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Chichester’s major new street art festival could run again in 2014

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The man who transformed blank walls around the city is hoping to run The Chichester Street Art Festival again next year.

Neil Lawson Baker, CEO of the Chichester-based National Open Art Competition, said the festival had already made Chichester a talking point around the world and was already bringing in significant numbers of visitors.

Mr Lawson Baker cited the city of Bristol where a similar festival is reckoned to have brought in a couple of hundred million pounds over a couple of years. Something similar could happen here.

“I have met visitors this weekend that had come from Paris, from Belgium, from London to see the work here. They are going out for meals here; they are going shopping here. It is all going to bring big business into the city.

“From my observation, having been in and around the city with the street artists for the last ten days, public opinion about it all is amazingly positive. Everybody likes it. But it doesn’t surprise me. We have got an amazing cultural and art offer in the city with Pallant House, the Cathedral, the Cass Foundation, West Dean and so on. What I would love to see is sculpture on the streets from the Cass Foundation.

“But to see quality international street artists travelling from around the world to paint contemporary works of art in Chichester has made visible the art offering here and drawn attention to the city internationally.”

Mr Lawson Baker said he was aware of some letters of dissent in circulation: “Naturally there is a worry that it would lead to graffiti artists working on walls”.

But he stressed again that street art is legitimate, high quality, controlled and commissioned. Chichester Street Art Festival has happened solely where permission has been sought and gained, he said.

As for next year, the current works may simply be painted over and replaced with something new; or they could be left in position and other sites sought.

One factor for next year, however, is cost. Mr Lawson Baker paid for this year’s festival out of his own pocket to the tune of £15,000 (paints, printing, flying in the artists, food etc). For it all to happen again next year, he admitted he would certainly be looking for financial help.

Anyone wishing to contribute to a 2014 festival should contact him on neillawsonbaker@aol.com.

Venues in the current festival include the front and back of Metro House on the Northgate roundabout, Chichester College and Chichester Festival Theatre.

 

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