BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites

Contact Us

Places features

You are in: Gloucestershire > Places > Places features > Graffiti? Or is it Art?

Photo of graffiti'd man drawn behind bars

Graffiti? Or is it Art?

Watch out, there are spray painters about the streets of Stroud - but is it art or vandalism? Have your say.

Stroud has been witnessing a new outbreak of graffiti on its streets.

Photo of woman's face drawn in graffiti

But this time it's a bit different from the crude daubs and swear words usually favoured by vandals.

Blank walls in the Cotswold town are proving a popular canvas for 'guerilla graffiti' of the kind made famous by cult street artist Banksy.

Some of the Stroud graffiti displays particularly witty use of the surroundings on which it's painted, including a 'prisoner' behind bars and a carousel of stencilled fairground horses that add interest to an unsightly concrete roundabout-cum-planter on the forecourt of Stroud Railway Station. 

The make-believe merry-go-round so impressed judges in the 2006 Stroud Awards run by the town council that the artist - known only as Knight - was awarded the design award for good design that enhances the townscape. 


They praised the 'imaginative and witty transformation' - but as deputy town clerk Rachel Managhan explained: "It's the nature of such artists that they like to remain anonymous, and sadly Knight, whoever he or she is, has never come forward to claim their award - but Knight’s name has been engraved on the trophy shield for posterity."

Rik Brookes commissioned mural outside Milano's

Rik Brookes' mural outside Milano's

So with the district council spending up to £10,000 a year to clean up the worst of the town's spray paint scrawls and obscenities, is it time for a more creative approach to tackling the issue?

Colin Peake, the council's anti-social behaviour co-ordinator, thinks a better solution is to turn the vandals into better artists - and provide approved areas round the town where they can showcase their talents, including underpasses, car parks and walls that might otherwise prove a target for the 'spray and run'

The Wall2Wall project would see 11 to 18-year-olds receiving tuition from artists like Rik Brookes, who has just completed a commission on the wall of Milano's cafe-bar in Russell Street.

"Graffiti can be divided into the good, the bad and the downright ugly," says Mr Peake. "Of course art is subjective but it is a fact that the better graffiti that is creative and a real labour of love is left alone and not defaced by others.

Photo of carousel graffiti'd onto large plant pot

"Encouraging more of the kind of work that is self-regulated like this would appear a better solution than clean-up campaigns that only see the blank walls defaced again." 

Mr Peake hopes local businesses will assist the Wall2Wall project with sponsorship and is appealing for offers of suitable workshop premises as a permanent base.  He can be contacted at

So, a form of art and creative expression, or plain vandalism? See more examples of graffiti in Stroud by clicking on the following link:

And tell us what YOU think of it. Here are some of the comments from visitors to the BBC Gloucestershire roadshow in Stroud ...

Jacqueline Peacey, Stroud
Graffiti should be controlled so walls of banks etc are not spoiled. I like some of the portraits on walls.

Steph Franklin, Nailsworth
I think it's lovely and a good way for people to express themselves.

Abi Foster, Rodborough
I think it's very clever and brightens up the streets. It's nice to look at as you walk around.

Malcolm Sanders, Stroud
It's OK but I would like to see a designated area for 'artwork' rather than defacing buildings in the centre.

Helen Michael, Stroud
I love the graffiti. It's art and it's people reclaiming the streets and owning them. It has to be good art though!

There have been a number of other comments left on this page. Read them below and leave your own message at the very bottom of this page.

martin bloon
i fink best grafiti is da stuff in da bridge by da travis perkins. the grafiti by DUBZ. His tags are safe. And mudwig rolls wit him.

barry king
Art is not a crime, so if good graffiti is classed as art is it not therefore a good thing?

Adam Sell
I was born in Stroud in 1966, now I live in Colorado USA. I think some of this art is outstanding. Maybe you could have certain places throughout the town where artists could be free to express themselves. Stroud is the most beautiful town in the world. Good Luck

Mark Rogers
I object to yoofs scrawling their 'tags' all over the place in spray paint, but am very happy to see the art work around Stroud, even though it's still graffiti - and I'm a middle age non-artist! As long as it is interesting , adds rather than subtracts from the item it's done on, and is not doing any damage then I'm happy for it to be there without permission.

Lord Voldemort
Some of this stuff is very interesting, it pleases the dark lord.

