Bristol: England’s urban art capital
This summer, Upfest – Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival – returns to its home in Bristol, south-west England, between 28-30 July, for its special tenth anniversary. Watch artists from 70 countries as they paint live on the city’s surfaces and join in art workshops, buy from affordable art sales and dance to the live acts on the music stages across the weekend. Inspired by Upfest? Stay on in Bristol and discover why the city is a world-leader in urban and graffiti art.
The mysterious street-art phenomenon we all know and love as Banksy hails from Bristol and his dynamic and acclaimed work is dotted all over the city. Download the Banksy trail app and discover his thought-provoking murals at your own pace. The app highlights his works that are easy to spot, such as those situated around the Floating Harbour, Park Street and Montpelier. The largest collection of his works, including Mild, Mild West, can be found at Stoke Croft, Bristol’s cultural quarter; browse the numerous art exhibitions and unique independent shops also found here, plus immerse yourself in the neighbourhood’s buzzing music scene. The app also highlights where you can see other Banksy pieces that are now either faded or part obscured, as well as the location of his (now-closed) Dismaland. Visit Bristol also has its own street art map to guide you through some of the city’s iconic urban art locations.
Alternatively, there are several street-art walking tours to join. Interested in learning a little more about the rich and diverse history of Bristol along with its art heritage? The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour explores everything the city is about, from the pirate Blackbeard to Banksy. Where the Wall runs two tours, the Banksy and Historic Harbour walking tour – which, as well as taking in Banksy, also includes the history of this port city – and the Bristol Street Art Tour. Fancy having a go at graffiti art yourself? After the latter tour, every Saturday and Sunday, participate in a graffiti workshop at its #SPRAYSTREETART Introducing Stencil Art spray sessions – plus you get to take home your own artwork. Graft is another company offering bespoke mural and graffiti workshops for both adults and children, as well as art tours around the city, giving a unique insight into Bristol’s graffiti and street art heritage.
Make sure you include a visit to M Shed; this Bristol history museum, set on the city’s wharf, highlights more than 2,000 years of the city’s stories from its trading past and industrial heritage through to its music, art, industry and technology. You’ll also be able to see an impressive mural by renowned street artist Andy Council in his signature dinosaur style. Also check out Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – home to Banksy’s 2009 exhibition, some works can still be discovered around the museum.
And what can you expect from this year’s Upfest? An exciting development to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Upfest will feature works inspired by the world-famous animated family The Simpsons. Three Upfest artists, including Bristol wildstyle writer Soker, have been selected by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to bring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie to life using their own styles.
As well as the chance to explore the works from more than 400 artists taking part in this multi-venue festival, you can brush up on your own artistic skills. Workshops from life-drawing to graffiti art are on offer and the festival is a real family affair – kids can get creative at the Creation Station where they can have fun with different materials, while the Nacoa kids’ area, which takes over an area of South Street Park for the festival, offers everything from badge making and face painting to making giant paintings.
For a slightly different urban art trail this summer (2 July-2 September), Bristol will be home to Gromit Unleashed 2, where more than 60 giant individually designed sculptures of Nick Park’s Wallace, Gromit and Feathers McGraw will be dotted around the city. Gromit Unleashed began as a public arts trail in Bristol in 2013, as a collaboration between Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity and Aardman Animation.
The four-star Mercure Bristol Grand worked with Upfest on the 2017 upgrade of the hotel and now features more than 500 pieces by local artists, including bespoke commissioned installations by Gemma Compton and Cai Burton. Sister property the Mercure Holland House hotel also has a street-art themed bedroom.