Concrete Canvas is an annual street art festival held in Chelmsford, Essex, which started in 2022. In 2024, I am excited to once again invite artists to paint in Chelmsford from 11th to 19th May 2024. The new artworks will add to the existing trail of 70 art pieces created over the last two festivals. This will be my third year working as a freelancer alongside the Business Improvement District Chelmsford For You to organise the festival.

Taking Space

Taking Space 2022

Nomad Clan

Exchange Way, Chelmsford, Essex

How it began 

It all began with a rejection. Since moving to Chelmsford in 2016, I've been part of the growing art scene and founded Chelmsford Creative Collective in 2018. As a collective, we have a busy online group and have hosted exhibitions and small events. But I wanted to find new ways to showcase local creatives.

Candy Joyce busy working on the Concrete Canvas festival

Candy Joyce busy working on the Concrete Canvas festival

In 2021, I applied for Arts Council England funding for five artists to paint Openreach cabinets. Unfortunately, my application was rejected. However, shortly after this, Chelmsford City Council and Chelmsford For You approached me and offered me something much bigger. They proposed a city-wide street art festival that would feature several large-scale murals across Chelmsford. Though it was way more ambitious than anything I'd done before, I eagerly accepted. I made sure to incorporate the Openreach cabinet project into the festival plan. 

Artist Juliet Townsend painting an Openreach cabinet with her work 'Meeting’

Artist Juliet Townsend painting an Openreach cabinet with her work 'Meeting’

How it works

There is no dummies guide to organising a street art festival, so it helps that I am a compulsive note writer. During the six months of festival planning, I am inseparable from my notebook. Planning begins in December, although I am always eyeing up potential sites – my camera roll is full of pictures of plain walls.

One of the most challenging aspects of the festival is finding good walls and getting permission to paint on them. The ideal wall will be inside the district, have visual impact, and be accessible by a scissor lift. Sometimes, the artist also has specific requirements that we need to take into consideration.

Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love 2023

D*Face (b.1978)

High Street, Chelmsford, Essex

Once we find a suitable wall, we need to identify the owner and convince them to let us paint. It can be disheartening to find a good wall only for the landlord to deny permission.

For each wall, we tend to have an artist in mind and show the owner examples of their previous work. We give the artist details of the wall so that they can sketch up an idea. Receiving the designs is one of my favourite aspects of organising the festival, it's so exciting to see artworks that might not otherwise have existed and to imagine them in situ. We forward the rough draft to the owner. Since many of the buildings are in a conservation area, we also get approval from the council. This entire process can take several months for each artist and doesn't always happen in a nice, neat, linear fashion. If we fail at one step, we go back to the beginning.

Mr Penfold painting his work 'Dazzle', 2023 

Mr Penfold painting his work 'Dazzle', 2023 


Dazzle 2023

Mr Penfold

Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex

Once everything is approved, we can get to work on the other logistics. This includes risk assessments, hiring access equipment, ordering paint, and booking travel and accommodation. All the sites needed to be prepped and primed ready for the artist. We also work on our printed materials, preparing our HQ, promoting the event and finding volunteers.


Meeting 2023

Juliet Townsend

Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex

Money, money, money

Funding for the festival comes from Chelmsford For You, with some additional funding from Chelmsford City Council. I have raised some funds from ticket sales to our 2023 Concrete Canvas film premiere, Street Art Walking Tours, workshops and talks. We had donations from the public and one generous artist created a piece of art specifically for the festival and donated the proceeds to us. We also rely on the generosity of suppliers who have provided discounts on spray cans, paint, varnish and access equipment.

The Common Kestrel

The Common Kestrel 2023


Bond Street, Chelmsford, Essex

It's fair to say that the financial side of the festival is very challenging. However, it's so important that artists are valued so we do everything we can to pay for their time and talent.