Becci Brooks
Some of the pictures clearly are graffiti, but the pictures signed by Knight are art, amazin pictures would like to see more of them.

Matty Thom
I think that grafitti is NOT a crime, i think of it more as an art.

Stroud has a very active creative community which is a big part of what makes the town unique. Much of this graffiti is excellent quality and adds to the town's personality. There is a level of thoughtfulness, care and wit in the work of knight and infinity which is sadly lacking in the design and appearance of the Merrywalks Centre, the multistorey car park.

As long as it isn't obscene & offensive then as far as im concerned its some amaznig works of art. banksy is a quality artist & he is inspiring many talented people around to show their work off. you always get people who complain...just look away!

Yes I certainly believe it is an art and we should respect the artists by giving them an exhibition space in all cities

lauren adkin
graphitey can be art but they shoud have permisio to spray paint there

When done properly graffiti can look amazing.half of those pictures are obviously done by very talented people and should be allowed to express this.yet the random words and scribbles just look a mess!with graffiti being as popular as it is, maybe there should be special designated placed with blank walls allowing the more talented people to do their work and be allowed to display it proudly.that way they wouldn't have to paint on the side of someones house illegally.graffiti is a form of art!there are art exhibitions so let the graffiti artists show off their work too

Shaun Moore
Graffiti can be more extreme than this I have seen worse!

I am disgusted by all the graffiti that I see around Stroud. There is much worse out there than what's been pictured here. I'd just love to catch someone doing it and ask them how'd they like it if I came and spray painted their house or their bedroom with what ever I deemed to be art? Sure I find some of it amusing and even beautiful, some of it is thought provoking and some of it even brings a smile to my face. But the owner of that wall might not think it's so amusing or beautiful. I sure wouldn't want someone painting the walls of my house or business without my permission. If they were responsible they'd get permission first.So...bottom line? They are breaking the law and defacing public and private property. This makes them criminals.

Duke Theedam
some of those are really nice..the rest are just graffiti rubbish...I think there is a world of difference between the two...

Alison Selby
Some of it is art, the rest is just vandalism.

last updated: 15/04/2008 at 09:26
created: 17/04/2007

Have Your Say

Is turning the streets into exhibition space a good way to display artistic talent...or is it simply vandalism?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Graffitti is amazing where ever it is artist should be aloud to express them selfs and there should be desagnated areas to do it.It really is amazing art work

If a wall's a canvas why leave it blank?

Luke Kendalas
well i think its young artist way of rebelling, also i believe it is clearly art but classed as vandalism because of the place it is created

Graffiti is a free and imaginative way to express yourself or jus do it to stay away from bad habbits. Graffiti is not a crime, its a talent not everyone has.-[ro5ko]-

Pointless Tags do get on my nerves as most of them are poinless and thoughtless as anyone can spray a squiggle. But some of the artwork shown in your feature is fantastic. I like the ones by Knight, he/she has some real tallent and I like looking at it. I love the bight, well painted, thought out bits of artwork. But only if they are not causing people issues if its on a walkway wall or under a bridge, it is doing no harm. I love the tape picture as well.

Sam Rathvon
The only crime would be the impeding of the expression art. I guarantee if you caught one of the ARTISTS, and told them that you were going to paint all over their bedroom or walls they would gladly agree. It’s probably covered in paint already.

i hate cowboysgraffiti is my lifemy one true reason for leaving the reservation

Hector Caton
Even the darkest and dimmest, poverty ridden towns can be brought to life with street art. the art in stroud is beautiful, and people should accept it. "a wall is the best place for art" - banksy.

rúnar leó, iceland
i love graffiti it is the coolest form of art in the world. i don't want no ear chopping maniac telling me what is art and what isn'tpeace

graffiti is denfinatly brightens up the street, think about it at the bus stop there is always something to look at.its hard to do and the people who have cracked it dont get enough credit for it.graffiti is the highest type of art as you dont have to pay to see it and it can be done anywhere and take seconds to weeks.

i think if the graffiti is good then its art but if its bad its crime

Bradley DM
Re:Comment by Mik in the US,I think Mik illustrated another point concerning associated problems with graffiti; that being, violence and/or criminality. Mik is quite right when he points out that gangs use graffiti as a form of communication. If you are unfortunate enough not to understand "the writing on the wall" (or pictures on the wall)it may be your last mistake.The violence on the streets of Nuevo Laredo ,Mexico and San Antonio, Texas or New York, Toronto,Los Angeles, Chicago,Beirut, Belfast, Birmingham (UK and Alabama) have all been aided by this lately applauded form of "free expression" otherwise known as graffiti. Perhaps you do not wish to believe that graffiti can lead to such violence and bloodshed. If so,you think that way because you have been lucky to live a very sheltered life.Perhaps you've never been shot at by gangs of "street artists" who were "simply expressing themselves". Well, this "airy-fairy, arty-farty, poncing pratller of a polysylabic, art snob" has and it ain't no fun!

