A new mural captures the mood in Tower Hamlets

What one word sums up what our communities need in a global pandemic? For Trapped in Zone One, a London-based arts collective, it is 'determination'

The new mural. Pic: Trapped in Zone One.

The art collective, Trapped in Zone One have replaced a mural they did about knife crime with a new offering. The wall in Chicksand Street Park in Tower Hamlets is now adorned with just one uplifting word: ‘DETERMINATION’.

Bablu Miah, 43, founder of Trapped in Zone One, said: “We wanted to refresh the wall with a new phrase, something to inspire people and make them feel happier.” The new mural was designed in a collaborative online workshop with members of the community: “As a community, we have a become a lot stronger, and that comes through being determined.”

Lettering artist Luke Smile, 29, focuses on large-scale murals. He started off tagging at the age of 15. “I used to paint trains, track sides, all the illegal stuff.” Then he went to college and university and studied graphic design, before working in the field. “I always had a passion for art and all things creative.

Luke has worked for Karl Lagerfeld designing personalised handbags. “That was a turning point for me. I’m really proud of it: it made me believe in myself and meant I could do art full time.” He also recently redesigned the logo for Detonate Festival. “I’m really excited about that,” he said.

His trademark name comes from a mural he painted in my bedroom at his parents’ house. “Everybody seems to really love the message. So I decided to call myself Luke Smile.

“You can still work as an artist in a pandemic, you can still be creative every day. My whole ethos as an artist is spread positivity. It’s the best time to be to be an artist, from my point of view. I haven’t slowed down.”

Smile got involved with Trapped in Zone when Bablu messaged him on Instagram. “He’s a fan of my work and he got me involved with a couple of projects. I do some original pieces he’s sold for charity,” said Smile. “He’s such a great guy. I hadn’t met Coma [the other artist who painted the mural] until we did the call about the new mural we’re doing. He’s going to be painting it with me and I love his work.”

“I think the new mural portrays a really positive message to anyone who’s going through a difficult time as we are now.”

“It’s got ‘determi’ and ‘nation’ split into different colourways because we wanted to highlight the ‘nation’ part. Right now, we really need to be determined as a nation to mentally get through this pandemic and look to the future.”

The mural in progress. Pic: Caitlin Tilley

Graffiti artist Coma, who worked alongside Luke Smile on the mural, said: “We decided we would have one word that was really powerful and could sum up a kickstart to the year. ‘Determination’ has got that grit, power and drive to it. The ‘nation’ part has got that sense that this is something everyone has gone through together.”

“For me it signifies a renewed focus. I think it’s really important we learn from what we’ve been through and carry on with the momentum.”

“In April we’ll be doing another mural at Forest Gate Youth Zone, hopefully with all the children involved. It’s been over a year in the making.”

The artists were also joined by Good Gym, who has helped to prep the wall, and adult refugee volunteers from Care 4 Calais, who assisted on the second day of painting.

Speaking about how he set up the organisation, Bablu said: “Trapped in Zone One was formed out of my love of the arts. I’ve been fascinated by them for a long time and I was looking for a way to give back to the community and get them involved in the arts. Getting young people involved in graffiti and street art workshops seemed to work well.”

The mural has been funded by an award from People’s Postcode Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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