You don’t need to be a fan of street art to enjoy Bristol, but it helps. In the homeland of the mysterious Banksy, who inadvertently brought graffiti chic to the masses (by way of the mechandisers who made money out of reproducing his designs), it’s only right that there should be a focus on the city walls as a canvas.
As some of these photos reveal, I spent a lot of time in Nelson Street, which – as I’ve recently discovered – is home to Britain’s largest street art project, called See No Evil. This project involved 72 artists from around the world contributing graffiti, which is permanently displayed here.
What’s unusual is that this was created in association with the council, so it doesn’t come with the usual ‘vandalism’ label attached by critics. You can even refer to a map of the Nelson Street artists to help you track down your favourites (I wish I had known about this before I visited, so I could appreciate it more!). Visit Bristol also has a great round-up of some of the people involved.
If you want to learn more about street art in Bristol, there are tours available from Where the Wall (11am, every Saturday, £9 for adults, with other rates for children, couples’ discounts and family discounts; free for under 8s); I haven’t taken this tour, so I can’t personally endorse it, but the company seems to offer a comprehensive look at the street art scene, taking in key areas such as Stokes Croft.
Hopefully you can see from my photos that Bristol is a colourful and distinctive place to track down art on the streets, particularly in the city centre. Whilst East London may be considered a trendier graffiti destination, I’d argue that Bristol is more authentic in terms of expressive art, creative projects and fostering local talent.