When thinking about the best places to see street art and graffiti, Bristol is the sort of place that comes high on the list. For many, it is the undisputed capital of street art and graffiti in the UK. To be fair there are few other places with as much of a connection to the scene as this city.
In places the scene is raw and uncurated though it is all around. In others, some of the best organised art in the country. Bristol is the home of Upfest. Europe’s biggest street art festival, whilst also being considered by many to be the birthplace of the UK’s graffiti scene.
Banksy and Bristol
Banksy made his name in Bristol, before going to London, painting edgy stencils and becoming all lonesome. Back in the day he was a grafter with the best of them and he started in that city. Evolving from letters and cartoons. Nowadays the likes of Inkie, Sepr and SPzero76 all continue the legacy. Their works are those amongst many which cover the walls of the city today.
And the graffiti is all around from the north in St. Paul’s and St. Werburgh’s through the city around the area of Nelson Street. Then into the south around Bedminster and North Street where Upfest is focused.
So for this post I thought I’d pick out some of the key spots to see street art and graffiti in the city of Bristol. There are still a few Banksy’s knocking about. But that’s not what Bristol is about anymore. There’s a lot more to see just make sure you give yourself enough time to see it. Incidentally if you want to see more Banksy murals from around the UK have a look here.
Bristol Street Art and Graffiti
The City Centre
In the centre of the city, the area around Nelson Street has some impressive large scale murals from some of the best known artists around. The likes of Conor Harrington, Aryz, Stik, Pixel Pancho, Nick Walker and El Mac can all be seen in a relatively small area. A lot of the works were created as part of the ‘See No Evil‘ festival hosted in 2012 and are survivors from that time.
Close by there are also a few pieces to be seen by heading up to College Green. There, Banksy’s famous ‘Hanging Man’ still survives in a pretty prominent location. Then a little bit further down on the quayside a piece by Inkie covers the place once occupied by Banksy’s ‘Grim Reaper’ on the Thekla boat. That’s best seen from over the river but is moored on ‘The Grove’ on East Mud Dock.
To the north east of the city the area around St. Werburgh’s and St. Paul’s has more of an urban feel to it. Much more graffiti than street art in this part of Bristol. There are some murals but most of the work around here is more akin to graffiti than anything else. The Eaton Way flyover for example as it crosses the M32 has numerous underpasses all of which are covered.
There are other spots too though, the area around St. Werburgh’s city farm reveals a mixture of works with the Farm pub in particular being a good place to visit painted head to toe as it is in farmyard related art and then having pieces from the likes of Rowdy and SPzero76 in the garden.
The Duke of York pub on Conduit Place is another painted building although at the time of my visit most of the works were covered in scaffolding. Nearby the area around Mina Road and Mina Road park has a number of murals dotted around.
To the North East of the city, St Pauls has always been at the heart of Bristol’s graffiti scene. For years the area had been one of the most deprived in the city. After the war St Pauls saw a lot of immigration and over the years was the location of conflicts centered around issues race and poverty.
Graffiti in St Pauls has it’s roots in this shared environment and the lack of opportunity given to people living in the area. At it’s heart it’s always been a means of giving a voice to those who had none.
Now, although there is still a lot of graffiti, much of the street art has been curated as part of community projects. The junction of Little Bishop Street and Wilder Street boasts of number of pieces as does the area around St Pauls Learning Centre. Dotted around the area are also murals known as the ‘Seven Saints of St Pauls’. These are a series of works dedicated to black Bristolians who have contributed to the social fabric of the area.
The street known as Stokes Croft leads into the city centre from the north. The area of particular note is from where it becomes Cheltenham Road into the roundabout known as the Bearpit.
This is also quite a student area with again a mixture of mural based works and graffiti. Banksy’s famous ‘Mild Mild West’ piece is here on the side of Hamilton House. It depicts a teddy bear throwing a petrol bomb at three riot policemen. It sits just across from Cosmo Sarson’s breakdancing Jesus and just round the corner from impressive works from Phlegm and Stinkfish.
The stretch of road itself isn’t long but there are plenty of side streets so if you ever do go make sure you take enough time to wander round those. The Bearpit right at the end is a roundabout underpass system with a lot of graffiti which has become a bit of a makeshift skateboard hangout. It’s worth walking through at least.
The home of Upfest, Europe’s biggest street art festival. The event has only grown in popularity and it attracts artists and art lovers from all around. The event is centered around North Street with murals along it’s length. In the surrounding areas, East Street, West Street, Ashton Gate and Chessel Street all also boast impressive street art.
For the street art calendar visiting Bedminster around the time of Upfest is a unique experience. In between times, the permanent murals are there for all to see. Unlike in other parts of Bristol however they do tend to be rotated a lot. Given the demand for space even the very best murals might find themselves getting painted over.
For more Street Art Bristol related posts take a look at…
- The Six Sisters Murals on North Street in Bedminster
- 75 Walls Painted in 75 Days for Upfest 2021
- Upfest Summer Editions for 2019
- Murals of Upfest 2017 and 2018
- Murals of Bristols 2022 Upfest Street Art Festival
For other posts similar to this looking at the street art of Sheffield, Manchester, Brighton, London, Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Cheltenham click on the links.
I’m currently putting on a photography exhibit of Jordanian street art photographs. The aim is to raise money for aptART, a charity working in Jordan to help refugees through art. The exhibit is located at The Arts House on Stokes Croft. I hope you can come along and/or share the event. It’s all for a good cause.
Alex Sinclair Lack