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Home to two street art festivals; UpFest (25th-27th May) and See No Evil (15th-18th August), Bristol has seen a boom in popularity and media coverage of the graffiti scene within its mainstream consciousness. For two weekends every year the area is overrun with artists from all cultures and backgrounds, where the bricks and mortar of the city itself become the canvas. Areas are transformed from lifeless grey slabs of urban decay to living, breathing open-air galleries awash with colour, drawing thousands of visitors from across the nation.
Located on the doorstep of the See No Evil event in the Nelson Street area of the city is the Rock N Bowl. Housed in a grandiose 1930s Art Deco building, the hostel has latched on to the growing street art and graffiti scene that has taken the city by storm. Drawing inspiration from the art that envelops them, the hostel has harmonised with its surroundings, its inside walls adorned with the colours of the street.
“The idea of the hostel is to bring the street art inside,” says manager Matt Birss. By offering accommodation for the artists taking part in the festivals in exchange for a mural, Rock N Bowl has begun to amass a wide selection of original street art. Over fifty artists stopped at the hostel during both UpFest and See No Evil with painters such as Jakob Belbin, Irony, Artista, LostMonkey and the French artist Duez all contributing work while they were participating.
The result is an electric and bohemian vibe in-keeping with the intrinsic essence of Bristol’s world identity. A marriage of music, art and travelling cultures, Matt describes the hostel as “very relaxed, chilled during the day and party central at night.” Its location above a music venue/bar-come-bowling alley again adds to this feel. The sound of music wafting up to the communal guest areas coupled with the array of artwork on display means that there is no shortage of aural and visual stimuli. Perfect for the creative minded backpacker.
Big plans are in motion to continue with the street art that encompasses the bellies of the building, with the same offer standing for artists participating in the 2013 editions of See No Evil and UpFest. With fresh works already in the pipeline and the Rock N Bowl’s reputation snowballing due to its involvement in the city’s thriving art scene, a colourful future awaits this dynamic hostel.
Head to our Facebook page to see lots of fabulous photos taken of the graffiti in Rock n Bowl.
By Benjamin Salt
Date Added: 17/01/2013
Since Neolithic times the winter solstice (21st December) has become a marked event in the British calendar. Astrologically, it is the period where the sun is at its lowest during the year and punctuates the season; as the ebbing sun begins to turn and the days begin to get longer. Originally defined and worshipped by mythology as the death-and-rebirth of sun gods, it is now generally celebrated as the first day of winter.
Traditionally the solstice is celebrated at Stonehenge; a mystical stone circle created around 5,000 years ago. Popular with modern druids and pagans, it’s seen as a sacred space to practice these ancient rituals. Patrons are allowed near the stones at these times to perform ancient druidic rites and watch the sun rise over a new season.
If robes and rites seem a little too traditional, there are plenty of alternative ways to celebrate the longest night. Brighton’s Burning of the Clocks festival is a modernised version upholding the same values. Created to steer away from the commercialism of Christmas, homemade lanterns are made and filled with wishes, hopes and fears. The lanterns are then passed into the fire on Brighton beach, symbolising the death of the previous year and the birth of the new.
Following the theme of death and rebirth, the Bull in the Thorn is holding an overnight ghost hunt in the grounds of an old pagan worship site. The solstice is believed to be a time when the bridge between the human and spirit world is at its closest. This 600-year-old pub is well known for its poltergeist activity and ghostly occurrences. Take part in a ouija board, table-tipping and a sťance at 11:11pm (the end of the Mayan calendar), on a night when paranormal activity is to be at its most prevalent.
Whichever way you express the solstice, the expression remains the same. Symbolically letting go of the previous year and the welcoming in the new. 2012 is a particularly salient year in certain circles, especially due to the Mayans. So if you’re going to celebrate the solstice, this will be the year. You never know, it might be the last opportunity you get….
