May 15, 2003
Searching for "FUME"

FUME: He (assuming he is a he) is the King of the Hammersmith & City Line.


I’ve been meaning to write about FUME for a long time - but really needed some photographic and video evidence to complement the words. Well - finally I got around to researching it. I took advantage of my mid-morning journey in to work today to go a different route. Armed with my Handycam - I took the Metropolitan Line from Wembley Park down to Baker Street - and then jumped onto the Hammersmith & City Line towards Hammersmith.

And I caught it all on camera. I guess I must have looked a bit stupid standing there - pressed up against the window of the sliding doors with my camera trained on the scenery of the railway lines - but that’s why I didn’t decide to this in the rush hour; I didn’t want to embarrass myself to too many people.

When I’m standing there staring out the window at the works of art that make up our urban landscape - I often wonder who in the world I would most like to meet. My list is quite long - but there is one person I really would like to meet - and he appeals to the audacious side of me.

His name is FUME.

FUME is a tagger. He’s “bombed” the entire Hammersmith & City line from Paddington westward towards Hammersmith. He is the crown king of the “writers” of West London.

Yes - FUME is a graffiti artist. Well - I’m not sure everyone would call it art - but it fascinates me nevertheless. What drives him to do it? He must spend all night working on some of his artwork - what is his motiviation? Is it respect? Is this his way of literally leaving his mark on society? I wonder what sort of music he likes? Does he work on his own? What do other taggers think of him? Too many questions … and only guesses at the answers.

I bet the British Transport Police would also like to meet him.

FUME’s “pieces” (short for masterpiece in the trade - these are large tags which contain more than two colours), although illegal, only seem to grace otherwise boring-looking walls. Hidden from all views except trains - therefore cannot really be called “eyesores”. Well - I don’t think they are an eyesore anyway. It amazes me sometimes how they manage to do these subversively. In no way do I condone vandalism - but I’m sure the creative energies of these taggers could be used positively to brighten up the dreary suburban railway lines.

I finish here with some imagery of FUME’s work:

Maybe one day I will get a chance to meet FUME.

And now, if you have the patience - why not download my latest pop-video creation “In search of Fume”. Although it’s around 15.5 MBytes in size (yes go get yourself a cup of tea whilst in downloads!) - you will be rewarded with CD-quality musical accompaniment to the video. A true multimedia experience! Go to the Audio/Video download page by clicking here. And be sure to look out for my favourite bit -which is where the Ham & City train I’m on is between Paddington & Royal Oak; you can see me zoom on to an overhead iron-bridge which has FUME’s tag on it. How did he do that? Too many questions …

Though I try to find the answer
To all the questions they ask
Though I know it’s impossible
To go living through the past
Don’t tell no lie
There’s a natural mystic
Blowing through the air

From “Natural Mystic” by Bob Marley

Posted by jag at May 15, 2003 06:11 PM

Interesting subject :o) I actually don’t mind too much the more arty graffiti like some you’ve shown there. Unfortunately the vast majority isn’t art it’s just scrawl and is bloody annoying. I travelled in a brand new bus yesterday and it was really refreshing to travel in a bus without graffiti… yet - felt far more clean and safe.

If I’m in a heavily graffiti’d area I don’t feel as safe - the British Transport Police is right about that one. Plus it annoys me how much it costs to clean the damn stuff up. Train fares are expensive enough as it is, without vandals pushing the prices up even more.

Posted by: Pewari on May 16, 2003 12:02 PM

Hi - glad you stopped by.

Well - I would have to agree with you that the scrawl-only tags are annoying. Especially when someone has “bombed” the entire inside of a bus or train carriage with the stuff. Oh - and by the way - don’t expect the new buses to last very long without tags either: My beloved 79 bus route got brand-spanking new buses last year - and within days the writers were at work. The first thing you notice is the scratch marks on the window. Dutch graffiti they call it I think - where someone has etched their tag into the glass of the window. And within weeks - practically every bus had been more conventionally tagged - but only in the upstairs deck. This is despite the fact that each bus has 4 (yes four!) security cameras piping live video to the driver’s console. But then again - the areas that my bus go through are notorious for gang warfare, violence and drugs etc. lots of patriated refugee communities - e.g. Kosovans, Albanians, Sri Lankans, Somalians etc. I have absolutely nothing against the refugee communities I hasten to add - but such newly-formed communities are prone to higher levels of unemployment - and the youth generations with little access to recreation - thus lots of high tensions, crimes etc. Maybe yours will stay graffiti-free for longer??

Not sure what you mean by “not feeling safe” though? How can unsightly tags make you feel any less safe than you already are?

Best regards - Jag

Posted by: Jag on May 16, 2003 01:36 PM

Oh - and I forgot to say - the graffiti that appears on “outbuildings” of the railways don’t need to be cleaned up do they? After all - as long as they’re not visible from the street or people’s homes then they’re not really hurting anyone. So why should the train companies spend money cleaning them up at all? After all, like you say, it’s the fare-paying passengers who eventually pay for it to be cleaned up anyway.

I guess there is an underlying problem though: if the stuff isn’t cleaned up then this just encourages more graffiti - and perhaps the Police have a theory that it encourages more crime - because the graffiti artists have to buy more spray paint (and they don’t come cheap) which means that more crime is commited in order to obtain money to buy paint etc. etc.

Sigh …

Posted by: Jag on May 16, 2003 01:42 PM

I don’t know why I don’t feel safe. Perhaps because where there’s minor crime being ignored then it’s an area where major crime might be ignored too? That it shows that an area isn’t adequately policed? Certainly, “nicer” areas tend not to have as much graffiti nearby (less unemployed youth with nothing better to do? more likely to be more money to channel artistic tendencies elsewhere? more leisure facilities?)

There certainly is a theory that you stamp on the “lesser” crimes harder then the crime rate of more serious crimes drops with it. Not sure if that’s documented by proper research, but is certainly the philosophy behind various police forces zero tolerance policies.

Posted by: Pewari on May 16, 2003 06:45 PM

that magazine the homeless people sell had a long interview (the article was called “graffiti wars” or something like that) with “Fume” and his writing partner “Bozo” back in 1996 or 97. It should be pretty easy to find. The name of the magazine is on the tip of my tongue, I just cant remember it, you know which one Im talking about we’ve all been offered to buy one a million times…damn my crappy short-term memory.

Posted by: otekWNC on June 22, 2003 11:46 PM

The Big Issue! At least that’s the one I think you mean. OK - I’m off in search of back issues …

ps - where you from otekWNC?

Posted by: Jag on June 23, 2003 10:04 AM
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