There’s a lamppost in Cambridge called the Reality Checkpoint. It’s been called the Reality Checkpoint since the 1970s, when according to legend a group of students from what is now Anglia Ruskin University painted the words on under the guidance of one of their tutors. Since then, the words have been painted over and repainted countless times in an ongoing battle the city council are likely never to win. For a short time in the late 1990s the lamppost even bore a plaque bearing its name. These days the words “reality checkpoint” are just scrawled untidily on each of its four sides. But the ugliness of the writing doesn’t matter – it’s presence is what’s powerful. An inanimate object with no other claims to fame than possibly being the first electric lamppost in Cambridge is given both name and meaning by virtue of the graffiti written on it. It has become a marker of the boundary between student Cambridge and the “real world”, a place of pilgrimage for generations of LSD trippers (including, apparently, Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett), has inspired a crime novel, a drum and bass album and has even been deemed to warrant its own Wikipedia page.
Uncharted Territories – the reality checkpoint – some thoughts on graffiti.