?? ??
graffiti isnt vandalism unless you do it on some ones property there is a lot of fresh talent out there who want to get out there and show there talent to the world theres no were they can do it apart from run down buildings under tunnels on boards so if they had some were legal to do it ..........................................

I think Graffiti is art and i dont understand why people moan about it claiming its 'vandalism' i think it brightens up the streets, However i do think people shouldnt write offensive words but the pictures above are brilliant.

Graffiti is the intentional leaving of a mark on a surface. The subcultures under this heading are therefore incredibley far reaching; tagging, dubbing, paste-ups, stencilling, even scratching into surfaces could be classed. Fact is people whinge about graf artists vandalising public property, creating eye sores etc, though fail to see the irony of constant visual bombardment of adverts on billboards and buildings for companies with questionable moral basis. Graffiti as an art medium appears to be socially acceptable when its from a name that is well known and is selling for thousands. Do people not realise that every art has to practiced to develop. Graffiti artists practice on canvases in the public arena. If its not privately owned, I don't see the problem.I've been practising graf since I was a teen, legally and illegally. I now hold down a highly paid healthcare job. I feel an increase in legal spots for graffiti would be far more beneficial to youth than MPs devising more ways to police what is essentially the fastest growing and most exciting art medium today.

maria emms cardiff/wotton-under-edge
I read the point about tags and the police. I understand the comment but most tags still dont look that impressive and you can get your point across with good graffiti that appeals to all.

What are you people talking about!? Graffiti is an amazing form of art, it takes skill to write and draw. I dont beface buildings I use paper for my art but really graffiti is a STATEMENT! Look at a skate park without graffiti its just ugly! So everyone out there stop hating on taggers and acually look at it and really think what it says and what it might represent, in small amounts graffiti is beautiful. But cities need to recognize this new prospering form of art and do more to make areas for taggers(aka Artists)to make there art more visual to the public and to help taggers explore their talent.

Graffiti Rocks!! Artist are already rejected enough in society why not let them have a wall to express themselves

graffiti is a way yo lighten up a old cold ugly wall with a colorful image from the public's mind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In my opinion it is not vandalism if it is done well, unless if the graffiti is on some window or something like that. Some of em are really astonishing, I'd like to learn to make nice ones.

Lord Sauron
The Great Eye watches down on this artwork, and is pleased. Very pleased.

graffiti should b incoraged its amasing alowed some graffiti is amasing so basicaly bid up graffiti

graffiti has always been a misunderstood artform.if councils and authorites tok a an interest and provided areas for "writers" to express themselves there wuold be less illegal vandalism.go to a few websites and learn what real graffiti is,real graffiti is colourful,inspriring,well designed and a joy to look at.

Graffiti is art, the random writing is just doodles and cannot be called art. The term Graffiti shouldn't bring connotations of wreckless behaviour, as it is pure visual genius. Those who do vandalise are not graffiti artists they're vandalisers!(different leagues). I love graffiti and i love seeing it done well like the pictures display.

I'm off to Stroud to look at this graffiti & while I'm there I'm going to spend a fair wad of dosh at some independent outlets. Well done Knight for boosting local business. Please liven up Gloucester too.

Bradley DM clearly likes to see himself as a bit of a smartypants yet he cannot spell lose. I would like to tag him for being a complete plonker. Well worth reading his stupid post though, it's hilarious!

Cornelius Smith
Blinkin flip that Bradley DM bloke dont half go on some. Well how about he goes to some poncy gallery where the airy-fairy artyfarty brigade prattle on in their polysyllabic way about their elitist stuff. The rest of us mortals can admire the witty art of Banksy, Knight et al in a much more public arena.

