as a grid which helps him translate the concept design into the real thing. 

The original front of Mainyard Studios was a terracotta-beige brick building also blended in with this area’s distinctive Victorian character, remains thanks to the fact that parts of Bow are ‘conservation areas’; places earmarked for their architectural or historic value. The red-brick fronted Central Foundation School borders Mainyard Studios, and is also a prime example of this area’s turn of the century landscape. 

One of the studios’ founders Remi Landaz says he wanted the mural itself to blend in with the local architecture, to respect the fact that they were painting the mural in an area with historic value. 

‘I didn’t want loads of bright colours in this mural. Instead, I wanted to draw inspiration from the gorgeous red-brick architecture of the Central Foundation School next door to us. So the mural blends in with the rest of the landscape.’ 

In fact, Mainyard Studios is literally surrounded by reminders of Bow’s social pioneering history. The school originally started as a ‘charity school’ to educate local poor children during the Victorian era, and to the right of the workspace right lies the Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock, named after the Suffragette and local politician. 

The mural was painted by Attewell and an assistant over the past two weeks, even as the drizzly autumnal weather was against them. If you’re curious to see how giant murals are painted, see the images below. 

You can see more work by Jake Attewell aka Itaewon on his Instagram.

If you liked this article, you might also like to read about the mural of another one of Bow’s female pioneers, Sylvia Pankhurst.

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