Andy entertained us with a fascinating insight into the world of ‘street art’ and the Cheltenham Paint Festival. Andy explained that he started as a teacher in Nailsworth where the children were interested Banksy and street art. They got the opportunity to paint a local bus shelter and Andy’s involvement developed form there. He started to work on the Cheltenham Paint Festival 5 years ago and this year it will be the biggest festival of street art in the country.

Andy has been pleasantly surprised by the positive reception he has had from the local Council and people in Cheltenham generally. The tunnels on the Honeybourne line have been designated as ‘free walls’ for anyone to have a go at painting. These tunnels have been transformed from being dark and dingy to welcoming and bright. The Council responded positively to the idea of a paint festival. With this support Andy put together a successful bid to the Arts Council for funding which enabled him to organise the first Paint Festival. He was initially nervous about the reaction they would get, but the quality of the art work spoke for itself. Last year was the second year of holding the Paint Festival. The next Paint Festival will take place from 2 – 8 September 2019 and will see it expanding into new areas of the town, including Hesters Way, town centre locations and Montpellier.

Andy took us on a fascinating tour around Cheltenham showing numerous examples of the work that has been produced. It was interesting to hear how international the street art world is and how Andy had attracted artists from all over the world including California, New York, Brazil, Argentina and Holland. Many of these artists have an international reputation and can earn significant sums from doing commissions. Key to Andy’s approach has been to ensure the artists were well looked after, providing them with accommodation and food. Andy described how his idea is to build and curate an outdoor gallery, rather than to paint over the same walls each year.

The work is largely done with spray paint or masonry paint. A large wall can take up to one week to paint and scissor lifts are used to enable the artists to access the whole wall. The work almost always results in an area looking better and once residents see the quality of the art they take ownership of it and ensure it is looked after. A series of 8 paintings has been done at the back of Williams Cycles. This was an example where the company has previously had to spend money removing graffiti from the area. Now the area looks better and nobody has sprayed graffiti over the art work.

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