Walk around the city of Leicester and you’ll see that this is a place that is rapidly discovering its tourism potential. It is also a vibrant, diverse and multicultural city. So perhaps it is not surprising to find an abundance of stunning graffiti and street art in Leicester, bringing new life to old buildings.
Graffwerk And Leicester
There has been an active street art scene in Leicester since the 1980s. However, much of what you see today is due to the efforts of Graffwerk, an arts project whose stated aim is in “redefining the visual landscape of cities through the use of street art”. Founded in 2017, Graffwerk brings together artists from around the world to create large and eye-catching murals.
Although they are scattered about the city, the greatest concentration of these artworks is in the St George Cultural Quarter, especially around the Southampton Street area. You can discover many of them on a street art trail, and information about the different pieces can be found in this map.
Bring The Paint
Graffwerk’s activity has mostly been focused around the Bring The Paint festivals that took place in 2017, 2019 and 2022. New images were created for these events, sometimes at breathtaking speed: I spoke to someone in a painted garage forecourt who told me he’d watched the main piece going up literally overnight.
The 2022 festival showcased 48 large scale murals as well as activities, events, workshops, music and food. A particular feature this year was the creation of a mural with augmented reality. I downloaded the app and was fascinated to see a moving landscape of cogs and wheels. (The mural was created by German artist Bond, and you can find it on York Street, not far from the multi-storey car park.)
St George’s Tower
The latest addition to Leicester’s street art is at St George’s Tower, a student accommodation block known locally as the Blue Tower. A joint venture between Graffwerk and the Business Improvement District, the painting was the work of local artists and was completed in July 2022.
This mural is 82m high, making it the third tallest piece of street art in the world. It features a number of local themes, including a fox and a tiger to represent the city’s sporting clubs.
Legal Street Painting Sites
Of course, street art and graffiti are not the sole preserve of professional artists. There are several legal spray paint sites in Leicester where anyone can add their own work (the main stipulation being that you only paint over someone else’s efforts if you can improve upon them…)
Many of these sites are outside the central area but some – including a series of boarded-up windows on St James Street – are within the St George Cultural Quarter.
Some Favourite Bits Of Street Art In Leicester
I’ve picked out a few of the pieces I enjoyed – you’ll note the incredible diversity of subject and style!
The picture of a magpie with a needle and thread is a reference to Leicester’s association with the garment trade. Painted on the side of a building in Queen Street, it is jointly the work of Mono and Ruelo.
Alex Rubes created this Art Deco style pattern on the side of a building in Yeomen Street.
The Australian artist Smug painted this picture of a friend in Rutland Street. Apparently he created the image just by referring to a photo on his phone.
This picture of a woman’s face with stylised patterns is a classic Art Nouveau style piece by Inkie. You can find it in the car park in Queen Street.
And, finally, a particular favourite of mine. Painted on the side of the historic Newarke Houses to celebrate Leicester City’s Premier League title win in 2016, it features a variety of Buddhist themes.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.