We are outside the Brewery! Around us artists are packing up after two days worth of non stop painting. Behind us the French artist Pogo bundles together his layers of stencils whilst Holland’s Nol sits sketching in a black book. Next to us a scissor lift lays dormant, probably for the first time in a good few days.
It’s the end of the Cheltenham Paint Festival. Marketed as a two day event, in reality it’s been a lot longer than that. Some of the walls created in spots around the town contain works which would have take a lot longer than two days to complete. For Andy ‘Dice’ Davies, the organiser of the festival, he’s been involved with every one.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDY DICE DAVIES
It’s the second time that Cheltenham has opened it’s walls to the assembled masses of the street art scene. The festival first took root last year. Tentative steps at first, a small core group of artists creating a series of works, much of which can still be seen. It allowed Andy to build a momentum and to create a bit of excitement in the area about the idea of a bunch of street artists coming to the town.
Fast forward to now and a whole series of new walls have been found in car parks, pubs, shops and houses around Cheltenham. The interest has grown too. All weekend I’ve been seeing people wandering around the streets armed only with a map and a camera trying to find all the locations. It’s something that we’ve been doing ourselves yet it’s only now, at the end, when we’ve managed to catch Andy in a quiet moment.”
THE BEGINNING OF STREET ART IN CHELTENHAM
“I’ve been managing the walls at the Honeybourne Line for about four years now” Andy tells me. That’s the former railway which now doubles as a public footpath leading from the station into the town. There’s a couple of underpasses through which the path goes and Andy has been managing the walls of the tunnels as a legal graffiti area. It’s become a popular spot to paint and indeed it’s a key location even now as part of the festival.
It was the public reaction to the art which went up in the tunnels which gave Andy the confidence that at some point street art would be welcomed. “People used to say that they would avoid going down there because it was so dark and dingy” he told me about how people used to perceive them. “But now people look forward to seeing the different art there”
The tunnels are just one of the locations this time round. Andy seems pretty proud too that due to the amount of the new walls, none of the art from 2017 has had to be painted over. Major spaces such as the wall on the side of the Bayshill Pub will surely have helped attract the likes of Beau Stanton, the American headliner. Whilst the walls at the Williams Cycles building and the Hardwick Campus would be tough for any street artist to turn down
“It was so well received by the town, people loved it so we decided to go bigger and better this year… Last year having the first festival, I was a little bit worried thinking about how would it be taken but people have been fantastic.”
The curation and placement has obviously had a part to play. Andy’s eye for assigning a wall to an artist certainly seems to have paid off. Many of the murals created, although big and impactful are not intrusive and go some way to complimenting the surroundings. A must for engaging the minds of people who might not be totally familiar with the street art scene and who might only ever have previously though about aerosol art as graffiti.
TEACHING AND STREET ART
Andy’s journey into street art and art curation hasn’t been the most obvious one. Working as a teacher for kids with learning difficulties and behavioral problems it was at school where he learning to stencil. “The kids wanted to put Banksy style stencils on so I learned to do them in order to teach the kids” he told me. A couple of years later and he is creating his first stencil on the street. A portrait of his daughter Izzy it was on the corner of a road in Nailsworth. The resultant reaction to the image was huge. It got viewed over half a million times and was upvoted 40,000 times on Reddit going viral in the process. It was some introduction!
Redundancy forced him into a new direction and that was the trigger which forced Andy to spend more time with his art, becoming more involved with the street art scene. Running paint jams and honing his own style he would slowly manage to build the contacts and expertise which would eventually prove invaluable in terms of putting the paint festival on the first time round.
Finally I ask about his name. “As a teacher I couldnt really paint under my own name so needed something else” he tells me when I ask where ‘Dice’ comes from. “The Diceman was my favourite book and I had used thedicemen67 as my email address but had got fed up of typing that all so had shortened it to Dice67 by then. When I was thinking about using a tag it seemed a good choice.”
Andy ‘Dice’ Davies, the founder of the Cheltenham Paint Festival was interviewed on Sunday 9 September 2018. The festival had been taking place in the town on 8-9 September 2018. You can see pictures of the murals created as part of the festival here.