Two years on from the inaugural edition and Leicesters Bring the Paint festival is back. Featuring a mix of local, national and international artists, this time they’ve gone much bigger. Whereas the 2017 version was centered purely around the cultural quarter, the 2019 edition has really expanded around the city.
Organised by Graffwerk. The Leicester based street art agency now operates out of a former factory on the canalside of Frog Island. It’s surely helped to turn the area around it into a mini cultural hub. It’s Graff HQ even boasts a vegan cafe whilst all around there are a bunch of legal walls.
Rutland Street, Wigston Street and LCB Depot
Leicester’s ever emerging cultural hub is the heart of the festival. Day to day operations were run out of ‘The Exchange’ whilst painting occurred in the streets around. Birmingham’s Gent painted a teleporting character on a strip of wall on Rutland Street. The same wall also boasts a much photographed work by Smug from 2017. Around the corner on Wigston Street, Philith Blake painted some of his flowered patterns. Whilst inside the courtyard of the LCB Depot, local artist Mono added his style to the Mista Breakfast wall, also from 2017.
SMUG’s work in Leicester from 2017 has become iconic as representing that festival. For 2019 he has returned and gone even bigger. Painting the back end of a stairwell on a block of flats, his piece is huge. The Australian artist, who lives in Glasgow, paints giant portraits and has become known for his stylised realism. Also painting on Yeomans Street were Alex Rubes with his textured patterns and Sokem a little further down.
St James Street
Not quite in the cultural quarter, but near enough for us to include this street here. It’s just over the road from the Leicester Secular Hall. Essentially the works here are on a series of boarded up windows and the pieces by comparison are generally much smaller. That said the work is well worth seeing with pieces from Bristol’s Angus joining Leicester’s Verna Poppy, Kino Bino Animation (who painted in 2017) and Nick Shove aka ‘Uh Oh’.
Southampton Street and Morledge Street
One of the main areas from 2017 the street already boasts standout works from Voyder and Bates. For 2019 they are joined by Bristol’s Inkie who painted his iconic female portrait which has become a core of his style. The corner of Southampton and Morledge streets hosts a bit of waste land which passes for a car park. The walls here are full of graffiti though the big name painters here are very much the 1UP crew from Berlin. Coming to Leicester with a reputation as one of the most extreme graffiti collectives. You can absolutely see why when looking at the their work. Joining them are the likes of London’s DDA crew and local writer AGIE.
Midland Street and Nichols Street
Germany’s Tasso, the founder of the legendary MacClaim Crew painted a double shutter with a face of a flaming spray can wielding hoodie. Further along, the road already boasts pieces from Homboog, Core and Philith from 2017. Next to the Homboog piece in a covered former garage the WWF Crew, 45rpm and a collab between Core and Ruelo have also all taken shape. Meanwhile around the corner a piece from Sky High sits on Nichols Street. Tahiti’s ABUZ has painted in a small piece of waste ground just next to the road. Flying Fortress has also created a special piece in the alley leading up towards the pub.
The awesomely named Frog Island is the home of GraffHQ also known as Graffwerks. It is they who organised the whole festival. Now settled in an old warehouse next to the canal, Frog Island is an area with a deep industrial past. It’s now trying to re-invent itself and the canalside next to the HQ has a host of legal walls. Standout artists painting in this area were Nuneaton’s N4T4, a veteran of 2017 and Greece’s Insane51 whose 3D murals have been capturing the imagination.
There is plenty of development going on in this part of town, just a short walk along the canal path from Graffwerks. Whole sites have been cleared along the riverbank for a series of new riverside developments. As such, the streets around Soar Street have been lined with hoardings. Themselves the lifeblood of the graffiti and street art scene. They’ve been broken in as part of the festival, with the result that there are countless pieces of street art and graffiti to spot. Certainly far too many to include here though we have included a selection of our favourites.
Belgrave Gate and the Bypasses
Driving around Leicester you soon get used to the streets of Belgrave Gate and St Matthews Way. A little bit further along, the bypass of St George’s Way heads towards the train station. The murals in this section are a little more spread out though you could still easily walk them.
The big roundabout at Belgrave Gate separates works from German artist WON ABC and DOES at one side with a giant piece from Hombre on the other. All large scale the WON ABC and DOES pieces fill up strips either side of a building. The Hombre work meanwhile dominates across the other side overlooking the former St Mark’s Church.
St Matthews Way
Two murals on the St Matthews Way bypass see the Yard Warriors and the Nomad Clan paint walls along the side of an estate. Both overlooking the road the Yard Warriors mural pays homage to classic graffiti heritage. The Nomad Clan piece meanwhile pays tribute to strong women of the city. Their work depicts a woman boxer in guarded pose ready to fight.
St Georges Way
Further along the bypass towards the train station can be seen a giant work from HOW & NOSM. Identical twins from New York their style is hugely complicated but blends together effortlessly. Quite possibly this is the largest mural to have been painted for Bring the Paint in 2019.
On a wall next to an NCP car park Irish artist Aches and the UK’s Voyder have collaborated. Two graffiti writers who easily adapt to street art they have created a fusion of the two. The result is a multi-coloured portrait of Voyder painted by Aches which Voyder has tagged it over in his flowing style. A little bit further down the hill Italian writer BRUS has also created an impressive flowing piece.
Just over the road from the impressive medieval arch known as ‘The Magazine’ is a blocked over underpass which has become a graffiti spot. For the festival one of the walls here has been taken by ZINER though given the location it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will last.
St Peters Square
Not the most obvious place for street art but the new shopping center at St Peters Square has had some impressive anamorphic art. Created by Mexican artist Juandres Vera the piece shows an underwater world opening up underneath the street.
The Bring the Paint festival took place between 20-26 May 2019. Organised by Graffwerk, it centered around locations in the city centre of Leicester and in Frog Island on the outskirts. Inspiring City visited the festival between 24-26 May 2019. This was the second time the festival had been held in Leicester and you can read more about the first time here.