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. 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 in the early 90s.
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 prison cell as a second home isn’t that appealing. This decision spurred SER into forming the ‘Graffiti kings’ now the UK’s first professional graffiti art company. 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 or Carp fishing catching NOTHING.
In the early 80s hanging outside the pub while dad was inside having a drink was a way of life, I & my cousins would sit outside for hours playing games while drinking our bottled Coke & eating crisps after crisps that was always thrown out the pub door to us. While sitting outside the pub one day I noticed a group of older guys painting the word CASE on a wall, from that day I would see the word CASE everywhere in Croydon (where I lived in South London). I later found out CASE was the name of a Punk/Ska band from Croydon & they would paint their name all over London while playing gigs. Also during 1981 to 83 I would see other paintings on walls but much colorful & bigger stuff, what it was & why it was there I didn’t know but loved looking at it. Then in 1983 when I was 10 years old two school friends (brothers) came back from a New York holiday & had photos New York trains & walls covered in graffiti, when I saw the photos I shouted WOW that’s the same stuff I keep on seeing what is it? & they told me. While out in New York their parents explained what these paintings was about & the brothers also adopted cool nicknames (Fazer & Blade). So naturally I took a nickname too (mine was ‘Flash’). We would scribble our names on everything copying the letters from the New York photos they had. Later I was shown the book Subway Art & watched a movie called Style Wars, we watched these kids also painting their nicknames/tags on walls & trains but these kids were using spray paint WTF was spray paint? that day was a life changer, we all caught the bug BIG TIME and started learning about spray paint! We’d pause the movie and copy the artwork from the book for years.
Years went by & I changed my tag/nickname MANY times until I kept the name I have now – SER
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.
I and Danny turned up to the youth club in Mitcham & found many other kids standing around waiting but there wasn’t any workshop? There was a probation service next to the youth club and the youth club had talked to the probation service about planning these workshops but had not got around to starting them as they needed someone to run them. Well between the probation service and the local Police the message had become twisted and the Police thought that these workshops were actually happening so the Police were sending kids to the youth club for months and each week the kids were told the same story, (story always told was) sorry lads there has been some big miscommunication between us, the probation service & the Police 🙁 we are looking to run these workshops but need an artist to do so. Every week for 2 months this was happening & each week the kids that turned up & was told this story all said the same thing to the youth club, you should contact graffiti artist called SER as his the best there is (BIG HEAD MOMENT) so I & Danny are being told this story while looking at each other with a smile as he says my name. As we are leaving from the youth club the project manager came over to me as he had heard my name SER being called by a lot of the kids as we left. He asked me if I’m Darren Cullen the graffiti artist called SER, I say yes and he starts dancing around the youth center like Mary Poppins. He asked me if I would teach the workshops & in short, I accepted – they paid me and gave me spray paint. This is the day that changed my life. To be honest, if it wasn’t for that day my path in life was on a direction to darkness.
Darren & the UKs first graffiti high street shop he opened.
Darren Starts Full Time At Youth Centre.
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 with the numbers & 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.
Painting Train Stations With Permission.
What happened next was crazy! The manager of West Croydon train station walks into the youth club 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 but all the workshops were 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 vandals to paint train stations, so we did 🙂 history had been made.
A few months after we painted the station the station manager got back in touch and said the murals had been untouched & the public loved them so he asked if we would paint some more. The train company Connex employed me full-time painting stations with the kids/teenagers responsible for vandalizing their stations but when it came to employing me there was no job title within Connex for my job description (professional graffiti artist), so in order for me to become an official Connex employee I had to stand 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 called my friends & their friends to help out, guys like Stylo, Solo-One, Dane, Mear, Rough, She-One, Eine & the king himself Banksy. It was an amazing time in London as we were now being able to show the world how artistic this art form really is. One year later Railtrack and Thameslink employed me to work for them doing the same thing: working with ‘vandals’ to paint stations! getting them to be creative and see graffiti as an art form.
Six months into my employment they had noticed that the graffiti vandalism in the areas I was working on had seen a massive drop, the lowest ever and put it down to the project I was creating, in short engaging with the vandals on a level they understand. They moved me over to Kent to see if it the project could be replicated. It was! We painted stations in Kent and it had the same effect, less vandalism, I saved them millions. A government department called the DETR came in and evaluated the project. The DETR found the project a big success & published it in the 1996 DETR report, the report was sent to every UK government department and basically said – if you have a graffiti problem speak to Darren Cullen 🙂 BOOOMMM…. I was officially endorsed by the government.
Get in touch with Darren Cullen to discuss your graffiti requirements.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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