Trans street artist named as headline act for Bristol's Upfest

Mister Samo's work can be seen across the globe, including a piece for World Pride 2019 in New York for Stonewall. Credit: Upfest

Bristol street art festival Upfest has announced the headline artist for the 17-day event will be trans painter Mister Samo.

The artist will spray messages of love across Bedminster this May, according to festival organisers.

The event is taking place between Friday 17 May and Sunday 2 June 2024 and will see 75 murals brighten up walls across Southville, as well as workshops, artists panels, comedy, theatre and street art tours.

Organisers are crowdfunding to pay for this year's event, with a target of £10,000 set. A rewards system has been created for those donating, and those behind the event say a £5 donation will pay for a lunch for one volunteer, while £10 could provide an artist with three cans of spray paint.

Speaking after being named the headline artist, Mister Samo said: “I am so honoured! It’s a real powerful statement for the team to put a trans artist at the forefront of the event during these times. They are showing their allyship with the community and in itself bringing change and inclusion.

Mister Samo said it is a "real powerful statement" to be chosen to headline the festival, as a trans artist. Credit: Upfest.

"I really hope this sheds a positive and powerful light on the community, and the joy and love there is to be celebrated - and you can easily support by picking up one of my Upfest t-shirts on the crowdfunder.”

Mister Samo uses spray paint and acrylics to create pieces that focus on intersectional gender identity and community, and has been painting since 2013.

His work can also be seen across the globe, and the artist created a piece in New York for Stonewall to mark World Pride 2019.

Steve Hayles, founder of Upfest, said: “We fundamentally believe in the power of art to transcend boundaries and challenge perceptions. Having Mister Samo join as the headline artist for 2024 not only celebrates diversity, but amplifies the voices and stories of the community. It’s a true testament to one of our core beliefs: that inclusivity is at the heart of our organisation."

Mister Samo will spreading 'messages of love' across south Bristol during the event, organisers say. Credit: Upfest

This is the first time Upfest is being set across three weekends after it was cancelled last year due to rising costs, and ran across just one weekend in 2022.

"We can’t wait for the city to get stuck in, and as always, big thanks to Arts Council England for giving us an opportunity to create opportunities for artists and visitors to be immersed in culture and creativity," Steve added.

"It is a huge, community effort to bring this event to the city, so if anyone can support the crowdfunder, please do. There’s some fantastic rewards up for grabs, including some mystery prints from some stellar street artists, so check them out on the website and let’s make Upfest2024 happen.”