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Chelmsford’s Street Art Festival Returns on 20 May

Street art festival banner

Concrete Canvas returns for another year

After the success of the city’s first ever street art festival last year, Concrete Canvas is returning this weekend!

From 20–27 May, live artwork will be created by local and international artists in various locations throughout the city. The street art festival, operated by Chelmsford’s Business Improvement District, Chelmsford For You, will see ‘canvases’, including building walls, bollards, OpenReach cabinets and CCTV bases. Artists will transform previously ‘blank canvases’ into inspiring murals, making our city a more vibrant place to live. 

As before, the festival will celebrate our buzzing high street and local talent, but this year it will also directly benefit Chelmsford’s young people, through the ‘Creating Young Civic Leaders’ initiative. The Local Cultural Education Partnership, funded by Arts Council England and Chelmsford City Council, are behind this exciting art project, designed to show local young people the value of serving their communities.

Artists commissioned for youth mural

Interior design duo Brennan & Burch have been commissioned to lead the project, working with local children and young people to design and create a mural at Riverside Leisure Centre

Interior design duo Brennan & Burch
Copyright: Brennan & Burch

Brennan & Burch, aka Lisa and Majida, have worked together since 2000, when they launched an independent fashion brand. After ten years of success in fashion, they moved to interiors and have catered for clients including Paul Smith and Brighton’s Hotel Pelirocco.

Their focus has always been helping others to express their individuality, doing so through fashion, interior design style, and artistic community.

Lisa and Majida have created two incredible communities: YAYmates, focused on celebrating and connecting artists, and Big Smile Collective, hosting clothes swaps. Earlier this year, Big Smile Collective launched their Youth Art Factory in Chelmsford; a pilot incubator project, in collaboration with Local Cultural Education Partnership. Youth Art Factory offers a “safe, warm hang out” for young people – where attendees can eat pizza and get creative, for free.

3 people eating pizza

Brennan & Burch signed up to be a part of Concrete Canvas as contributing artists and were commissioned to create a mural at Riverside Leisure Centre. For the Creating Young Civic Leaders initiative, they will coordinate a second mural at the same site, enlisting the help of local young people.

Youth engagement charity appointed

The Creating Young Civic Leaders initiative is an ambitious one. It aims to broaden participants’ horizons and increase their awareness of the opportunities available within the creative industries. It also strives to forge connections between creativity and wellbeing, and to show the value in making an active contribution to your community. 

To ensure that these aims are achieved, youth engagement specialists have been involved throughout. The council’s culture team, along with Brennan and Burch, have partnered with Essex Youth Service and Essex Youth Offending team, who work to prevent offending, and reduce the risk of further offending, in young people.

Event aligns with Chelmsford’s Cultural Strategy

The initiative has been designed to deliver aims set out in Chelmsford’s new district-wide Cultural Strategy, commissioned by Culture Chelmsford. The strategy’s vision is that the city is celebrated as a culturally ambitious place that connects a heritage of science and engineering with inspirational cultural opportunities for all. 

Councillor Marie Goldman hopes that working with creative professionals will boost both self-esteem and civic pride in young participants. 

‘Creating Young Civic Leaders’ is a fantastic opportunity for local children and young people to contribute to the cultural life of our city. They’ll have a chance to make their mark on our environment, developing pride in place and a sense of belonging, which is great for wellbeing. These are all aspects of life that Chelmsford’s Cultural Strategy is committed to enhancing for our residents.

Cllr Marie Goldman

Street art festival is committed to celebrating local artists

Concrete Canvas strives to bring a new lease of life to previously ‘blank’ spaces in Chelmsford’s city centre. Although the festival attracts artists from all over the world, it’s committed to celebrating the work of local creatives too. 

Many Chelmsford-based artists who participated last year are returning this May, working on bigger canvases than they did in 2022! Smaller locations – like bollards and CCTV bases – are being used to welcome new local artists to the festival. 

Sara Tupper, Chelmsford for You manager, says celebrating the city’s artists is a key part of the project. 

A huge focus of Concrete Canvas is giving a new lease of life to blank canvases across the city and enhancing Chelmsford’s creative offering, but it’s also about getting local artists excited about their home and increasing a feeling of community in our beautiful city.

By including smaller canvases, such as bollards and OpenReach cabinets, we can nurture artists who don’t yet have experience in creating street art. This helps them to prepare for bigger canvases, where we can help them grow and really stretch themselves!

Every contributing artist has been given a brief to design a mural based on Chelmsford’s local culture, heritage, nature or communities. The new murals will brighten up areas of the city centre, and also help communicate and strengthen Chelmsford’s identity as a city.

Sara Tupper, Chelmsford for You Manager
Street art map of Chelmsford City centre
This map shows every ‘canvas’ location for Concrete Canvas 2023 Copyright: Chelmsford For you

When and where can you join the street art festival?

The festival begins on Saturday 20 May and runs until Saturday 27. During this time, artists will be creating murals at various locations (as shown above). You can find more information on the Chelmsford For You website, including a list of participating artists!

The festival will conclude with the Concrete Canvas Street Party at Bond Street’s Bowl, between 10am and 5pm on Saturday 27 May. The party marks the official launch of this year’s updated street art trail. Entry is FREE and the event will feature live and interactive art, alongside art stalls, crafts, music, food and more!

Keep an eye on Chelmsford For You’s Instagram and Facebook for updates.

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Molly Smith
Molly Smith

Molly writes stories about public health, community safety, leisure, community sport, parking and Chelmsford Market.