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North-east street art festival set to return

By Kyle Ritchie

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Nuart Aberdeen, the globally acclaimed street art festival, will make its long-awaited return to the north-east next month.

Postponed in April 2020 because of the global pandemic, the flagship festival has announced that it would make its return to Aberdeen’s city centre beginning in June 2021, as a Covid secure series of individual street art productions which will take shape on the city’s walls over the summer.

It is hoped the outdoor festival will help to attract both locals and visitors to the area as it recovers from lockdown.

Street art festival Nuart Aberdeen is set to return to the north-east.
Street art festival Nuart Aberdeen is set to return to the north-east.

Nuart Aberdeen 2021 will run throughout June and July with artists producing work supported by a local production team during the extended festival period.

The first artist to be announced as part of the line-up is Helen Bur, whose dual mural disappeared as part of the demolition of Greyfriars House on Aberdeen’s Gallowgate in late 2020.

Her return to the city will see her explore the festival’s theme of “Memory and the City” as she takes on a prominent city centre wall.

Wielding brush, roller and masonry paint to create larger-than-life works on walls, Bur’s work can be found across the world including in Germany, Spain, Norway and India.

Bur is one of several UK-based artists who will come to the city over a six-week period to create works that explore the festival theme.

Unlike previous years, when all the street art is created within a week, the production period has been extended and the artists’ time in the city will be staggered.

Running the production period over several weeks ensures that the event can return safely and be Covid secure, with plans in place to work with a streamlined team of local producers, partners and volunteers to facilitate the production.

Aberdeen Inspired, the festival organiser, has set out plans for the event which it stresses will ensure the safety of artists, the production team, volunteers, and the public.

Elements which would attract large scale gatherings, like the guided tours and public launch will not take place, at this stage, to keep the public safe.

Instead, the emphasis will be on providing resources and information to allow members of the public to conduct their own self-guided tours which can be enjoyed at a time which suits the individual or group, in accordance with the latest Covid-19 restrictions and regulations.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Nuart Aberdeen has had a transformative impact on Aberdeen firmly placing the city as a must visit destination for street art lovers from across the globe.

"The festival holds a special place in the hearts and minds of locals and visitors alike and we are excited to see it return to our city now that it is safe to do so.

“With the country now reopening, it’s important that we do everything we can to encourage people to come back and enjoy all that the city centre has to offer, safely.

"There is no better festival to mark the return to some form of normality than Nuart Aberdeen. Taking place outdoors the festival will give people the freedom to both watch as the new works of art are created and explore when they are completed.

“Aberdeen Inspired has worked hard to support the city and its businesses over the period of the pandemic. The city has been challenged and the return of Nuart Aberdeen will provide a welcome boost to the local economy, help support local jobs and the creative community.

"We urge all businesses to support it and help make this summer long festival of street art a huge success.”

Nuart Aberdeen is curated and produced by the Stavanger-based arts organisation Nuart, spearheaded by curator and director Martyn Reed, one of the worlds most respected and critically acknowledged authorities on the culture.

The Stavanger festival, now in its 20th year, is one of the world's leading celebrations of street art and has had a transformative effect on the city, its walls, neighbourhoods, and local communities.

Although Aberdeen is in its infancy by comparison to Stavanger, the impact of Nuart Aberdeen has been equally significant. In just four years hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed the art and all the city has to offer and the festival has won both national and international acclaim and awards.

Mr Reed said: “We’re incredibly happy to announce we’ll be back on the streets of Aberdeen this summer with a series of projects we hope can give us all a lift by re-connecting us with those spaces and places that have become a part of us.

“Those crown-like corona protrusions that are the perpetrators of this whole ordeal have proved uncannily versatile and stubborn, but I like to think we’re more than a match for it in both senses.

"However uncertain things may be, with vaccination campaigns well under way there seems to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully Nuart can contribute to getting us a little closer to it.

“Until we get there, we can take some solace in the knowledge that it’s been street artists the world over who have been at the forefront of keeping art in the public domain.

"As they keep finding novel ways to engage an audience and express themselves by embellishing the cities we inhabit, so we remain committed to tracking them down and bringing them to you.

"We’re looking forward to reconnecting with all those that have made Nuart Aberdeen possible and can’t wait to get started.”

As a key partner the support of Aberdeen City Council has been key to the festival’s success, with the local authority backing the relatively unknown concept of street art in the city.

As well as world class street art adorning the city’s walls an integral part of the experience is the inspiration Nuart provides for everyone to be part of the story of the city.

Previous festivals have witnessed children creating mosaic murals and senior citizens picking up spray cans and it is hoped that there will be opportunities for the public to safely create part of the story during this year’s event.

Nuart Aberdeen began in 2017 and is committed to promoting free public art as part of people’s everyday lives, bringing art and artists out of studios, basements, and institutions and onto the city streets.

Further announcements on artists, walls and opportunities for public engagement will be made in the coming weeks.

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