Upfest 2017: A creative tsunami in South Bristol

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Eduardo Kobra working on an amazing portrait… see of who further down

Since 2008 an annual tsunami of colour and creativity has flushed through the streets of Bristol in Southern England. An ‘Urban Paint Festival’ named UPFEST that was just held again this past weekend and renewed the open air gallery in the neighbourhood of Bedminster. This time I was lucky to catch a glimpse of it…

For years I have been a big fan of street art and I love to go photo hunting whenever I visit a new city. As for Bristol, I am very familiar with its thriving street art scene, having previously visited several times and also taken a great street art tour there. But this time I happened to be in town on the final day of Upfest 2017 (July 29-31). So what better than to head down to Bedminster, which is a relatively short walk from downtown, to check it out.

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Mural by the Bristol based artist Cheo

And I am very happy I did, as it was still in time to see some amazing street artists in action, trying to finish their major pieces before the rain set in. While North Street is the festivals artery, I found the Bristol based artist named Jody on a side street (The Nursery), workng hard to finish off his stunningly beautiful and eye-catching mural, while still taking his time for a chat with passing street art enthusiasts. This girl is really gonna brighten up this neighbourhood.

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The local artist Jody trying to finish his mural under threatening clouds

This wasn’t far from the festival headquarters on North Street 198, where a permanent gallery promotes street art and sells equipment – and just across from there, in the small park of North Street Green, an open air gallery of painted boards was set up to browse through for free. A wide range of styles on display.

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My stare down with a colourful gorilla – in front of the Upfest headquarters

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A small part of the open air gallery on North Street Green

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Art by Stelleconfuse and Max Syther Oughton

To follow North Street as a “street art hunter” is very exciting and excellent pieces and murals are found along the way as well as down many side streets. Like at the Hen & Chicken on the corner of Greville Road, where you shouldn’t miss the heavily decorated terrace in the back. Here’s a few examples…

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But the main event of the day for me was found further down the road on the parking lot at ALDI, where the world famous street artist Eduardo Kobra was still working on his huge “kaleidoscope portrait” of John Lennon. Jaw-droppingly impressive, really detailed and extremely colourful. A real masterpiece that managed to light up a grey day and attract a crowd of admirers. Kobra is from Brazil and is known for his large-scale murals in this colourful style – adorning many places from New York to Rio de Janeiro. And now also Bristol.

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Eduardo Kobra working on his John Lennon mural on North Street

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Imagine… to have a talent like this! John Lennon by Eduardo Kobra

Kobra was just one of over 350 artists from 30 different countries participating in this huge street art event, being hosted in the streets as well as in the backyard of pubs, in the cultural venue Tobacco Factory and even inside the 27.000-seater Ashton Gate Stadium. An event that is estimated to have brought in 35.000-40.000 people to the neighbourhood over three days – as well as it was supporting The National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
See a few of my favourite pieces here…

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I tip my hat to the event organizers and hope to catch more of this festival in the future. Upfest really underlindes Bristol’s status and capacity as a street art city, that is far more than the fame of Banksy. If you’re a fan of street art like myself and you’re visiting the city, you shouldn’t miss out on a walk down North Street any day of the year.



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By Brian Schæfer Dreyer