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  • Words and Photos by Sarah Sansom

On The Road: Upfest Summer Editions

Portrait of teen activist Greta Thunburg by JODY at the Tobacco Factory, 5.30.19

The Upfest crew in Bristol, UK are taking a year off hosting a full-on festival, but there's still a lot happening. The largest festival in Europe has invited select artists to paint some of the biggest walls between now and October.

Steve Hayles, founder of Upfest, commented:

“While it's been important for the team to have a break from the main festival this year, we wanted to create an opportunity for invited artists to still bring new art to the streets of South Bristol and for the public to witness these world-renowned artists at work. With support from venues, Posca Pens and Mercure Hotels, we are able to refresh the artwork as though it was just a normal year for us. Upfest Summer Editions allows us to do this, while spreading visitor numbers and giving the team more time to focus on the invited artists and plans for the festival in 2020. As the name might suggest, all invited artists will be releasing special edition prints of the murals later in the year supporting the preparations for Upfest 2020.'


Having attended last year's event, I stopped by on a recent family trip to see what's new.

The first show-stopper was by JODY (above) with a striking portrait of the Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg submerged in melting ice caps under a stormy sky. At 50 ft high, the artist struggled though all kinds of weather to complete the work over the course of a week to complete it just before I visited. The image that he worked from was made with around 10 different sources, with Greta herself being made of four separate shots. In keeping with the theme, he painted 65-70% of the wall with water-based paints using an electric spray gun powered by the building's solar cells.

As the artist said in Bristol Life Magazine,

'That wall has had some iconic pieces painted on it - Lisa Simpson, Mr. Men and of course, the John Lennon. It was time for me to step up and do something with impact.'

Next on my trip was this incredible My Dog Sighs and Curtis Hylton collaboration:

Painted in WIndmill Hill in South East Bedminster

(Even my cab driver got out for a better look)

This epic mural was painted in April on the side of the Rising Sun pub, who helped support the mural as a thank you to their community.

As My Dog Sighs said:

'Located in Windmill Hill, Bristol and replacing a very old, tired and half-covered brush mural, I was keen to embed the work in the community... With the help of local residents and Bristol friends I was able to determine that there was indeed a windmill on the hill in the 15th century, the only visual evidence of which was an 18th century etching of the ruin of the tower. Using that I was able to find a specific windmill design to the area and use examples of those to recreate the windmill in the reflection. You may also spot other Bristol landmarks I was able to see from the scissor lift at the wall. The community was also keen to keep an organic/nature theme which gave me a brilliant opportunity to approach Curtis who’s work over the last year or so has exploded, and developed to an insanely good level.'

You may have seen Curtis Hylton's murals merging wildlife and botanical elements to highlight endangered wildlife and their habitats. Some creative one-upmanship occurred during the collaboration, as My Dog Sighs said at the time, 'It seems he’s rather averse to my painted lashes as the collaborative process involved me painting them then him painting them out a number of times throughout the week. (I’m never going to let him live that down).'

My Dog Sighs also left some secret murals nearby entitled ‘Quiet little voices':


What else? Between now and October, the lineup of artists painting huge murals includes Brazilian artist L7m, whose work currently adorns the walls of Zero Green and Bristol Flooring, Upfest veteran Dale Grimshaw, French stencil artist Goin and portrait painter Ant Carver. They will be joined by some of Bristol’s most prolific street artists, including Gemma Compton, multi-style painter Copy Right, and the bold and colourful Zoe Power.

The work will be supplemented by limited edition prints from each artist, and the third Upfest coffee-table book, featuring details from the last few years and some of the highlights from years gone by.

The multi-talented stencil and freehand artist Kindose87, (see below) is painting something amazing on the side of the Old Book Shop this week.

Bristol artist Bex Glover also painted this beauty at the side of Soul Kitchen mid-May:


I continued my tour of finished works from 2018 using the Festival Map (see below).

Dan Kitchener at The Nursery:

JODY's 2018 wall as the highlighted Festival Artist:

And I remembered to take 3D glasses for this Insane51 mural, painted by the Greek artist to support those affected by the tragic fires in the resort town of Mati in the summer of 2018:

And yes, there's aways a car or two parked here!

Louis Masai making a statement about single-use plastics in our environment:


Having visited Upfest between festivals for several years, I was thrilled to witness the action first hand in July last summer: Ant Carver working on his details with a fine paintbrush. (Stay tuned for his 2019 work.)

Guy Denning adding expression to his mural, along with every letter of the alphabet (no longer visible):

Sicilian Duo Rosk & Loste, who just painted at The Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn:

Click on images to see finished mural


Brazil's Dinho Bento painting behind Tesco:

For 2018, Matt Groehning selected several artists to paint Simpsons-themed murals, including Soker, Nomad Clan and BAO:

Gorgeous storefronts along the main North Street walk by Piet Rodriguez:

The London Police got the prime spot for this fun piece in 2018:

Fun wheatpastes pop up all year round:

Vibrant wall by Paul Monsters:

Caro Pepe working on her collaboration with Hannes Höhlig at the Brewery Theatre:

And a completed piece nearby:

A massive collab by Instaminto, 5kyh1gh, Roo and Ali Hamish Campbell:

Stencilled animals by Kin Dose, aka Nick Harvey, were dotted along the route, many on electrical boxes:

Here's that Insane51 mural underneath:

Just-finished work by Voyder in June:

Stunning geometric bird by Annatomix:

It was a pleasure to meet Marcus Gomad while he worked:

What made Upfest 2018 so epic was a stadium and school grounds with hoarding for artists to paint:

And lastly, a unique part of Upfest is the gallery, open year-round:


One of my favorite things about Upfest is the MAP:

Download a 2018 map here

Big thanks to Steve and Dave of the Upfest team for making me welcome and looking after my wheelie case on every visit.

Make sure to say hello to them on your visit!




JODY: jodyart,co,uk

Directions to the Upfest Gallery

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