Brightening up the M32 – artists set to transform motorway viaduct


24 Feb 2022

A team of artists are set to transform part of the M32 with support from National Highways and Bristol City Council.

Brightening up the M32 – artists set to transform motorway viaduct

We're teaming up with LitterARTI to improve the underside of the Eastville viaduct, with artists painting three columns.

It is hoped that covering up the grey and dark concrete columns with new, vibrant artwork, will improve the look and feel of the area.

Preparatory work will start 26 February with the erection of the scaffolding towers, thanks to support from MJ Church, TR Scaffolding, Tesco and Bristol City Council.

The artists will start their work on 28 February, which will take around two weeks to complete. It is hoped the transformation will help to improve the environment for those living by or using the M32.

The artists involved in the project

(The artists involved in the project)

Sean Walsh, Route Manager for National Highways, said: “We want Bristol’s M32 gateway to be a clean and welcoming environment for our motorists and local residents living alongside the road.

“At National Highways, our work goes beyond operating, maintaining and improving roads. We’re investing in the environment and communities surrounding our network, as well as the people travelling and working on it. We aim to address social and environmental issues and add real value to society.

“We were delighted to partner with LitterARTI – a glowing example of how this funding can make life better for communities living and working near our roads, and hopefully inspire generations to come.”

How it started

The initial idea for the project came from community member and local resident Maire De Burca who attracted supporters and interested artists via a Facebook group, lead artists Sadie Phew and Conrico Steez stepped forward to manage the project. 

With grant writing support from Oblique Arts, the team secured funding from Bristol City Council's Originators Fund which enabled them to commission artists, and further explore permission from National Highways, before eventually teaming up with Annali Grimes and LitterARTI to support the final stages of the project.

With support from commissioned artists Aumairah Hassan and Manazzar Siddique from Peace of Art, designs will focus on nature and bright bold shapes and colours, as decided by questionnaires sent out to the community last year.

One design uses inspiration from a scientific research project focusing on the River Frome, looking at microscopic single-celled organisms called diatoms which are the lowest stage of the food chain.

Artist Sadie Phew said: “We want to encourage the community to use the space more by creating an outdoor art gallery and we're so happy to be making it happen.

“It's a pleasure to share our love of nature and passion for ecology and conservation through our artwork.”

Art projects

LItterARTI has been working on art projects with communities alongside the M32 for over five years, while also running the M32 Flea Market.

Annali Grimes, from LitterARTI, said: “For real change to come about, it needs to be driven by the people, with support and in partnership with National Highways and Bristol City Council.

“It is positive that the underpass and communities surrounding the motorway are being prioritised just as much as the motorway on the top.

“By brightening up and beautifying the area, it will definitely lift spirits of local people and will improve the space for communities and pedestrians around and along the M32 corridor.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of more improvements to come in the future.”

How the viaduct supports currently look

(How the supports currently look)

Community funding

The work is being funded with £15,000 from our Users and Communities fund and around £5,000 from Bristol City Council’s Originators Fund.

We manage four designated funds, allocated by the Government, to deliver benefits above and beyond building, maintaining and operating England’s strategic roads.

From protecting the environment and enhancing the landscape around roads, to improving safety, reducing congestion, and supporting communities, the aim is to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

To ensure the M32 remains a clean and welcoming environment, we recently pledged with other key stakeholders at a waste summit to “enhance the environment, improve the appearance and increase public use to create a vibrant gateway to our city”.

This pledge was made with further improvements to the M32 in mind, with potential for more designated funding to be pumped into the area, along with a feasibility study to see what might be achievable in the long term.

Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with the responsibility for Culture at Bristol City Council said: “We are delighted to have supported this exciting work through our Cultural Investment Programme’s Originators Fund and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the local environment, residents, and users of the M32.

“We've prioritised the protection of this investment programme to support the local sector in recovery from the pandemic. The second round of the Cultural Investment Programme will distribute £2.5m over the next four years. We look forward to continuing to invest in the city’s cultural sector, in order to build equity and inclusivity, grow a green and sustainable cultural economy, and support the health and wellbeing of Bristol citizens.”