“But I’m not from Stokes Croft…”
The first line from Stokes Croft and Montpelier, a documentary photo book by Colin Moody, tells you all you need to know about the book.
You don’t need to be a local to connect with the area and its’ people.
I was invited by Colin, along with a group of Bristol Bloggers with an interest in local community to join him on a walking tour of Stokes Croft & Montpelier. The aim was to see behind the photographs… to see the heart of this community in action.
Graffiti and street art is a huge part of Bristol’s culture. Street art is not ‘just vandalism’ it’s expression. Not just creative expression, it’s political expression, a show of support or a mark of dissent… it sounds cheesy to say that a picture paints a thousand words, but the street art adorning Bristol’s walls really does. It tells you all you need to know about the pulse of the city and the sentiments of the locals.
I spent my early years in Filton, and then grew up in Ashley Down living there until I was 25 and lured by the bright lights of London. I lived at the top of Ashley Hill, so as a kid, Montpelier and Stokes Croft were places I knew well. I drove through with my parents or passed through on the bus almost daily, looking around me with childlike wonder every time. When did I lose the wonder? When did I stop seeing what was around me?
Look at the Stokes Croft Murals wall above.
NO. Really look at it.
What do you see?
Support for local businesses: Mickleburgh Piano store aka no. 1-9 Stokes Croft, right there in the heart of Bristol since 1870; Bristol Bike Project, based on City Road, repairing and relocating unwanted bicycles; The Bell Pub on Hillgrove Street behind Stokes Croft; The Cube Cinema on Dove Street showing cult classics and world movies.
Truth and beauty; Justice; Respect.
Every art piece has a story.
This area, just outside the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) is one of the few places that those living on the streets can get fresh, clean water and charge their mobile phones – an essential lifeline to connect them to each other, the world and essential services.
This piece above is on Hepburn Road, known as crack alley, even more infamous having been featured as part of the the 2017 BBC3 documentary Drugsland. That’s just one side to it. The walls here are an accepted street art space, and the art here changes almost weekly. The art has changed since Colin shot the image in his book, and to be honest, has probably changed since I shot the above photograph just over a week ago.
This art piece on Hillgrove Street tells us so much in one image. On the one hand it’s a tribute or reanimation of the famous painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. On the other hand it’s a statement about surveillance. The octopus/ sea creature on the right of the image adds an air of menace.
The interesting part for me is actually the street sign. Not the one on the bottom right of the image, but the painted sign on the wall, with the PRSC logo on it. Chris of PRSC – who we bumped into while on the photo walk – was telling us about the significance of the painted street name.
Why is a painted street name sign necessary?
Well, the street sign had been damaged and removed. For quite some time, it was not replaced. The artist painted a stylised version of Hilgrove Street onto the wall, to return the streets identity. It was an act of defiance, the act of reclaiming the street for the community living in and around it.
That ideal fits in with everything the PRSC stand for. Reclaiming the streets for the people, the community.
This absolute stunner of an art piece is actually a collaboration between two artists; Cheba and Ghaleb. Cheba is a local artist renowned for his galaxy of stars art – now that I’ve said it, I’ve opened your eyes to noticing his pieces all over the centre of Bristol. The second artist Ghaleb Hawila is a Lebanese calligrapher & designer and is passionate about making art accessible for all, including holding an art workshop in a refugee camp as painting art intervention/ therapy.
Above is a mural by Wildstyle. What’s special about it is the hidden message beneath the colourful top layers.
Can you see it? No? Here’s a little help from Chris @PRSC.
Colin’s book, Stokes Croft and Montpelier, shows that there is so much more to see about Bristol than the street art (though the street art is frickin’ amazing). He spent the best part of a year getting right into the heart of the community and amplifying their voices, to tell their own stories through his images. The book is an inspiring journey through Stokes Croft and Montpelier and it will leave it’s mark on you. I guarantee that it will open your eyes to the beauty and wonderment of the community around you.
Stokes Croft and Montpelier by Colin Moody, RRP £18 published by The History Press. Available to buy online here and in store at the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft China store, Visit Bristol tourist information centre, SS Great Britain gift shop.