Yinka Ilori Paints The Town In His Signature Optimism

By Riya Patel

"I've always loved London, and will always love this city," says Yinka Ilori. "But we sometimes need a reminder of how special and beautiful it is."

In 'Bring London Together', an LDF21 project, the North Acton-based designer created a series of 11 celebratory street crossings for Tottenham Court Road in a bright and vivid pattern, placed at various junctures, spanning the Dominion Theatre at the south end to University College Hospital in the north.

For the graphic and colourful design, Ilori took inspiration from the lives and buildings that extend along the 1.2km of road. From the theatres, cinemas and entertainment companies, to the furniture retail activity that has long given this part of the capital its identity. Ilori also acknowledges the homeless community living in the area. "London has so much wealth, but there’s also poverty," says Ilori. "We wanted to remind people of this, but also celebrate the fact that people care enough to help."

"My work gives people a sense of hope and positivity." - Yinka Ilori

Storytelling through colour

Derived from Ilori's British-Nigerian culture, the graphics followed a tradition where pattern and colour are used as forms of storytelling. The crossing patterns intersect with each other, representing people coming together as they start to return to central London.

Many Londoners will be familiar with Ilori's name. In summer 2021 alone, his artworks were found enlivening a mini golf course at Greenwich Peninsula, on stage at the BRIT Awards, across a VIP suite at Wimbledon, a basketball court in Canary Wharf and a set of dodgems at Somerset House. He also has a homeware line, for those who want daily reminders to see the bright side of life.

For a man who has shown he can do anything, working in the public realm is still what he most enjoys, says Ilori. "I love to do spaces. They are free, accessible. You can just stumble across this when you go for a run or a walk, and that’s what I find so powerful. The work is open to everyone, every culture, race, and identity."

Ilori's urban interventions have been steadily drawing people back into the city to share, reconnect and remember what it feels like to have fun. With Tottenham Court Road as a canvas, there was a great opportunity to do that at scale, making an impact on all the lives that cross this busy part of the capital.

"We've been through times of great pain and loss. Now we’re trying to create memories and live life as joyfully as we can,' says Ilori. 'My work gives people a sense of hope and positivity. It allows us to think that things are possible. I’m hoping my first landmark project will bring joy and be something to remember for years and years."