For a long time community groups and organisations including the police, probation, schools etc. have seen the potential for utilising spray-paint and ‘graffiti’ art for engaging communities. Very often though an artist will be employed for a very short space of time, and will drop in, and drop right back out again at the end of the project. If graffiti is to be useful in providing an alternative path there needs to be sufficient thought about the bigger picture.
Whenever I’m asked to do a workshop, I begin questioning… Why? What will happen when I’m gone? Who else is involved? And most importantly, what is the context – what’s the local graffiti scene like?
Writing graffiti gives a voice. It adds colour and character where there was none before. It makes people ask difficult questions – Who did that? Why?
When working in a community it’s important to involve local people as an integral part of the process, so that they can carry on once I’ve left. And I’ll ALWAYS push for a legal wall, to provide an alternative to illegal graffiti. Legal walls allow development of skills and techniques, a place to learn and grow, and a place to meet and connect with the wider community.
It was a real treat to spend a day in the woods with my good friend and co-conspirator Rufus Mufasa. We’ve begun lots of chats about developing our combined practice, but life always cuts them short.
We walked and talked, sat and talked, listened and observed, absorbed and explored.
An abandoned building with potential to become a site-specific performance stage was our starting point and we put words on paper, paint on wall and talked about ideas for sound creation.
We listened to the woods, and they cradled us to hold discussions which brought tears, fears and by-gone years to the surface.
This graveyard for words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary reminded me of a quote I’d read only that morning by an artist called Cattle:
Graffiti, like disease, is metastatic. Writing on walls highlights a building’s ageing process; with landlords actively opposed to graffiti, their attempts to cover the marks with bad colour swatches actually highlight the existence of graffiti. Graffiti is like lush green ivy on a wall.
We walked and talked our way to another abandoned building, this one almost completely re-claimed by ivy and all natures greenery. Our immense concrete contribution will one day be just another layer in the earth’s crust.
Big thanks to Articulture for making this day happen – it’s led to a piece which will be on show for Made in Roath at Inkspot next month – Monday 16th– 8pm, Thursday 19th– 8pm, Saturday 21st– 6pm&8pm. We also hope to develop an outdoor piece to show at festivals next year, so watch this space…
Cattle quote from ‘Graffiti World, Thames & Hudson, by Nicholas Ganz’.
After a long and drawn out process, Cardiff Council has seen sense and will be returning the Millenium Walkway Hall of Fame to Cardiff’s graffiti artists.
This hoo-ha began back in March when I set up a petition to stop one of Cardiff’s only legal walls being sold off for advertising:
1,178 people signed the petition, but It was thought that advertising along this stretch of wall could bring in £100,000 of well-needed funds for the city and a new location would need to be found.
The new location was decided on, at Callaghan Square – not quite so peaceful – surrounded by traffic, but still a safer space than most graffiti spots, and easy for visitors from outside the city to get to. Finally though, it has been agreed that it makes more sense for the original wall to be re-instated.
The space has hosted a number of jams, including the ‘Back to Nature’ jam for International Women’s day:
I look forward to seeing many more events to come once the Council’s own branding is removed from the area.
Thanks Barry Diamond for this epic panorama image of the wall before it was covered up in April:
From 10th June for 9 days, I walked and talked to community projects from Llanwrtyd Wells to Penarth. I met such inspiring people, and have come through it feeling invigorated. I kept a video diary each day…
On the last day a lovely chap from Melbourne, Courtney, followed us about with his fancy-pants camera:
Find out more about the Great Big Walk and Eden Project here.
The Great Big Walk was inspired by the Great Get Together, organised by Jo Cox’s family. Jo’s life was taken last year, and her statement that we have far more in common than divides us stayed with me the whole time I was talking to all the amazing people we met on this walk. There are people across the whole of the UK, and across the world, working together to make their communities strong.
Along my way I began picking little bunches of flowers. It’s something my mum Latifah used to do, and I found it a nice way to mark the end of a walk, either passing on the flowers to somebody, or leaving them somewhere. I picked flowers for my mum on our walk through the woods to the Sea at Pembrey, which I let go into the sea for her, along with a massive release of tears and grief which I didn’t realise was still there inside me.
