The writing’s on the wall

Ugly, intrusive, negative messages in our public spaces. Commercial billboards in our towns affect us on a daily basis but we have little control over the images and messages we are exposed to. Graffiti also comes in to our public spaces, creating a variety of reactions.

Some graffiti is simple ‘tagging’ where the writer marks an area or is leaving a message for a specific audience or gang. Other graffiti may include more complex artwork or wider political messaging. Bristol is the home of Banksy, the now world known graffiti artist who’s art challenges ideas and questions the dominant culture. Around Bristol I saw different types of graffiti, some direct messages, some abstract, some subtle, some blunt.

A lot of graffiti contains sharp shapes, over sexualised or violent images. The vast majority of graffiti is done by men and perhaps for men? It can leave me feeling that the images have as little relevance to me as the billboards do, other than my empathy for their anger. Some graffiti artists like Banksy go further though, cutting through the noise of images with a counter message that makes you stop.   

When a message does reach me it’s like the shock of seeing a smiling friendly face amongst a sea of angry strangers. Walking over a road footbridge someone has sprayed “Live Free” on the ground. Outside an anarchist community social center I found this:

Near the St. Werbergs City Farm were these images of bees:

There are definately a lot of things to be said and a lot of other voices to be heard, other than those who can pay for a billboard.

A city of food

Bristol feels like a fantastic hub of activity towards positive cultural change but one of the most noticeable aspects is the food production. Next year will see Bristol become the European Green Capital, the first UK city to receive this award! This reflects the large amount of work and many vibrant projects that are going on in Bristol. There would not be space here to tell you even a fraction of what they are up to, but I would like to do is share some of the wonderful local food production I have discovered during the time here.

Walking through Bristol I’ve been struck by the number of allotments, they are big and also well used. The city also boasts city farms and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens which supports groups all over the country. If you have a community garden or city farm, or are interested in establishing one, they can provide support and advice. St. Werbergs City Farm was a wonderful place to visit with animals, growing areas, a cafe and playground.

I loved the beautiful cafe in a Gaudi style, and met some wonderful people there!

Becky volunteers at the farm and shared how she came to get involved.

Around St. Werbergs is a large area of allotments.

I also checked out part of Eastside Root Community Garden. The successful project has a limited lifespan as the railway station is being redeveloped so the group used the space in the intervening time.