Crime Victim
Some buffoon put his tag on my wall. When I catch up with him I will leave my indelible mark on his face. The title of my work will be "size 11 bootprint". I will then sell his face on a famous internet auction site if this is legal.

Flog the flippin' lot of 'em. Hoodies make me soooooooo sick. Guy's post is moronic and shows a chavvie attitude. "The best spots" matie, are probably those erupting from your adolescent chin. How idiotic to try and class vandalism as art. PUH!!

I like the reclamation of dull, ugly places, with uplifting or thought-provoking graffiti. Good work Knight, I'll make a trip to Stroud as a graffiti tourist (where are the best spots?) Thank you Knight and Banksy

graffiti is good an should be encouradge

Hugh Farrow
Am am doing alot of research about graffiti at the moment, i am making a documentary on it for a project at college. i feel that some graffiti can be classed as street art, considering the time and effort put into the pieces, this does constatute art. however, some of the smaller 'Tags' that are all around is just vandalism. its a difficult argument 'street art or vandalism' becuase it entirely depends on the circomstances.some of the Graffiti in Stroud is beautiful and i feel that some people need to lighten up and embrace the art surrounding them. Granted, it is still illegal, however, just becuase someone doesnt understand Graffiti, or the culture, doesnt make it 'Discusting'

Jack C
fairplay to that Knight guy. i live near stroud and go there all the time. i love the ART that Knight does and would like to see really adds character to the town. :-)

mik in the U>S
you guys should just be happy that all you have to clean up is the spray paint instead of someones brains becuaese they choose the wrong wall to do thier piece on. gangs usually put up that piece of **** (expletive) graffiti to claim thier set. they'll shoot at people just for trying to put art over it. graffiti artists are talented, people that just do it to deface property suck, we all know the difference. and Bradley D. Mccreay is just an art snob if he doesnt like the art of graffiti. a nice piece on a public wall thats not supposed to be there makes a statement. with so many rules and government telling you what to do at every turns it says "hey you can try to control every aspect of my life but you cant control my artwork, now look at it" . most of the well done pieces have vibrant colours in them like neon blue, sun yellow...etc. it directly conflics with the drab surrounds of concrete skyscrapers, brick buildings and black tar roads which would be graffiti to nature.

yeh its artit creates an emotional responseits art

graffiti is art well at least the proper pieces are. i hate the fact that we are accused of being anti- social punks. i am sick of the police and government screwing everything up for everone and puutting the blame on the youths.

we shud keep the graffi, some show interesting messages about our world, such as that of banksy. shud we get rid of the only interesting part of outr streets which will make a dull and boring world afterall?

i just wont to state that with out those tags u wouldent have the so called art so either scrap it all or let it be build a free wall whriters just wont fame and u wont the art so let them parctis that all we wont

viv beech

i belive that 'throw ups','Pieces' and 'Stencils ' are a great way to show off an artists ( yes some of us are artists) skills with a can or paint brush. it's tagging that makes people resent graffiti. kids who just spray paint a name on a wall makes the town look bad , but in the right area and by the right people then the art can improve the look of a buliding for instance the side of the cafe by the post office in stroud was done by three great guys who knew what they were doing. If the council allowed kids an area where they could express them selfs (away from people who don't appprove ) then i think it would cut down the amount of mindless rubbish which is beeing thrown up everywhere. if kids and adults knew a place where they could go they would stop sparying the underneath of bridges and on public property. overall i say it's just something thats going to always least let us do it in our own enviroment.sam ( graff artist in stroud )

Bradley DM
Re:SLAM.Your response is welcomed. Though, I'm must say I don't think I'm blind to creativity. The problem with graffiti,in my opinion,is the executioners apparent lack of respect towards his/her audience. To express oneself is healthy to a point.If you wish to share an expression (be it a personal belief, religious,political etc..) you are hoping to attract an audience by which to share that expression. If you aggressivley force that expression/thought/creation upon an audience, surely,you are at risk of loosing the attention and/or potential support of that intended audience.In other words, if you knock down my front door and enter my home or sit behind me on the bus and scream that "expression" into my ear you'd loose me.I'd be angry and uncooperative. That's what graffiti does to many of us when it is forced upon us.As far as being the only form of "true" and "free speech"...well, what are we freely doing at this moment? Regarding the quantity of my works sold,perhaps I've sold more originals,though for much less,than Emin etc. I wonder if that's because I avoid including the added value of ego into my work...well perhaps a bit. Kind regards, Bradley DM

