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Hull graffiti artists inspire street art scene in Freetown

The artists behind Hull’s first street art gallery – Bankside Gallery – which opened earlier this year, have made an impressive mark in Hull’s twin city Freetown in Sierra Leone, as well as their own city.

With the aim of inspiring artists to embrace their freedom to create, last year Freedom Festival Arts Trust commissioned graffiti artists Spray Creative to hold workshops and create street art in Freetown, Sierra Leone. An experience which has made a lasting impression, not only on the grey walls and abandoned spaces in Freetown, but on Spray Creative artists Ollie and Kain Marshall.

Travelling to Freetown in March 2017, Mikey Martins, Artistic Director at Freedom Festival Arts Trust and Ollie and Kain from Spray Creative worked with local artists to create artwork for the Ministry of Tourism of Cultural Affairs, The Freetown Music Festival and the King Dus Arts Festival.

It was the first-time aerosol spray paint had been used in the city, demonstrating how this more affordable and lasting art material can transform bare walls into colourful creations.

Mikey, Ollie and Kain were welcomed to the city with open arms and the experience proved to be something they will never forget.

Ollie explained: “As two graffiti artists from Hull, to be somewhere like Freetown working with local artists to create art on the side of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Affairs building was incredible, almost unbelievable.

“Freedom Festival approached us about going over to Sierra Leone to teach local artists how to produce large artwork and murals using aerosols. The idea was to help local artists approach the city’s empty spaces in new ways.

“Our visit was the first time this kind of aerosol had been used in Freetown, so it was an eye opener for the artists, who usually work with oil-based paint. They were amazed how a huge mural could be created in such a small space of time.

Ollie and Kain delivered workshops that enabled the local artists to experiment with new techniques, whether it was an artist who had been working in Sierra Leone all their life or a younger person just starting out.

Ollie added: “We didn’t know much about the city when we arrived other than it was twinned with Hull. Like our home town, Freetown has many grey spaces and abandoned buildings, which lend themselves perfectly to this form of art.

“The people in Freetown are so vibrant and friendly that it was great to see their culture inspire the art, with the people’s spirit replicated in the city as grey walls were transformed into colourful murals.

As well as painting at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Affairs in Freetown the team also painted the Freetown Music Festival and King Dus Arts Festival painting boards to engage with local audiences and linking to themes of Freedom.

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director at Freedom Festival Arts Trust, explained: “Creativity is incredibly powerful. Our aim is to not only nurture creativity and talent here in Hull by creating a world-class festival but to build links internationally and then be able to nurture talent and support artists elsewhere. Freetown is our twin city and one which has suffered so much in recent years, if creativity can help in some way then we will be there.

“Teaching local artists new techniques to create artworks inspired by their own culture, is a great example of what is possible when international artists meet and collaborate, and thanks to the support of the British Council, our two creative communities came together. It was a joyful thing to see, and this is just the beginning of a long-term plan of creative exchanges.

“Inspired by two local lads from Hull, these colourful murals appeared across Freetown and the response from local people was so inspiring to see.”

Spray Creative will once again be involved in this year’s Freedom Festival, now in its 11th year. Plans are also in place for the team to travel to Freetown later this year to create new commissions in the city as part of the Freedom Festival Arts Trust’s year-long work.

Freedom Festival 2018 will take place from 31 August to 2 September 2018.

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