This Saturday July 23, hordes of graffiti artists will be flocking to the streets and venues of Bedminster as part of Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival. Over 300 artists will be painting 28 venues and along with the art sales, live music, and workshops, Upfest is sure to fill South Bristol with fantastic colours and big sounds.

A quick shout out to the festival’s nominated charity – NACOA (National Association for Children of Alcoholics). Since Upfest’s inception in 2008, over £25,000 has been raised for the NACOA and they have brought attention to the problems children face when growing up in families where one or both parents suffer from alcoholism. This year is no different and the partnership between Upfest and NACOA is there to reach out to everyone who needs help and support in Bristol.

Upfest is sure to fill South Bristol with fantastic colours and big sounds

My experience at Upfest usually goes something like this – finding out a couple of weeks before that Upfest is taking place on my doorstep after seeing the preparation going on around Bedminster; realising that the only graffiti artist I know is Banksy and quickly trying to Google a couple of the featured artists on Upfest’s website before the weekend; wandering around Bedminster on the weekend and being blown away by the variety of art on show while not really “getting” it; and finally finishing up at the Tobacco Factory for some live music, where last year DJ Bunjy of Laid Blak fame played a sensational set in the evening sun.

While that has been my experience, that doesn’t mean that’s what your’s is going to be like. There are a couple of reasons that you might attend Upfest this weekend. One being that you’re a huge graffiti fan, and two, that while you may not know much about street art you can definitely appreciate the skill that is required; I can confirm that I sit squarely in the second camp. I have little knowledge of the artists in front of me yet I absolutely love sitting in front of an artist’s canvas and watching it all unfold – whether that be a gorilla, an abstract work, a political mural, or an amazing 3D painting that I somehow only realised was a face as the street artist applied the finishing touches.

while you may not know much about street art you can definitely appreciate the skill that is required

What I would hate for you to do is to walk around aimlessly and miss the experts doing what they do best because you weren’t fully clued up on whose canvas is a must visit. Fortunately, I’ve done my research this year, and here are my highlights…

Cheba Upfest

Cheba

Cheba began filling the streets of Bristol with his street art in the early 2000. Plastering his hometown with Bristol’s landscape and his simplistic characters he is now a long-standing figure in the city’s thriving street art scene.

Juxtaposing clean and simple lines with out-of-hand backgrounds, Cheba is able to bring a lot of emotion to his work, and in his most recent pieces his style has evolved into an abstract expression where his messy and unpredictable backgrounds have been brought forward to create something almost futuristic. This recent work has been heavily inspired by space, specifically the Hubble Telescope images, but he has always kept a keen interest in the contract of nature and the urban environments he has grown up in – taking influence from the less-travelled areas of Bristol.

Cheo Upfest

Cheo

Cheo has become well known in Bristol since he first started painting his instantly recognisable cartoon style graffiti in the mid 1980s. Taking his influence from the comic book characters of Vaughn Bode his trademark bumble bee can be seen in most of Cheo’s pieces, whether that be his sketches, illustrations, or wall art.

Gemma Compton Upfest

Gemma Compton

As a fashion designer, Gemma Compton’s detailed work has evolved from garment to gallery walls. Her love of nature, especially ornithology and the British countryside stems from her upbringing in the Cotswolds and it’s her influence from high-glamour imagery that sets her apart from others. Beautiful models are mixed with wildlife, dead and alive, testing our thoughts of the beauty and cruelty in nature.

Inkie Upfest

Inkie

Introduced to us in the 1980s, Inkie has made his name as one of the most notorious in the UK’s history of street art. Being arrested as the head of 72 other street artists in the UK’s largest ever graffiti bust, working alongside 3D and Banksy, and a second place finish in the 1989 World Street Art Championship means that Inkie has a packed CV. In addition to this he has also worked as head of design for SEGA and Xbox, and is now working alongside Jade Jagger in her west London studio. Published in books Banksy’s Bristol, Children of the Can, Graffiti World, and denounced by The Daily Mail yet lauded by The Times, Inkie is an artist that must be seen during his time at Upfest.

SHOK-1 Upfest

SHOK-1

SHOK-1’s unique Xray spraypaints on walls around the world are a massively cool blend of street and science and you expect them to be popular. Gaining millions of views with the print editions selling out quickly, SHOK-1’s new XPop series examines pop culture, visualising Xrays of major icons and characters. Delving into how culture is becoming a part of our anatomy, the works are beautiful and packed with subtle layers of detail created with SHOK-1’s amazing freehand techniques – no stencils here.

SHOK-1 has helped lay the foundations of street art culture after it exploded from the US in the early 1980s, and after a career running over 30 years he is continuously pushing boundaries and taking risks. It will not be surprising that SHOK-1 has a degree in applied chemistry after seeing the Xray murals take shape at Upfest.

Now that the hard work has been done for you, you are well equipped to not miss a thing at this year’s Upfest. While your eyes are being courted by the art on show, Upfest has again brought in some of Bristol’s finest to get those vibes flowing.

While your eyes are being courted by the art on show, Upfest has again brought in some of Bristol’s finest to get those vibes flowing

If you’re feeling the party spirit then The Tobacco Factory, open til Midnight, has a range of music from Boogie Cafe DJs, Jack Had a Groove, Tribe Steppaz, Scott Hendy, and many more. A similar vibe will be on show at North Street’s Green with Beatbox Collective, Bed Disco, and Soul Mavericks, all hosted by Invader FM.

As for me, you can catch me beer in hand, sunnies on (hopefully) in South Street Park where King Kong Sound System will be playing a mix of old school hip hop and funk & reggae.

Upfest is taking place on the streets and in the venues of Bedminster and Southville, July 23 – July 25. Entry is free, but please do purchase a programme to help keep the festival going and to donate to NACOA. For more information, visit the Upfest website.