UNFRAMED, Ashford’s first Mural Festival comes to and end but art trail to stay in situ
UNFRAMED, Ashford’s first mural festival officially came to an end on Sunday 16 April. The eighteen-stop, contemporary street art trail, curated by Accent London & The London Mural Company, saw the transformation of blank walls and building surfaces into high quality mural paintings and bespoke integrated artwork.
The festival was Ashford Borough Council’s fourth and final seasonal event commissioned as part of the adopted Ashford Festival and Event Framework. A strategic priority of which was to animate the town centre and support wayfinding.
Work began on the murals at the beginning of March, with artists including Mr Doodle, Alex Chinneck, Charley Peters, Curtis Hylton and local artist Danielle Williamson all taking on the challenge of converting blank walls into spaces of colour and creativity.
After several weeks of work bringing the murals to life, the festival was officially launched at Coachworks, on Friday 31 March. The event was opened by Arts and Cultural Industries Manager at Ashford Borough Council, Chris Dixon, and followed by a Q&A with the curators and several of the artists.
For the following two weeks the town centre became a hub of activity with visitors from far and wide coming to Ashford to explore the mural trail. The artworks were in close proximity of each other, so residents and visitors could wander around the town centre immersing themselves in the street art whilst learning more about each piece and the wider festival. Trail maps were available to pick up from businesses around the town centre or could be downloaded straight onto a phone. Alternatively there were QR codes next to each artwork which could be scanned to learn more about each piece.
For those wanting to learn about the artworks in greater detail, five guided tours also took place, meandering through the town centre and showcasing all eighteen stops on the trail.
As well as the art trail, the festival’s fringe events brought a huge amount of family-friendly fun to the town centre with the team from Made in Ashford holding a variety of craft workshops through the school holidays including making mini mural worlds and ‘zines.
Local artist Aimee Grace performed a live paint at The Craftship, Folkestone-based artist Asher Maze brought his unique artwork to Ashford, providing thought-provoking signage and Ashford’s Picturehouse curated a specialist art-themed film programme.
The brilliant dancers from Michaela Cisarik Dance Company also came to the town centre and performed their exciting immersive dance experience “Fish Out of Water” – really rounding off the festival atmosphere.
Although the festival has come to an end, all eighteen of the murals are to remain in place. Of course, some of the murals, especially those on temporary hoardings, might disappear in time as new businesses open, but for now the art trail will be able to continue for the foreseeable future. This has been made possible because of the enduring support of the landlords, businesses and organisations who have enabled all of these artworks to be put in situ.
The project has been supported by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities with a budget of £25,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).