To wake up in Bristol instead of London shifted my spirit completely. I was in the West England city to cover the Upfest and its ambitious premise: painting 75 murals in 75 days. It makes sense to have a goal like that when we are talking about the biggest Street Art Festival in Europe. To my surprise, the city characterized by its hills, its Victorian houses, and the green spaces around it got such a San Francisco vibe that I could not hold my foggy city nostalgia. It was like remembering a place I have never been to before. Walking from the river to the South Side got me craving quesadillas from La Taqueria. I settled with a Guinness instead.
To my surprise, the city characterized by its hills, its Victorian houses, and the green spaces around it got such a San Francisco vibe that I could not hold my foggy city nostalgia.
What started as a dream in 2008, bringing 20 artists to Bristol to paint for a day, has become one of the most important events in the Street Art scenery. We have Stephen Hayles, its creator, to thank.
Every year, Bedminster, the Southside of Bristol, gets transformed by the most important artists in Europe. It becomes a canvas for so many diverse voices, bringing together the locals and its business, with a lot of curious tourist and art journalists. This year it will be a little bit different since the actual festival has been postponed and will be taking place in June 2022. You may have guessed the reason: Covid 19 and the British government with the unclear and delayed messages regarding protocol. The organizers said, “The primary reason is the continuing uncertainty about what Covid requirements will be in place over the next few months. The government promised clear guidance which should have been available in mid-June. As this has been postponed, our window of opportunity to plan and safely host a festival has reached a point where the risk has become too great to continue planning and paying for increasing infrastructure costs which could leave us significantly in debt, should the event not be able to happen at the last minute.”
On the bright side, the challenge ‘75 murals in 75 days’ is still happening, transforming the city in a living canvas. I took a stroll down North Street, starting from The Painted Ladies or the Six Sisters, six buildings including the Upfest’s own gallery. Besides being the centrepiece of the festival, this architectural beauty’s transformation emulates the shape of equality: it has been painted by six different women artists. Talk about representation.
Besides being the centrepiece of the festival, this architectural beauty’s transformation emulates the shape of equality: it has been painted by six different women artists. Talk about representation.
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Even though the festival has been postponed, we can still enjoy the vibrant metamorphosis of the city walls.
For the bold ones that travel to Bristol and still want a stronger flavor of the history this wonderful event has to offer, you can do it through the eyes of its creator, who has been awarded in 2017 the Point of Lights achievement for his work in the community of Bristol by former Prime Minister Theresa May. Are you ready to upgrade your experience? Book your spot on the UPFEST official website.
It is clear that in Europe, Covid 19 still shapes our possibilities of attending massive events. But you know what can also spread like a virus? Strong messages of love and hope, of community and humanity. And that cannot be stopped once it is sprayed on a wall.