We won the snooker championship in 2016; the same year that Leicester City rose from the dusty levels of Third Division football to win the Premier League against all the odds, and only a year after the city's magnificent reburial of King Richard III, whose body had been found right where the chairwoman of the Richard III Society had always believed he was, under the letter R in a city centre car park (that car park now turned into the King Richard III Visitor Centre, which I worked on with Studio MB).
The city has always been my closest, and its transformation began in earnest 20 years ago when major work began to expand the three universities there. Alongside De Montfort University's soon-to-be halls of residence ran the river, Western Boulevard, and a row of buildings about to be demolished, behind a mile-long stretch of hoardings.
It was these hoardings that graffiti artist and long-time mate Solo One gained permission and funding from the council to paint, end to end, creating the largest piece of continuous graf created to date (over a mile). 1996 did indeed see Solo work himself to a husk, recruiting artists from around the world to come and throw paint at white spaces. The energy was big, the colour bigger, and the art was destroyed, as all street art must ultimately be, when the development was finished.
Here's a great little film by Solo One of the original Western Boulevard event, cut with May's event 21 years later:
Twenty-one years later, the energy returned with Solo's Return of the Macks, part of the larger, council-supported Bring The Paint Festival, organised by Leicester's paint-and-pen lovers' cave Graff HQ, from whence I buy my Poscas and Grog. As soon as I heard Boyd had set it up, I asked for a spot, no matter how small, as we wanted to part of this anniversary extravaganza.
We had a modest space alongside the towpath at Frog Island, on a sunny but windy day, and stood next to 'real' graffers working at lightning speed with the kind of casual experience and confidence acquired through years of midnight throw-ups, hitting two cities in one day and climbing to precarious spots to get a chroma up. All were welcoming and just as accepting of my slow spraying and help from a brush as they were the schoolkid next to me working on his first big piece, supervised by his Dad, clearly an experienced graffer - yes we're getting to that age now - and the atmosphere was one of calm, shared productivity, someone's system blasting the perfect drum'n'bass mix at the end of the towpath.
Live footage!! Proof I put paint on the wall myself:
Look at these guys, embodying the spirit of 80s graf!
Think this leaf had the painting blues...
The work along the towpath was breathtaking enough, but meanwhile in the city centre gigantic pieces were being finished by the infamous, incredible Smug, Boogie, Cantwo, Hombre, N4t4, Inkie, Philth, Voyder, Zomby and loads more. I'll let the pictures do the talking, as it were (bearing in mind we worked till very late, and it was dark by the time we hit the big stuff!)
(How did he get it so SHARP??)
The work will remaining place for as along as the elements allow it to.
If you love large-scale work, murals or graf, Leicester's the place to visit right now - and you can pack your day in the city centre with more delicious food, good ales, galleries and shops than at any time in the city's history.
Thanks Solo One for letting us be part of this inspiring event!