By Andy Wills
Date Added: 10/12/12
This month Generator Hostels are running a competition to win 2 nights stay at one of their hostels, all you have to do is nominate your three favourite travelling tunes. This got the Backpax office thinking about what makes the cut on our own mixtape when we don our earphones and head into the wild blue yonder…
Rolling Stones - Jumping Jack Flash - Classic road trip music, think speeding into the sunset like Dr. Gonzo at the end of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
10am Automatic – The Black Keys - This feel-good number is best played in vast amounts of sunshine, preferably with a cold beer in hand, staring into the deep blue ocean.
The Proclaimers – I Would Walk 500 Miles - For when you need to walk 500 miles.
Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter - A perfect end-of-the-night tune. When you’ve had your breath taken away all day, this is a perfect tune to drift to and let it all sink in.
Journey – Don’t Stop Believing - At any given time, somewhere in the world, this song is playing.
Mumford and Sons – Little Lion Man - Beautifully eclectic, this song reminds me of the simple life.
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under The Bridge - Of all the wonderful Chilli’s tunes, if I had to pick one for the mixtape, this one would top the bill.
Bob Marley – Three Little Birds - This tune will have you lolloping through your travels. Another one bathed in sunshine and good feeling, like only Mr Marley knows how.
AC/DC – Back in Black - For those times when the road seems a little long and you need that extra spring in your step. This tune will keep you strong.
Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench - High energy, scissor-kicking silliness. This peak-time, dancefloor filler is best heard with the volume turned up to 11.
By Andy Wills
Date Added: 19/11/12
Jack Kerouac’s generation defining novel On The Road has long been a Mecca for the lonesome traveller. Detailing the author’s own semi-autobiographical experiences as he hitchhiked around the snowy mountaintops, dusty trails and bohemian city-scapes of 1950s North America, the novel is seen by many as the bible for the Beat era.
The release of the film adaptation of the novel in indie cinemas nationwide has got us thinking here at Backpax of all the great British novels that should be in every trekker’s rucksack. After a day of head scratching, here’s the top five that spring to mind – in no particular order of course!
1. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
An uncompromising exploration into the Glaswegian underworld, the cult 90s novel by Irvine Welsh has become a modern classic for readers the world over. Although not one for the fainthearted, Welsh’s hard hitting realism hammers home the stark brutality and strife present in many of Britain’s more impoverished urban areas.
2. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The quintessential satirical piece in English prose, Jonathan Swift’s most famous writing takes the reader on a magical journey though islands inhabited by the weird and wonderful. Ridiculing everything from European politics to the essence of human nature, Swift leaves no stone unturned in this prerequisite for every backpacker.
3. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
The debut outing by Bangladeshi born British author Monica Ali, Brick Lane follows the life of Nazneen as she moves to the UK for an arranged marriage. Much of the plot of is set in and around the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and offers a unique snapshot into the heart of this diverse and cosmopolitan area of the capital.
4. Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
Not strictly a novel, but Bill Bryson’s travel memoirs of his time spent touring the United Kingdom has become an essential companion for anyone taking to life on the road. Witty yet informative, the book has become a mainstay amongst backpackers for his accurate portrayal and humorous anecdotes of contemporary Britain.
5. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Last but not least, Douglas Adams timeless series of novels The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy bring the laugh out loud humour to our selections. Described by its writer as a ‘trilogy in five parts’, the novels transcend all ages, remaining some of the most accessible and ingenious writings to kill that four hours stuck on a bus before you reach your next destination.
By Benjamin Salt
Date Added: 05/11/2012
England is a nation with a rich and expressive heritage; the country proudly stands at the forefront of literary advancement and with that in mind, let me introduce you to the world of performance poetry. Sheltering loquaciously beneath the umbrella term of 'spoken word', this is a forward-thinking genre that shuns restrictive rules and is all encompassing in its content. Much like stand up comedy, the witty wordsmiths that populate this lexical realm vary in great degrees by expressing a diverse range of views, emotions and life experiences.
