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The Art of Belonging - Nottingham. Graffiti.

Encounters in a local cultural venue.


We have come to Sneinton Market, a short walk from the city centre. Sneinton Market was historically a site for a fruit market over a century ago. In recent years it has become a hub for creatives and for independent businesses. At the weekends in the summer there is a busy street food market. In the evenings its bars and independent venues attract students and young professionals. It is also a location for pop up events and features in Nottingham’s cultural calendar. It also attracts young skateboarders, who can be seen trying out their tricks to the accompaniment of groups of young street musicians who also gravitate towards the space.


We are not sure how many to expect as this is a new place for our participants and it is a miserable day to be outdoors. Five minutes in and there about 7 participants. Shamila gives each their sketchbook and whilst waiting for the others to arrive she suggests that they just draw anything they see that catches their attention. Very quickly the boys find somewhere to sit or lean and begin sketching. It starts to rain yet they continue. Shamila almost doesn’t want to interrupt them and start showing them the graffiti art in the space. But the others are here and it is time.

We begin walking around the space. The graffiti art works are huge and, despite the drizzle and grey skies, pop with colour. Shamila points out the different conventions the artists use. She explains that one of the artists died recently and so there are many references to him contained within the images. They begin to start looking for these as we continue to walk around the space. She introduces the concept of tagging and encourages the group to spot the different tags on the pieces.


After walking around the differing pieces, Shamila takes the group into a shop within the market which sells, amongst other things, spray paints. She wants the group to notice the intense range of colours. The shopkeeper asks me who the group are. I explain and he relays a story of how the previous weekend he had found himself waiting for a group of friends within the market square and started talking to two young men who were from Iran. Four hours later, he said he was still sitting talking to them and how lovely it is to meet people from across the globe. His friends never arrived! As we make ready to leave, he stops us saying he wants to give the boys a gift; he hands each a drawing pencil and a coffee mat. They are thrilled!


I note the tagline above the window:


The group are then led by Shamila to Carousel a community workspace for local artists where she first models and then encourages them to design their own tags.


At the end of the activity, as the young people disperse, one of the boys waits to speak to Shamila. He says that he had been thinking about the art club that she runs on a Wednesday evening at the New Art Exchange and would like to join. Shamila is delighted!







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