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What on earth is Tox09 all about?

The background to this query begins on the London Overground line between Richmond and Stratford a few years ago, back when it was Silverlink Metro or the North London Line or whatever the hell it’s been called in the last ten years of excitement. Looking out of the window, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of grafitti sprayed all over the place – something I’m generally curious about anyway – with the recurring theme of Tox09. Or sometimes Tox08 or Tox10 depending on where I was and what year it happened to be. And then on the train from Clapham Junction to London Victoria, there it was again… and now, I find myself sat on the Flying Scotsman heading into Newcastle Central and there it is again, Tox09, sprayed on the bricks of the railway cutting! What in god’s name??

So off to the internet and it seems like there’s a world of spray painting culture out there which I know nothing about. I mean, don’t get me wrong… I’m a fan of spray paint on the streets, with a limited reservation. My reservation being that I am not a fan of the kinda stuff we used to get at the back of my house when growing up – ‘Death to the Kurds’ or ‘Turks Leave Cyprus’ or often as not, incoherent gang scrawls that meant nothing except to those in the know.  I cheer for political protest, sure, but not for messages inciting violence or marking out territory – but I suspect the Met Police bang their heads against the wall every time an ignorant git like me speculates on this subject, so I’ll move on. But all praise to Banksy, whose works I love as both a London nerd enjoying seeing something familiar made interesting, and slightly more pretentiously as art (whatever that is) in its own right, making a curious point. I know nothing about art (‘but I know what I like…’) but if stopping, turning round and walking back to look at an image on a wall, and thinking about it, and remembering it and sometimes even navigating by it with a cry of ‘here I shall turn left past the image of the girl with the red balloon…’ constitutes art, then welcome Banksy to the canon and all your mini-mes who are spreading their works across city streets.

Which brings me back to Tox09. According to the Londonist (brilliant website, visit it) there’s a whole street cult thing revolving around Tox09 and his tag, and he seems to be joining a growing number of street artists going mainstream. This is definitely a world I know nothing about… quite what it is that is so culty, or how the words Tox09 scrawled across a wall in Newcastle relate to those around Kentish Town, and to be honest, I’m not 100% certain I want to know the full details, as in its own sad way, that might destroy a little bit of the magic…