Tainted by antiquated taboos for far too long, a new age movement has burst from the underground to rewrite people’s perceptions about live poetry nights. Infusing expressive delivery with snapshots of comedy and thought-provoking material these charismatic performers are blowing the cobwebs away word by word. To quote ‘The Speakers Corner’, spoken word poetry “is a rebirth of artistic, vocal wordplay that can have as much in common with Hip-Hop as it does Shakespeare”. This eloquent art form often blends elements of poetry, music and storytelling in a melting pot of creativity.
Modern spoken word poetry first emerged during the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ that thrived in 1920’s New York. Initially used to battle racial discrimination, performance poetry has since grown into an invaluable platform where all aspects of society can be scrutinized. Returning to English shores, the 'spoken word' scene has flourished in recent times with popular ambassadors such as Scroobius Pip and Kate Tempest leading the charge. In a 2011 Youtube video from 'Don't Flop' – a famous 'rap battle' league in the UK – a young rapper by the name of Blizzard went up against the performance poet Mark Grist. Moulded around a teacher vs. pupil parody, the video soon went viral and with over two millions views it signifies a huge step forward for 'spoken word' into mainstream consciousness. Nationwide, cities are building up their own poetical establishments although London (especially the Eastern side of the city) still enjoys the greatest presence. Huge leaps and bounds have also been made in Bristol, my hometown, with the famous Old Vic theatre throwing their full support behind the 'Word of Mouth' turned ‘blahblahblah’ events. The charismatic Byron Vincent invites national names to the Old Vic’s lyrical basement theatre every month.
The best thing about ‘spoken word’ poetry is that it's only truly understood when experienced within the live spectrum; a spot-lit arena where rules fall to the wayside allowing perceptions and boundaries to shift in the blink of an eye. The poets are taking over and as Gil Scott-Heron once stated in his iconic 1970 spoken word master piece, 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised', so stand up and spread the word!
By Alex Saunders
Date added: 29/10/12
Backpax Magazine is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year! As a small, hard-working team, we’re passionate about expanding your horizons whilst you explore the UK. Printed 3 times a year, in March, June and September, our goal is to introduce you to the many fabulous places the UK has to offer – from the bright lights of big cities to the wonders of the countryside, from hip hang-outs to quirky off-track discoveries. Get going and explore it for yourself!
Photo by: Darren Paul Thompson
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Photo by: Andy Wills
Photo by: Andy Wills
It is winter in Blightey and an unexpected sight enters your peripherals... a naked man. Not an Action Man type but more a windswept dog, post-walkies. The skin and bones, clad merely in a rucksack, walking boots and hat, belong to a Mr Stephen Gough, aka the 'Naked Rambler'.
With the complexion of a Siamese Kitten, the Naked Rambler has become somewhat of a cult hero come villain over the course of the former decade. The ex-Royal Marine first set off on his ramble in 2003 armed merely with his bare essentials (get it?) and the Freedom to be Yourself campaign spearheaded by Vincent Bethell, the infamous nudist.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 53-year-old has been arrested and jailed countless times, spanning many months, counties and hilarities in the process. Indecencies such as exposure on an aircraft, in a courtroom and most recently within the valleys of left-wing hippie paradise, Hebden Bridge, have all landed Gough either in the back of a police car or behind bars.
It is clear that the former soldier's parade represents more than the freedom to 'hang out with your wang out’ – rather it is a statement. Is Gough an effigy of freedom of expression; a proclamation transcending the waves of repression? Or is he simply an exhibitionist?
Some may agree that the freedom to be yourself is a notion rarely exercised, yet Gough has strived to express the importance of freedom... by baring all. Whilst it may be a little chilly to strip off, maintaining inner freedom and not always conforming to society's conventions is important – a lot is expected from us in the way we look and the way we act. The Freedom to be Yourself campaign has a strong message; although Gough's form of expressing himself is slightly extreme. So, if you see a bare bottom strutting around whilst on your travels, you never know... it might be the Naked Rambler.
By Toby Cryne
Date Added: 04/02/2013