Bristol Activists Use Street Art to Fight Gentrification
The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft is using street art to preserve the identity of Bristol’s most culturally diverse neighbourhood.
PRSC began by opening up spaces for street art throughout the neighbourhood, providing a counterweight to the advertising images that otherwise dominate the era. They helped revitalise many derelict buildings and gave the area an image refresh, providing a platform to artists to celebrate provoke discussion and celebrate the cultural heroes to to the area’s diverse residents.
“You can chart the takeover of this city by the corporates,” explains Chris Chalkley, founder of The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft in Bristol. “It’s a battle that I never envisaged we would be getting involved with. And basically what this is, this is the physical manifestation of the fightback against globalisation.”
From where we’re standing, outside the PRSC HQ in the centre of Stokes Croft, the battle looks like a colourful one. And Chris’ weapons of war are step ladders, paint, rollers and spray cans. Stretching down the block is a giant public street art wall which gets repainted by a new artist each month – and is the centrepiece of PRSC’s efforts to transform Stokes Croft peacefully, through street art.
“When you look at the huge things are happening you think the world is too big for you to have an effect,” Chris explains. He looks up to the giant slogan that dominates the yard. “[We Make Our Own Future] was the first thing we wrote back in 2007,” he remembers. “It’s a slogan that sums up everything: it’s up to all of us. Here, we’re actually making stuff to make our own future. Everything we do is laden and layered with meaning and is participatory – it’s political. Building this creates possibility. It’s essentially to be pilots for our own destiny.”
Text By Alex King