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Fill Me In: The Art Collective Shaking Bristol’s Underground

 

It’s not surprising to find exciting creative projects in Bristol. Street art is one of the city’s finest exports alongside a globally influential music scene, so it takes something pretty momentous to get a buzz going here. Enter Fill Me In, a growing collective of artists sending shockwaves through Bristol’s creative sphere.

Currently operating from the Peoples’ Republic of Stokes Croft building (PRSC), Fill Me In transform disused spaces and facilitate collaborative projects to promote creativity and community engagement through art. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.

“Fill Me In is a very broad thing,” says founder Nathan Newitt. “It’s a blank slate. Anything creative, if [people] come to us with a project, we’ll sit down and think about if it’s something within our remit to do and do well… Then we’ll give it a go.”

This approach has taken them from charity fundraisers to art exhibitions, from music events to the construction of a 9ft-long, graffiti-speckled Air Jordan 1 for the Cuts & Creps sneaker convention at renown Bristol venue Lakota. Now officially sponsored by Molotow, they’ve become a teeming network overflowing with ideas, a hyped-up feedback loop of creativity that’s grown through word of mouth alone.

Their fervour to collaborate and reuse derelict space has allowed Nathan and co-owner Ed Hansen to flourish and create opportunity during a time when many others have struggled. Their new video series, for example, sees musicians, vocalists, street artists, illustrators and videographers making art (therefore, work) where it otherwise wouldn’t be.

For each video, the series pairs a musician with a street artist. They work together on an original artwork inspired by the music ­– “art inspiring art”, smiles Nathan – filmed, time-lapsed and superimposed to form a co-created and unique audio-visual experience. Limited run merchandise and prints will accompany each video, with the proceeds split between the street artist, musician and crew behind the scenes. Nathan says, “it’s that extra bit of support for them which they wouldn’t necessarily have in their line of work at the moment.”

The series’ debut features D&B royalty Charli Brix and graffiti heavy hitter HazardOne and was filmed in a vacated retail space at the Galleries shopping centre. HazardOne says, “it’s great to work alongside like-minded creatives, but also with people who get Bristol and the music scene and why there is such an integral link between the music, street art and graffiti scenes…when it comes to collaborating like this, it’s exciting and inspiring to watch everyone do their thing.”

“Initiatives like Fill Me In bring people together through networking and shared interests, offering support, space and resources,” adds Charli Brix. “More than anything, collaborative projects can help to foster a greater sense of community.”

Community spirit lies firmly at the centre of Fill Me In’s philosophy, and they actively share their skills for good causes (Trees For Cities, Women’s Aid). In June, the crew will be looking to rehome HazardOne’s portrait of Bristol icon Jeff Knight in Stokes Croft and raise money for the PRSC. Later this year, they’ll be joining One Love DJ Derek which will see world famous Inkie, HazardOne, Kosc and Zed In The Clouds create the new memorial mural paying tribute to one of the city’s biggest DJ legends. (You can donate to this amazing project here.)

With all these initiatives and projects, Fill Me In have worked hard to prove that COVID need not be a barrier for community. Even so, times have been tough for artists. The threat of retraining has fuelled the narrative of art becoming ‘unviable’.

“It was a motivator,” flashes Nathan. “Who do they think they are telling us we’re not viable? The irony of the situation is, with all these vacant units popping up, and all these places that are [examples of] big business going under, and us going in there and actually being able to generate profit for creatives… It just proves them wrong.”

He continues, “It’s really important to keep this stuff going, because it is viable. I can’t imagine walking around Bristol and seeing just dead fucking buildings that don’t have anything drawn on [them]…it’s why half the people come to Bristol from other countries, just to view the art and experience the culture…if that dies out over the generations, it would just be the worst thing in the world. It’s really important that we can, through this platform, promote this idea of creativity and keep things going, and maybe help evolve it.”

There are whispers of a large-scale, permanent home for Fill Me In, complete with skatepark and affordable artist studios. Even before this milestone is reached, their doors are open to anyone who wants to get involved, with a forthcoming video and livestream project already taking shape with Bristol-based DJs.

By providing space and resources, Fill Me In give access to those who might not realise their artistic potential otherwise. In 2020, they sold student artwork at an exhibition at the PRSC. Students seeing their art being sold can make the difference when deciding whether to pursue creative careers, says Nathan. “It really starts to make them think a bit more seriously about that creative side of life and where they can go with it.”

To keep up to date with Fill Me In, follow them: FacebookInstagram / YouTube