re: Bradley D McCrearyWell i have a Ba(hons) Graphic Art, HND in Illustarion,Btec in Art, I worked for the last 7 years as a graphic designer/web designer.I very suprised that an educated man would be so blind to creativity. Lets look at primitive art, lets look at dada and anti art, which plays a very important aspect to most brit artist ie tracy emin, damien hirst, are you with all you degrees someone that has sold more work than hirst himself.i have lectures from guest speaker, one from david carson, worldwide renowned graphic artist who is pro graffiti, show us a slide with a road sign with a tag on it and enjoy the dyamnism it created. graffiti doesnt have to beautifull or "colored in" to make it good. Just like art doesnt have to be a oil painting to make it "good"Graffiti is and will be the only true expression of free speech. nowhere can you say something without be censored or checked first..

so basicallly you are all sayingthe good graffiti artists cana do it but not the rubbish ones?

hiya its looking good can u do me a danni plz

yeah im an x graffer got busted blah blah but the point is graffiti has been around for hundreds of years weather it be scratches in the wall or a massive wildstyle stretching acros 3 train cars is there where more legal walls sure ur not going to stop people tagging alleys and subways but it would sure cut it down to the walls

I think it is awsome how they are showing there expression throw art on the streets@

Yo grafitti is art, people say its vandalism, give them a can of spray paint and 80% of the time they'd use it.. you cant stop the youth.

graffiti is cool wen ur its used as art that isnt bad in my opinion but just tagging places by a few letters isnt rite but this is art

Bradley D McCreary
I've lived and traveled throughout much of the world. I earned (and I paid for) an Associate of Arts Degree(stuido arts) , Bachelor of Arts Painting and Art History) , Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting and Art History) and Master of Fine Arts Degree ( Painting and Design). I'm well acquainted with many movements and philosophies past and present in the world of art. I can appreciate "Fine" and "High" Art. I empathize with Art Povera, Abject Art,Neo-Expressionism,Post Humanism etc, etc.However, I despise the desecration of our urban,rural , private and public spaces by the hand of the self- promoting,low skilled,oversized doodling of the so called "Tagger." They display no respect for personal or public property by their defacement.I am horrified by the attention these law breakers are given.I say,charge them withthe crime of public vandalism. Require them to clean the streets and walls of our cities, towns, villages, and public toilets. There are appropriate venues to display their "work".With the advent of technology their "art" may be observed by more people in more places than ever before. Meanwhile, we must not encourage their continued defacement of our public spaces. They are simply lowering the aesthetic and social tones of our nation. If they wish to live in a filthy and paint in one...preferably, in some other country. Not mine!

DaMaGe is more then just "graffiti" \ / |||

maria emms, wotton-under-edge/cardiff
I hate tags, they are all over cardiff and look rubish. There are some areas though where artists make amazing pieces and everyone can apprieciate it. I think more people should be recognised for their skills these days.

summer 2007, trust me!!!

charlotte hawkins london
i dont think graffiti is vandalism its art at the moment in school my work is graffiti and how it is used. l m a big fan of banksy and think work is great. we should be able to express our selfs as people in are own way

graffiti isnt vandalism its a tallent i fink that graffiti makes the place look better and brighter if it is done properly but if they was more things to do then people wouldnt be whining about art

danni mooney
Most of the graffiti aroud stroud is lush and really brightens up the streets but i dont see the point in random words and stuff there is no point in that!! -x- LuFfYhOo -x-

kieran chapman
i like to look at graffiti and peoples style they are all unique

DaMaGe (the real one)
the only reason i started doing the DaMaGe tag was to show up the police, they do nothing to help anyone in stroud and i think it is sad that some one like me or disco could get away with it so close to them. i know you don't like the DaMaGe tag but it is a sign that the lew is crap and what i do is nothing compared to what the lew do's to us. take those people who where in the high street, the people who where having a peaceful stall and got attacked by the police. before you start hating us for the 'tags' we do, think why we do them and how the police my be doing nothing to stop us if we are still doing them.signed DaMaGe.

You are in: Gloucestershire > Places > Places features > Graffiti? Or is it Art?

sunny Today's forecast
min 9°C
max 16°C
For other UK weather forecasts enter a town or postcode
National Forecast

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy