Contact Darren Cullen on 0208 123 0904
Words often used; legendary, world renown, infamous, notorious are said to describe graffiti Artist SER aka Darren Cullen. Hailing from South London SER began his graffiti career way back in 1983, at the very birth of British graffiti; he is regarded as a UK graffiti pioneer and king. His path in graffiti started like many graffiti artists with the birth of hip hop culture in the early 80s. Exploring every aspect of the graffiti writing scene SER found himself emblazoning his name across the streets and walls of London. This led to a greater need to increase his presence to the public so began the systematic destruction of the bus, train networks and rail infrastructure across the UK and the world.
There then comes a point in every Graffiti artist’s life when their illegal activity becomes of great interest to the Police and local authorities. This is the time when a decision must be made as having a cell as a second home isn’t that appealing. This decision spurred SER into forming the ‘Graffiti kings’ the UK’s first professional graffiti art company and graffiti artist agency. Darren is the only graffiti artist approved by the British Government & was chosen as the official street artist for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In his spare time if Darren Cullen is not painting you will find him somewhere in Kent camping with his wife and three children.
Here are a few interviews with Darren Cullen, some old and new to give you an idea of his life over the years as a professional Graffiti Artist which has proved inspiring to many young people of today seeking turning their troubles into a positive force for good.
In 1983 two school friends came back from New York to Croydon (where I lived in South London) and they’d adopted cool nicknames. I was a kid so naturally I took a nickname too (mine was ‘Flash’). We would scribble our names on school benches, desks, etc. That was before I’d even heard of anything called graffiti. In 1984 I was shown the book Subway Art & watched a movie called Style Wars, we watched kids painting their nicknames/tags on walls & trains using spray paint, well that day we all caught the bug and started learning about spray paint! We’d pause the movie and try and copy the letters.
Although as an artist I’m known as ‘Ser’ that was originally a crew name. It stood for South East Rockers because that was our part of London! It wasn’t a very official or organized crew – it was a very open crew and lots of people used to put up the letters SER by their pieces as that’s where they came from, the South East. In the late 1980s and early 1990s people stopped writing ‘SER’ so I took it over and used it as my own name.
Graffiti Artist For Hire – The Start of a Career
My younger brother Danny was also involved in graffiti and was arrested in the mid 1990s. The police were pretty cool about it and said there were graffiti workshops at a local youth club in Mitcham – they suggested he should go down there and gave him the dates.
OK so me and Danny plus many other kids had turned up to the youth club in Mitcham but there wasn’t any workshop. Turns out there was a probation service next to the youth club and the youth club had talked about planning these workshops but had not got around to starting them, they needed someone to run them. Well between the probation service and the police the message had become twisted and that these workshops were actually happening. The police was sending kids to the youth club for weeks and each week the kids was told the same story, the kids would tell the youth club to find a graffiti artist called SER as hes the best there is (BIG HEAD MOMENT) so me & Danny are being told this story and a man from the youth club had over heard my name SER being called by a lot of the kids. He asked me if I’m Darren Cullen the graffiti artist called SER, I say yes and he starts dancing around the the youth center like Mary Poppins. He asked me if I would teach the workshops, I accepted – they paid me and gave me spray paint. This is the day that changed my life.
By week two we were already turning kids away, teaching one day a week became two days a week and eventually five days a week, twice a day! The youth club was delighted & other council youth services (like Croydon, Sutton and Lambeth) had all heard about my workshops & asked me to run my workshops in their boroughs. My time was already full over in Mitcham so I started asking my friends to teach as well! Graffiti Kings was formed.
What happened next was crazy! The manager of West Croydon train station walks into the youth club one day and asked for me. He has a problem with the local kids vandalizing his station but he didn’t want to call the police; he got to know the kids by their first names and wanted to help them. He asked me if I would work with the kids by letting them join our workshops, all the workshops was full so I couldn’t help him. He said we can paint the outside of Wallington train station. That’s right – the manager of a train station asked graffiti writers to paint train stations.
A little while after the same manager got in touch with me again and said the murals had been untouched and un vandalized. The public loved them so he asked if we would paint some more. The train company Connex wanted to employ me full-time painting stations with the kids/teenagers responsible for vandalizing their stations! When it came to employ me there was no suitable job title within Connex for me, so in order for me to become an official Connex employee I stood on East Croydon station blowing a whistle telling the train drivers when they could take the trains out of the station, yes this really happened. After 3 days I was officially a station attendant, the days/months after that I never got to see another whistle. I started painting the stations and call my friends to help out, guys like Stylo, Zomby, Teach, Fume, Coz, Solo-1, She-1, Eine, Oker, Rough, Mear, Dan, Banksy etc. Free paint, why not! After Connex I worked as a consultant for Railtrack and Thameslink doing the same thing: working with ‘vandals’ to paint stations! getting them to be creative and see graffiti as an art form.
The local authorities and Railtrack had noticed that the vandalism in the areas I was working on had dropped remarkably low, the lowest ever and put it down the the work/program I was creating. They moved me over to Kent to see if it the program could be replicated. It was! We painted stations there too and it had the same effect – less vandalism. A government department called the DETR came in and worked/followed me for weeks to conduct a report on my program. The DETR found my program working with young people around the positive side of graffiti art a success, the report was sent to every government department and basically said – if you have a graffiti idea positive or negative you need to speak to Darren Cullen BOOOMMM…. I was officially endorsed by the government.
By this point I was in my early 20s and still wearing a hoodie. I was invited to a meeting of rail industry representatives to see about taking the program national. In short at the end of a long-meeting they decided against it?. Maybe they were scared that the graffiti cleaning industry worth millions & millions would disappear if the program went national and worked?
After that meeting I quit working for the rail companies and went solo & decide to start the UKs first professional graffiti art company Graffiti Kings.
Get in touch with Darren Cullen to discuss your graffiti requirements.
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