Back to Upfest – where the art went up, and the rain came down

31 Jul

Europe’s largest street art event returned to Bristol at the weekend.

Upfest included the work of 350 artists, some working on small boards, others on large panels – temporary pieces that will go when the festival packs up.

But the wall murals – some three or four storeys high – will remain for the next 12 months, which is great news for Festival Chronicle, because – thanks to both the rain and the sheer scale of the event (it’s now two miles end-to-end, without a detour to Redpoint Climbing Centre or South Street park) – we only got to see about half of it when we visited on Saturday.

The highlights of our whistlestop tour included Cheo’s playful Morph at the Bristol Beer Factory, (the children’s TV icon is 40 this year, and has been adopted as the festival’s 2017 mascot), the stunning kaleidoscopic John Lennon at the Tobacco Factory by Brazilian artist Kobra, a funky seagull by Irony (who did last year’s cat and rat – a personal favourite) and Queen of the Castle by Eelus, next door to Natwest bank.

After checking out the art in the Tobacco Factory courtyard, we made the trek down to Ashton Gate stadium to check out the tube train carriage and the long wall of panels being decorated by numerous artists. It was also a chance to shelter from the rain, which by mid afternoon was hammering down.

By the time we’d emerged, and made our way back to the Tobacco Factory, the venue was full and the gates were closed. It was the same story at the Hen and Chicken – not great news for thirsty chroniclers, but proof (as if it were needed) of the positive economic impact this festival has on the communities of Bedminster and Southville.

There’s still so much for us to see – Buff Monster’s icecream-themed mural at the Salvation Army Shop is a must on my list, as is the Will Barrass & Xenz mural at The Masonic – surely one of the most hotly-contested pitches among artists for its sheer scale.

On August 14 we returned to Bedminster to find some of the murals we missed during the Festival proper. We still haven’t seen everything! Obviously it’s a lot quieter without thousands of art fans milling about, and there’s no scaffolding to get in the way (bins and parked cars tend to be less obstructive). Now’s a great time to (re)visit!

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