Greta Thunberg comes to North Street
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist, has come to North Street.
Not in person … but in the form of a giant climate-change themed mural, painted by legendary artist Jody, on one of Bristol’s most iconic walls for street art, the Tobacco Factory.
Although Upfest has taken a break for this year, the thought-provoking artwork has been painted as part of the Upfest Summer Editions, which will see a series of artists painting murals along North Street and surrounding areas.
It also honours the Tobacco Factory’s sustainable ethos as it celebrates 25 years on the high street.
The mural depicts Greta – who has become famous for campaigning and raising awareness about climate change among young people – half submerged in water, with a polar bear swimming beneath the surface.
Behind her is a polar ice cap and a doomsday-like sky.
“I wanted the sky to look doomy and impending, to reflect the message behind the mural – that we’re all facing a crisis,” says Upfest veteran Jody. “Climate change doesn’t just affect a certain group of people, it affects us all.
“Something like this crosses all language barriers, all age barriers, all cultural barriers … it’s a very clear message. I’ve not had one person ask me who she is ... Everybody knows, because she’s very much in the news at the moment, and I really like that.”
Jody – who is renowned for his figurative and photorealistic style – has painted many walls across Bristol, however, the Tobacco Factory wall is the biggest and most challenging one yet, he says.
“When I was offered the wall, we spoke about doing something relevant, with a strong message behind it. Then Greta’s name came up, and I said, ‘stop there’.
“She’s not just a great advocate for climate change, but also for young people, particularly those with Asperger’s and autism. There’s something about the way she goes about things – she’s fierce and fearless and I wanted to capture that in the mural.”
Jody says that, so far, the response to his mural has been largely positive, and the amount of phone notifications he has been receiving, with people messaging him and tagging him in their photos of the mural, has been a testament to that. “People are fascinated in the process,” he said. “They love to see it evolving.”
Speaking to Jody about the challenge of painting a mural on this scale, he said: “You have to simplify everything – you do the block colours and then add more and more detail.
“My art teacher always said to me, it’s 90% looking and 10% physically drawing. I spend a lot of time, stepping back, checking what I’ve done and taking photos on my phone.”
Jody, who started painting on May 16, was completing the mural at the time South Bristol Voice went to print – on the weekend Tobacco Factory was celebrating its 25-year anniversary.
Ex-mayor and architect George Ferguson, who bought the building in 1993 to save it from demolition, said: “We wanted something that was connected to youth and the environment, to reflect the ethos of the Tobacco Factory, and Jody came up with a great answer.
“It’s looking to be a really good piece and it’s very recognisable – it’s a great way to celebrate 25 years of the Tobacco Factory.
“I’m full of adulation for young people these days – and they are personified by Greta.”
Speaking about Upfest Summer Editions, festival founder Steve Hayles, said: “The response to Upfest Summer Editions, crafted with Posca, has been great and we’re really happy to continue to bring world class artists to Bristol in a year that we are having a break from the main festival.
“We love to see art comment on topical issues and this new piece by Jody we hope will help to create more conversations on the issue of climate change and its effect on our community. We hope that his work will resonate with the people who come to see it and inspire some to learn more about the issue.”
For announcements on when new artwork is being produced throughout the year, search
@Upfest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.