Jenny Hayes highlights some of the best low-budget activities to try in and around the city this August that will not break the bank, but will keep the kids happy
Many of the main routes through our city are now vast outdoor galleries, showcasing the work of some of the most well-known artists in the world today – among them Inkie, Nick Walker, Cheo and, of course, Banksy. A stroll down Stokes Croft, a meander along Nelson Street and a browse round Bedminster – newly painted after Upfest in July – will provide you with plenty of art to appreciate. Not sure you’ll be able to spot your Pixel Pancho from your Silent Hobo? Don’t worry, local company WHERETHEWALL offer regular street art and grafitti tours of Bristol that’ll soon have you sounding like a pro. I caught up with co-ordinator Rob Dean to find out more.
Tell us a little more about how it all started…
WHERETHEWALL was created to broadcast the names of Bristol’s long-standing graffiti and street artists to a worldwide audience. Banksy shone a spotlight on the artform, but many other Bristol artists were not household names. So I created a WHERETHEWALL smartphone app for hungry street art seekers that worked as a kind of ‘sat nav’ for finding works, and gave details about the artist at each location. While I was putting together the app, I met John Nation – sometimes referred to as the ‘godfather of Bristol’s street art and graffiti culture’, who was incredibly generous with his time and helped me meet all of the artists I needed to speak to. Then I came up with a great idea. In order to promote the launch of the app in November 2012, I’d organise two walking tours and John would lead them, telling the stories behind the paintings and introducing the artists.
They were both fully booked within a few hours. It was clearly something that Bristol wanted, so I spoke to John about holding regular tours, and he was 100 per cent behind the idea. Through the winter, spring and summer of 2013 and 2014 the two of us walked the Bristol Street Art Tour every Saturday. At first we only had groups of about four people, but by the end of December 2014 we were regularly getting groups of up to 25. We are now the number one activity to do in Bristol on Trip Advisor, and I’m immensely proud of this achievement because we never did the tours as a job or a business venture, but as a passion.
What can we expect from a tour?
You’ll walk through Bristol, hearing the stories behind the paintings you see, tales about the artists, a history of why the graffiti artform became so massive in Bristol, insights into the work and life of the world’s most-famous street artist, Banksy, and plenty of photo opportunities.
Who leads them?
We have five tour leaders. John Nation is the original person, as I mentioned. He did so much for the artform in Bristol, and Banksy has referred to him as ‘the most important person in the UK in the last 25 years for encouraging and nurturing a culture.’ Then there’s Harriet Wood, aka Miss Hazard, one of Bristol’s leading female street artists; Ollie ‘Gage graphics’ Gillard, whose murals feature prominently on many houses in Totterdown; Tina ‘Winged Fox’ Altwegg, a Stokes Croft based artist who has recently painted a mural in the basement of Hamilton House; and Johanna Dragovic, also immersed in Stokes Croft’s creative culture, who’s currently exhibiting the Ice Block art installation in China. Between them, our guides speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian and Serbo-Croat.
Do the tours attract a variety of people?
Definitely – ages range from seven to 77, and there is a mix of visitors from all over the world and locals who’d like to know more about the street art in their city. No two tours are ever the same. Often we’ll have guest speakers, artists and community leaders along to talk to the group about what they do, because we see the tours as an experience that combines history with contemporary culture.
What makes the work we see in Bristol unique?
Bristol has such a special blend of independent-minded characters, and when they collaborate the results generated are unlike anywhere in the world – for example bands like Massive Attack and Portishead, as well as the KTF Crew and the work of Upfest, to name just a few. The street art and graffiti of Bristol sends a message of self-expression and empowerment. It is a prominent, positive reflection of the city’s creative ethos.
Do you offer any other activities?
WHERETHEWALL is all about promoting Bristol’s creative culture. Everyone on the team is a working artist and we want people to experience that side of the city. So as well as the tours we run a number of activities, like the Street Art Stencil Challenge on Saturdays and Sundays for groups of up to 16. After schools began to approach us, we started providing specialist experiences for them comprising a tour and workshop, which the teachers find (re)engages all ages and genders back into thinking art is great. We also run team building events for adult groups who are looking to let off some steam and bond with each other. We’re hosting a group from Dyson next week and recently had a fabulously fun session with Hotel du Vin, Bristol. Each and every event is tailored to that particular groups needs, so please come and try one of our experiences!
WHERETHEWALL Bristol Street Art Tours run on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 1pm, priced £9.20 pp. To book online, or find out more about the tours and other activities offered, visit: www.wherethewall.com