I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but there seems to be art popping up everywhere across Worcester, somewhat hidden colourful and exciting treats waiting to jump out at you as you go about your normal everyday activities. Outdoor murals on walls and building site boards across town have been given not just a lick of paint but some original art work by local talents, this is largely because of Worcester Paint Festival, an event that was originally going to take place in 2020 but postponed due to the Coronavirus lockdowns. In spite of this a few murals have been able to go ahead in between the national lockdowns as a teaser to the main event, there is one in Lowesmoor, on the entrance to the area as you walk from the city centre by artists Marko (@zeeizm) & Phe (@pheverkfo). This mural was created with support from WPF working with local Lowesmoor businesses Munchies and The Old Infirmary, and Worcester City Council.
My personal favourite organised by WPF is located on St Pauls Street, large black and white lettering is beautifully painted on a wall interjected by a colourful rainbow. The piece says ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ and was designed by artist Rob Draper (@robdraper1) and completed with the support of Platform Housing along with local residents . This piece instantly made me smile and cheered up an otherwise unremarkable spot, in-between a city centre housing area and a small industrial space.
Most recently WPF worked with St Peters Garden Centre in March commissioning a stunning botanical inspired huge piece by renowned artist Phill Blake (@Philth).
The festival will take place on the 18th & 19th September 2021 and wants to add even more art to the city, cheering up otherwise forgettable spaces around the city.
Worcester Paint Festival (WPF) will bring renowned, local and emerging street and graffiti artists to the city for an outdoor trail of vibrant pieces, working with Cheltenham Paint Festival, Worcester City Council and other city stakeholders.
I asked Kate Cox, the director of Worcester Paint Festival a couple of questions about her love of art and why she’s set up this festival;
Why did you choose Worcester to create the next Paint festival? I live here and have been involved in the art scene for more than 20 years. I am hugely passionate about graffiti/street art.
Why do you think street art and murals are so popular? Street art has literally imploded. It's been boosted by the recent events as people can still get out and enjoy them despite lockdowns. People have always been so dismissive of graffiti art, but now street art is in demand, things have changed.
- Why do you love art? That's all I know. All I have wanted to do and all I have done my whole life in various forms. We all need to create in one way or another for our sanity I think.
Another mural that has appeared has come from local community group Love the Arbo, who worked with WPF, Worcester City Council and DSM Demolition who are currently working on the old swimming pool in Sansome Walk, together they commissioned Estee Angeline (@esteeangeline) to cheer up the area whilst the work takes place. She is a Worcester based artist who designed and painted this mural as part of the Love The Arbo light event where residents light up their windows every February with beautiful drawings, collage and cut outs. Estee chose plants and flowers with meanings that represent the community and how they have supported each other throughout the stressful times of the past year.
Another local artist to keep your eye out for is Catt Standen (@cattms.art) who recently painted a large mural and art work for The Paul Pry, as well as winning one of my own competitions to create some window art for the new plant shop, The Jungle Club. She’s got a beautiful style with a seriously steady hand as she delicately uses pen to create her mandala inspired designs.
More art I’ve found around the city but know nothing about are; a second piece in the Lowesmore area in Black Horse Walk and then a short walk over the river in to St Johns you might also spot a pair of colourful wings located opposite Pappa Johns.
Apparently Worcester has a bit of a history with graffiti art spanning back to the 80’s with a group named The Worcester Posse (TWP) spraying art around the city. This was a group of local boys doing their own thing when graffiti was rising in the UK. They were a very active part of the scene and linked up with other crews around the UK to go and paint.
Painting art on walls isn’t a new concept, Worcester was once a factory city and would have been filled with painted signs and advertisements. These were used as early as the 1800s and throughout the Industrial revolution. They would have been painted over repeatedly with ownership changes or with new and different adverts as well as being restored periodically to keep them bright after weathering.
You can still find some of these building signs dotted around Worcester, the faded remains are called Ghost Signs and are like windows in to the past. Imagining places as they were then has a romantic appeal to me. The arboretum has a number still visible on once factory buildings, now apartments and in the centre of town if you look up along St Swithin’s Street facing the high street you can still see a company logo. You probably don’t want to touch any of these though as they were traditionally painted with lead paint which we now know isn’t very nice stuff.
It was also great to see The Royal Porcelain Museum has recently embraced its history and added a new one on the side of its building as part of the renovation of the area.
A form of street art that is less appreciated and often seen as a nuisance are ‘taggers’. I asked Kate Cox from WTP about the differences between the terms street art, graffiti artists and taggers and she said; “…people need to remember that we wouldn't have street art without graffiti art. People also need to try to disassociate vandalism and the word graffiti. Vandalism is vandalism. Graffiti is art. There is a huge difference.”
I can understand why people complain about these sprayed tags, as they often appear in places they aren’t wanted like new buildings, historic buildings and places they just don’t look good, costing local councils hundreds in clean up fees. I would argue that when done in select areas this art form can be beautiful and tell stories of our youth, artists beginnings perhaps or political movements. Maybe if spaces were given for this artistic expression then unwanted tags could be lessened? Great places to find some of these collections of amateur street art in Worcester are along the canal between Shrub Hill retail park and Lowesmoor and in St johns there is an alley running along the railway behind Worcester Bowl and is a colourful collage of expression.
I personally am very excited to see what comes next, these pieces of art are bringing colour to a backdrop of multiple shades of the grey skies that often surround Britain and interrupt my daily routine and busy mind to bring a happy wallop of inspiration.
written by Emily Johnson with contributions from Kate Cox