Partly thanks to the international notoriety of street artist Banksy, who comes from the city, Bristol has earned itself a reputation for its street art. The city has embraced this: visitors can go on walking tours of famous street artworks, for example, and Europe’s largest graffiti street art festival, Upfest, is taking place in the city this coming weekend.
However there are fears that this reputation is encouraging too much unwanted graffiti. Police have estimated that over 80 people in the area are ‘actively offending’.
Currently Bristol City Council has a policy of removing “unwanted and offensive” graffiti as quickly as possible, taking action against offenders and supporting property owners’ rights. They are able to issue graffiti removal notices, fixed penalty charges and initiate prosecution proceedings where appropriate.
But the Council wants to make this distinction clearer. This will involve stricter enforcement against tagging that is deemed an act of vandalism, providing more resources to communities to help them clear unwanted graffiti, while also providing more ‘legal walls’, for artists to paint on freely.
The Council already acknowledge a difference between: “graffiti, which is generally considered to have a negative impact and Street art/graffiti art, which is generally regarded as a more artistic and considered intervention.”
They acknowledge that achieving a balance is necessary. “There is a fine line between tackling illegal tagging which blights neighbourhoods and supporting Bristol’s unique street art culture which contributes to the city’s identity and attracts visitors from the around the world,” Councillor Daniella Radice has said.
“As a cultural capital, we support street art where the owner of the building has given permission, but we are keen to see the end to senseless tagging across the city.”