When Lowri introduced me to a lady at the Adamsdown Big Lunch, who had put together a bunch of flowers for Jo Cox it was so fitting with my journey I felt a bit adrift, until my focus was gently brought back again with some watermelon from Vaida – thank you x
The lady with the flowers is called Dance. I’d just been dancing my sox off to the fantastic samba band, and had a couple of nice exchanges with some of the younger locals, who had started out so shy, but joined in with gusto and then got on the mic to beat-box our departure. Dance had been overwhelmed by the fact that her daughter had not only been taught in school about Jo Cox, but had felt so moved by her that she’d come home to make sure her mother also knew how inspiring she was. They had put together a bunch of roses and brought them to the Big Lunch in Jo’s memory, and she passed them on to me.
I felt honoured to carry these beautiful flowers with me for the final day of the walk, to set them in the sea at Penarth, remembering Jo and all that she stood for. Andrew Carnegie (below) penned a poem which he read as we walked into Penarth, releasing the tears I’d held for Jo, and for the horrific tragedy at Grenfell Tower, reminding me of the power of poetry to connect far deeper than mere conversation.
A while ago I attended an Arts Council Wales training session, where I met an artist called Richard. He told me of a project he was about to start which involved walking from Yorkshire to Wales. This is the kind of project that I always fancy doing, but never do because I need to look after the children. This time I spoke to Owen about it, and his response was ‘we’ll figure it out’. AMAZING. Turns out I was putting the block in my own way and the girls are old enough now to cope with me being away for a week.
On Saturday I’ll be joining Richard for the second leg of ‘The Great Big Walk’. It’s organised by The Eden Project, inspired by the Great Get Together. Friends and family of the late MP Jo Cox started the Great Get Together, with the aim of connecting people and building stronger communities.
Jo was murdered last year and fittingly, I included her name in two pieces of work about 118 women killed by men in 2016. Jo’s belief that we have far more in common than divides us, is something that I’ll be honoured to celebrate with this project.
I’ll be walking from Llanwrtyd Wells, taking in Carmarthen, Llanelli, Swansea, Neath, a moonlit walk to Merthyr and on through Caerphilly to Cardiff. Along the way I’ll be meeting and talking to community groups about their projects. I’ll be finding out what people are doing, but not necessarily shouting about, to strengthen their communities. And I’m SUPER EXCITED!
I know it’s going to be tough going as my knees are pretty weak and my hips aren’t great, but I’m taking a tennis ball to roll out my muscles along the way. Thanks to Caryn for the boots and to Pyklops for the bag of PROPER gear, I feel up to the challenge. Follow my progress, and the progress of the other walkers (heading to Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and London) on twitter #GreatBigWalk.
Maybe you can build up your own appetite for The Big Lunch – taking place all around the UK on 18th June, when all the walkers will be arriving home from our adventures…
To celebrate the life, work & legacy of Dylan Thomas I organised a paint jam next to Cardiff Castle, on boards that had been put up to protect the trees from UEFA happenings…
Cardiff Council very generously paid for our paint – a Welsh flag colour theme seemed appropriate, and I asked wordsmith Rufus Mufasa (Dope Biscuits) to pick out some Dylan lyrics. To link the theme to today’s living, breathing poetry, DJ Alchemy (The Hold Up/Applied Science) kindly helped me pick out some lyrics by our homegrown rappers.
Thank you to Over, Dan1, Plus, Tao, Sega, Squid and Mr Draws for the love. Graffiti and Hip-Hop is strong in Cardiff, and we are giving a nod to Dylan Thomas as well as recognising the important contribution of rappers to Welsh culture.
Find out more about Literature Wales’ International Dylan Thomas Day here.
This morning I muscled my way in on a site meeting between Cardiff Coucil, Welsh Government and the contractor who looks after Callaghan Square.
In a nutshell, they’re happy with the first pieces by myself (unity), Resh and Oner, and will be building us a wall along the ‘West Side’…
The new wall will follow the line of lamp-posts along the edge of the square.
The structure will be metal, with (I believe) wood panels.
I’m hopeful that this will be completed before UEFA take over our city next month.
I can’t thank Matt and Haydn enough for all the support they’re giving to our community – on top of the Callaghan Square project they’re also looking into other possibilities for legal spots around the city, so watch this space!
Join the Callaghan Square Graffiti Hall Of Fame facebook page here
Wales Online article here
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