Troublemaker’s Festival interviews: Mark Stephenson – Tag My Ride?
Troublemaker’s Festival has some diverse public art ideas going on, perhaps none more ‘out there’ than Mark Stephenson and Tag my Ride. This man clearly likes to takes chances! He will be bringing his car into the High Street as a ‘canvas’ for street artists. It will create an extraordinary spectacle that is normally largely hidden from view.
He’s no stranger to street art, having successfully managed and brought together, under the auspices of the HigherStreet International, a project called Tunnel Vision; a street art project, in the subway at the top end of High Street. The results were astounding, with many artists taking ownership of this largely forgotten public space. When I first met Mark, it was clear he is passionate about creating a sense of place in Swansea city centre focussing on the High Street. He has worked hard at developing good links with communities who are often forgotten. I caught up with him as he prepared for the weekend’s troublemaking.
Mark Stephenson on the High Street
“What excites you about the High Street most?”
MS: “So much gets said about the High Street in Swansea, usually focusing on the negative and positive extremes. The truth in 2017, lies somewhere in the middle, but the direction of travel is clearly towards the positive. As a socially engaged artist interested in bottom-up approaches to placemaking, I appreciate the space and opportunity the place affords to explore possibilities for people who live and work there, as well as for my own practice. From the Station to the Sea (a collaboration between Volcano Theatre Company and Coastal Housing Group, funded by the Arts Council of Wales under their Ideas People Places (IPP) initiative) has been instrumental in recognising and utilising this opportunity.”
Tag my Ride
PD: “What are your plans for the Fringe Trouble Events?”
MS: “Working under the HigherStreet International moniker, myself and artist Nazma Botanica have collaborated with Tunnel Vision Jam to come up with ‘Tag My Ride’. On the Saturday and Sunday, we will be bringing the legal walls aspect of the nearby Pottery Street Subway that we created with Tunnel Vision Jam onto the High Street itself. The deal this time is that there will be a black car abandoned outside the Unitarian Church at the lower end of High Street and we’re asking Swansea’s street writers to just turn up with their own paint and pens—the rest is up to them.”
Film watch: ‘WALL WRITERS: Graffiti in its Innocence’
MS: “As a sister event, we are really excited to be bringing a great film event to Swansea called ‘WALL WRITERS: Graffiti in its Innocence’ including a Q&A with acclaimed graffiti artist Pride of ‘The Chrome Angelz’ fame. The event, hosted by Cinema & Co is a fascinating exploration into the social origins of tagging culture and challenges any preconceptions you might have about graffiti.”
Mark Stephenson on placemaking
PD: “What does placemaking mean to you?”
MS: “There is such a lack of clarity around the definitions associated with urban regeneration including the term placemaking. It might not be the ideal name but it’s one that I’m just about happy enough with for now, so long as it refers to ground-up approaches, working with people and places not doing things at them. Easier said than done of course and you have to keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to please everyone. It is important to take the time to understand and appreciate a place, something I believe Professor Paul Haywood of Associate Dean for Academic Development at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design refers to as ‘Place-recognising’.”
PD: “How is that incorporated into your work?”
MS: “Researching, talking, waiting and not doing something just because you can, or just because you’ve had the funding. Sometimes doing nothing is the right thing to do.”
PD: “What is your take on tagging?”
MS: “I’m still working it out! All I would say is that I see a passion that is sometimes lacking in the white-walled art world.”
PD: “How have you reached out to graffiti artists in your work?”
MS: I’ve been introduced to this culture after a couple of experienced graffiti artists approached me about working together in Pottery Street Subway, the Network Rail-owned underpass that takes you from High Street railway station to the Strand. I owe a lot to them in bringing to my attention what was already there—my role was to help champion it and bring it to a wider audience. ”
Tunnel Vision Jam and ‘The Wallich’
PD: “You’ve been involved in improving green space around The Wallich can you tell us about this?”
MS: “Yes it came out of links made during the development of the Tunnel Vision Jam project. The staff at Dinas Fechan hostel were communicative and welcoming in our efforts at improving the subway and an informal collaboration with the organisation happened organically. We had a few sessions with some wonderful volunteers including hostel residents to tidy-up an area of land that joins the Strand to New Cut Road before the project took a break due to staffing, holidays and other commitments such as Troublemakers Festival. The work will continue later in the summer, looking towards the creation of some form of community garden space to act as an interface between the public and the Dinas Fechan project.”
PD: “What one thing would you do to change the world?”
MS: “Remove the people form it! If that’s not an option then something to rid us of seeing things as extremes or polar opposites; the world is a much better place seen as a series of spectrums.”
Buy tickets for ‘Wall Writers’ at Cinema & Co here.
You may also like Swansea’s High Street’s ‘Tunnel’ to get Jam Hot!
Troublemaker’s Festival – 13th -16th July #trouble2017
“Changing the world, starting with the High Steet”
The festival reimagines the stretch of street between the station and Castle Square as a pedestrian-friendly place where arts and culture aren’t something special but are part of everyday life. It opens up buildings that people perhaps don’t normally see and uses spaces that perhaps people don’t normally notice. The Troublemakers Festival is for everyone who uses Swansea High Street and cares about it’s future. The festival is for people who live on High Street, work on High Street, shop on the High Street, socialize on High Street, pass through High Street. It’s for young people and old people. It’s for Art lovers and show-goers and pizza fans and it’s for people who’ve never been to a gallery or theatre in their lives.
Come along as together a manifesto is created for the hIgh Street. Lose at the Unfair Funfair, Levitate The Palace Theatre, have a Tea Party, join a march, recreate extraordinary speeches from history, watch films, make placards and eat pizza. Be inspired, entertained and provoked. A chance to be at the heart of the change taking place from the station down to the sea. Everyone is welcome!
Please note some events are bookable. Follow event links within programmes (see below for further detailed information) to book these events in advance. Please note: The road will be closed from The Grand Hotel down to Argos on Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm will be closed
Please also note: The road will be made pedestrian friendly and will be closed from The Grand Hotel down to Argos on Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Festival partners include The Last Resort, Sew Swansea, GaleriesSimpson, TechHub, Urban Village, Cinema & Co, Oxfam, Castle Square, Elysium Studios and Gallery, UWTSD, PEG Talks, The Environment Centre, The Women’s Institute, Hyst…
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