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City street art is 'not a cure for urban ills'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 08, 2012

This Banksy painted on the wall of a council sexual health counselling service building in Park Street, Bristol, has become one of the most recognisable pieces of street art in the world

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A Conservative councillor has hit out at the Liberal Democrat administration in Bristol, accusing them of a "fixation" with "talentless" street artists.

Despite thousands of people attending the Upfest event that transformed parts of Bedminster and Southville over the bank holiday weekend, Councillor Richard Eddy believes the medium will make some areas of the city look "impoverished" in years to come.

He has tabled a number of questions to the Lib Dems, to be answered at the next full council meeting scheduled for June 19.

Questioning the "current practice and apparent policy of positively promoting street art", the member for Bishopsworth said: "Sadly, for every Banksy in this world, there is a multitude of talentless taggers.

"This questionable art form is even being proposed as part of a £100,000 make-over for other parts of Bedminster under the Portas Pilots initiative.

"We need to know what sort of consultation has or will take place over using yet more money for this purpose. I am concerned that the Lib Dems seem to have become fixated upon street art as some kind of magic bullet to solve our urban ills and provide a quick fix to economic regeneration."

The councillor added: "Of course, in reality, I suspect much of this wall-to-wall graffiti will age very quickly and lend an impoverished aspect to most of the areas it has permanently infiltrated.

"I intend to find out where this policy of council collusion is taking us and whether in fact the present administration is hell-bent on turning Bristol into the graffiti capital of Europe."

More than 250 artists produced work at more than a dozen venues in and around North Street in Bristol for Upfest. And last year, the See No Evil project saw scores of graffiti artists from around the world transform Nelson Street and the surrounding area with works that are still on show today. It was hoped this would turn the drab, run-down area into a tourist attraction.

The questions Cllr Eddy has asked are whether the administration is "hell-bent" on turning Bristol into the graffiti capital of Europe; what consultation of local businesses and residents took place before Upfest; whether the council made any financial contribution to Upfest and whether See No Evil has achieved its target of attracting hundreds of thousands more visitors to the city.

Upfest was supported and sponsored by a number of local business in and around North Street.

In 2009, over a period of 12 weeks more than 300,000 people, around 4,000 each day, visited a Banksy exhibition at the Bristol Museum – matching the museum's own annual number of visits.

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