When I was about to move to Bristol I started digging about the city lifestyle, the art scene, what to visit, explore, experience…. I heared it was considered to have one of the biggest graffiti scenes not only in the UK but also in Europe with famous artists such as Banksy, Nick Walker, Felix Braun or John Nation coming out of its streets. Then a Londoner came to me and said… “Bristol huh? Yeah well…. you can expect loads of street crap, but that’s all you’ll get”.
And sadly for Bristol this statements turns to be true, although there are a few big known cultural venues you can count on the fingers of one hand (Tobacco Factory, Arnolfini, Watershed, PaintWorks, Spike Island, Old Vic, Cube…. OK that’s more than one hand) as the local museums & galleries are just…. well…. too minimalistic (to put it nice). On the other side you cannot expect a humongous cultural calendar in a city of barely 430k people, but hey, things like the Mayfest, St Paul’s Carnival, Harbour Festival, the Balloon Fiesta, …. there are things to do, don’t get me wrong but… being from a big city….I just prefer an overwhelming choice list.
However, there’s something about the street art scene which makes Bristol unique, Bristol is UK’s “graffiti city” indeed.
And you will notice not only because the city wakes up everyday with a new decorated wall, a new bambi, a new Alias, a new pissing baby, a new snow white terrorist, a new stencil or a new principle statement written in big bold letters… Bristol hosts some major festivals where graffiti always has a dedicated corner.
Like for example the UpFest hosted two weeks ago, which claims to be Europe’s biggest urban and street art festival with more than 200 artists & illustrators participating (check out our flickr set & look for our contacts). A two-day canned party where different artists from all around the globe (…mainly Europe) come to show & fight @ the Tobacco Factory arena. Creating stunning pieces & covering most imaginable techniques…. people like Snub, Rocket01, Fake Doc, Stike…. name one! they’ve probably participated in one of its previous editions.
The Graffiti as an artistic expression was neither born in this city nor reinvented… the Bristolian underground scene with the trip-hop the drum & bass and the graffiti (their existence is correlated) is barely 20 years old. But we consider BS as one of the best street schools in the UK. In BS, a graffiti is in most cases the culmination of an artist’s ego, in the worst of cases it has become a white commodity (like Banksy), also used as a marketing tool, a political weapon or as an educational service for helping cohesion in disadvantaged communities.
A way of life that although Bristol is traditionally considered as a fairly tolerant and open-minded city, it has also had it’s tough anti-graffiti movements like the Operation Anderson in the early 90s still considered as he UK’s biggest anti-graffiti clampdown up to date.
Nevertheless (and as we always say) if you happen to visit Bristol one of these days please do bother & spend some time admiring those stencils, stickers, blockbusters & incredible pieces. The whole Gloucster road, Stokes croft & Cheltenham Road , St Pauls, Easton, St Werburgs… even Clifton! The hole city is full of art!
You have several websites reflecting the continuous evolution of Bristol’s graffiti scene like Bristol Graffiti, Bristol Street Art or this great Google Map with most of the pieces. A great guide you shall visit when coming to BS (and if you’re one of those who likes books, you have the “Children of the Can” from 2008, summarizing the Graffiti history of Bristol).
We’re compiling & photographing as much graffiti as we can for you to enjoy & use on our flickr account, and we’ll keep updating it on a weekly basis with new graffiti from here & there & everywhere. Also, if you want to share yours with us … please do.
Oh and if you haven’t noticed yet…. Bristol is not just Banksy 😉