We’re meeting on a patch of waste ground in what is now the cultural quarter of Leicester. Often used as a car park, this is actually a prime spot. It’s in the heart of Leicesters Bring the Paint festival. Here you can feel the energy and its director Izzy Hoskins has been central to making it all happen.
It’s the second time the festival has run. The first in 2017 represented a toe in the water. Izzy tells me that it took three years to get off the ground. A natural reticence to ‘graffiti’ meant that the organisers needed to tread carefully when selling the vision of a paint festival to the city.
Leicesters Street Art Festival
“I think what did us a favour was the he first festival was very organic” Izzy tells me. “We didn’t have huge funding and we were knocked back on a lot of doors.” Very much a case of just going in with the attitude to just ‘make it work’. Artists that came fed back positive things about the town and the people. Leicester suddenly found itself on the street art map.
The differences between 2017 and now though are stark. This time there are many more walls being painted around us. It’s spread across the city too. In the center but also stretching out along the bypasses and into the area known as Frog Island. There amongst the canals and the old industrial buildings, Graffwerks, Izzy’s HQ has it’s new base.
As festivals go, Bring the Paint is one which is very much rooted in its graffiti influences. It was her own background in graffiti which led to Izzy, along with others, setting up Graffwerks in the first place. Walking around the town she talks with excitement about having the likes of Flying Fortress, the 1UP crew and Tasso visiting the town. All are firmly established in graffiti lore and there’s no hiding her pride that they are here.
“It’s really the artists that we look up to, our favourite writers” says Izzy when explaining the starting point in terms of choosing the artists taking part. “Then also trying to make sure we mix it up. So it’s not all photo realism, it’s not all graff or it’s not all surreal, you’ve got to have a bit of a combination.” It’s a combo which is certainly apparent when walking through the city.
Impact on Leicester
“It just gives it a buzz, it’s just good”, Izzy tells me when I ask about the impact of the festival on Leicester. “You walk around, every cities the same, all the high streets have got the same shops, the shopping centres are the same. It takes it away from all the politics and all the crap that we get bogged down with.”
I comment on the amount of people I’ve seen wandering around the city with maps. All looking for the next piece of artwork like a giant treasure hunt. Families, friends and couples out street art hunting together join the accidental tourists who have just stumbled upon the festivities. “All different people have been walking around here” she tells me. “Elderly people, kids. All with different attitudes and different backgrounds, different everything. Everyone’s just enjoying seeing something a bit different, just a bit of colour.”
Leicesters Bring the Paint festival took place between Friday 31 May and Sunday 2 June 2019. Inspiring City visited the festival over this period. Izzy Hoskins was interviewed on Saturday 1 June 2019. You can see all the murals created as part of the festival here. You can also see a special post about the festival graffiti jam here.