Winning trip: Artistic highs, Esch, Luxembourg
The European Capital of Culture 2022 Esch-sur-Alzette (or simply Esch) is full of beautiful urban art. Some of it refers to the city’s industrial past, some of it to its modern cultural development and local heroes. Many of them are as high as the buildings they figure on which creates a spectacular impression. Artists come from all over the world, Dulk from Spain, Mantra from France for example, to realise their projects with the support of the city of Esch. It is hard to choose a favourite. They provide the city with colour and character and are a statement to all who visit. Here be art! I simply love it.
One Love, Bristol
Bristol is synonymous with music and street art and there is no better example of the two combined than the massive One Love DJ Derek mural, created by some of the finest street artists in the world. Inkie, Hazard One, Kosc and Zed in the Clouds painted this colourful and vibrant tribute to the enigmatic DJ. It is a celebration of the multicultural approach Bristol holds close to its heart. The major scoop for all you street art fans is that an augmented reality experience centred on the mural is soon to be announced. It celebrates Derek’s life and 40-year DJ career, was created by digital artist Marc Marot and is accompanied by music from Bristol legends Laid Blak. It can be found near junction 2 on the M32 in Eastville.
Hill Street views, Birmingham
Peaky Blinders fans visiting Birmingham this summer should head for the brilliant art installation on Hill Street. Local artist Jon Jones’s paintings weave fact and fiction to explore the criminal underworld of 19th-century Birmingham. Working with West Midlands Police Museum, he has created haunting images that delve into police records and mugshots to portray the leading characters from the infamous gang – Tommy, Polly, Arthur, Alfie and more. The sponsor, Castle Fine Art, will donate £1 to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, every time a image is posted on social media, using @castlegalleries, #Brum4BCH.
Wilfred Owen on a tram, New Brighton, Merseyside
I am a proud resident of this once-neglected seaside town. Thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneur Daniel Davies, every available wall has been covered in street art, celebrating the best of local culture and restoring pride in our community. My favourite is the mural of a tram: look closely and you can see Wirral poet Wilfred Owen on board, lovers kissing, a seagull stealing a cheeky bag of chips. Also celebrated are the Beatles (who played here in the long-vanished ballroom), Guide Dogs for the Blind (a New Brighton initiative – the first four dogs were trained here in 1931), a local lifeboatman, our teenagers and a variety of pets. Most enjoyably, Boris Johnson was the subject of a piece of art when our local pub (the James Atherton) decided to call itself The Lying Bastard – although no sign ended up being made. It had previously been called the Three ****ends – a reference to Matt Hancock, Johnson and Dominic Cummings – and The Two Helmets, once Cummings had left the scene.
Billy meets Banksy, Glasgow
You’ll find images of Billy Connolly looking down from Glasgow’s gable ends and artists whose skilful and humorous work is rich with social comment, very much in the tradition of Banksy. A great introduction to the art on show is with the Glasgow Street Art Walking Tour, costing £12. Our guide, Karen, explained the background to the genre and introduced us to some fantastic and iconic examples around the city centre.
Peng art in Penge, London
The profoundly untrendy south-east London suburb of Penge is an unlikely mecca both for street artists and lovers of their work. Brilliant, often intriguing, ever-changing artworks adorn walls, shutters, doorways and hoardings, along main roads and in the backstreets and alleyways; it seems that every week new and often fabulous work is added. There are pieces with a message, others to make you smile and many that are quite simply gorgeous. There are plenty of cafes and pubs to ease tired feet and even a brewery with taproom.
Lose yourself, Marseille
L’art de rue is a gem of an open-air museum in Europe, mostly undiscovered by British tourists. Head first to the Panier district – which has abundant art on every corner and a vibrant hybrid cultural character. Lose yourself in the narrow lanes, where you will find the true spirit of this great city. Then stroll along the streets that connect Cours Julien to Place Jean-Jaurès – discovering walls covered in the most extraordinary tags and graffiti. Finally contemplate your findings in one of the many delightful cafes. Ça vaut le voyage – you will not regret it.
Cobbled corners, Kaunas, Lithuania
Street artists in independently minded Kaunas, former capital of Lithuania, have nearly 50 years of Soviet concrete to work with. Witty, thought provoking and downright strange murals are round every cobbled corner. The artists decorate the mundane spaces in between the fantastic inter-war modernist buildings – some of which are crumbling, some being restored. The face of Kaunas is rapidly changing, however, as glitzy steel-and-glass constructions pop up along the old streets. Perhaps now is the fleeting window of opportunity to visit this European capital of culture. Use the excellent buses to get around.
Port of cool, Bordeaux
We have been to Bordeaux several times but missed this place until we chanced upon it after hiring bicycles and visited the port area. The artwork is at the entrance of a German u-boat base built during the second world war. There are art exhibitions inside, but you can visit the base for free. With lots of street art in the surrounding streets and being close to the Halles de Bacalan (amazing food market) and La Cité du Vin, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Socialist slant, Barbagia, Sardinia
The small town of Orgosolo, in the Barbagia region of central Sardinia, is known for its political murals, mostly of a socialist, communist and pacifist leaning. Not so many years ago, the town was known for the bandits that roamed the region, but it seemed quiet and peaceful when I visited, though I did see a couple of brass cartridge cases on the ground.