Keep it local

We have been fortunate to commission some world-renowned street artists, however, we have always maintained a strong focus on local talent with local artists creating 60 per cent of the artworks for previous festivals. Their work includes murals on small walls, ten Openreach cabinets, six CCTV cabinets and 22 concrete bollards. The original idea was that those who painted a bollard one year would move on to paint an Openreach cabinet the following year, and potentially move on to a wall space the year after. This plan has proven challenging as we have run out of bollards and smaller spaces! 

Painting bollards in 2022

Painting bollards in 2022


Bollards 2022

Concrete Canvas Artists (active since 2022)

Barrack Square, Chelmsford, Essex

In previous years we hand-picked artists. This year we had an open call for applications in a bid to make the process fairer.

Whilst we had over 250 applications from 31 countries, with so much talent on our doorstep, we've decided to keep it local for 2024. All the artists are either from Essex or London or have a personal connection to the area. We're really proud to showcase the incredible artists in our region.

Essex Rockerz at Concrete Canvas, 2023

Essex Rockerz at Concrete Canvas, 2023

Breathe with Me

Breathe with Me 2023

Essex Rockerz

Barrack Square, Chelmsford, Essex

During the festival

As an artist, people often ask me if I will be creating my own mural for the festival. I would love to but there is so much to do during the event that I know I couldn't find time to paint. I would also feel like I was nabbing a spot from a deserving artist.

The festival runs from our headquarters in a shop unit in the city centre. HQ is our office, storage space, artist hang-out and public information booth. This year HQ will also run as a gallery and shop for artists to sell their work. It's also where we get all of our deliveries. It's daunting when 750 cans of spray paint arrive in one big batch. It takes half a day to sort them into the individual artist's orders.

Dank Riverside

Dank Riverside 2022

Dan Kitchener

Riverside Leisure Centre, Chelmsford, Essex

The week of the festival is the most exciting part. Artists start coming to town and bring with them infectious energy and enthusiasm. It's a week of early starts (scissor lift deliveries at 6 am) and late finishes (it would be rude not to stop for a couple of drinks with artists when they have finished painting for the day). All the artists are professional and work hard, but equally have a relaxed attitude and camaraderie which means the week is lots of fun. I record over 20,000 steps a day during the festival, I end up totally exhausted but wildly happy, and a little bit relieved when everything works out. You can feel the vibe across the whole city as people get excited about watching the new murals come to life.

Baby with Flower

Baby with Flower 2023

Alex Face (b.1981)

High Street, Chelmsford, Essex

It all culminates in our street party. It's a place where people can grab a map and go and explore all the new artworks. We have artists painting live, a local art fair, music, food, drinks and a public doodle wall.


We are a really small team and are so grateful for all the support and help that we receive. I've been lucky to have support from The London Police. Chas from The London Police is originally from Chelmsford and has been instrumental in supporting the festival, it would not be what it is without him. The lads painted one of our largest murals in 2022 and apparently have had their eye on painting that wall since they were teenagers.

Brave Arts is another talented local artist whom I am privileged to know. He is a professional street artist with mad style and 25 years of experience. Brave has created two permanent pieces for Concrete Canvas and has led spray paint workshops for young people.

Glitched Pink Lady

Glitched Pink Lady 2023

Brave Arts

Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex

He also paints at our street party and organises the artists for the Wall of Fame. Brave has been a great support to me and has been teaching me how to spray paint. I am now applying to other street art festivals this summer.

Brave Arts at work during Concrete Canvas, 2023 

Brave Arts at work during Concrete Canvas, 2023 

We are eternally grateful to everyone who gets involved in the festival, our artists, volunteers, local businesses and sponsors. And of course, we thrive from the support we get from the public. All the artists mention how nice it is to paint in public and interact with people. People will stop for a chat or compliment the art as they walk past.

What does it all mean?

An important aspect of the artworks is that they hold meaning for the residents of Chelmsford. We collaborate with local community groups to conduct engagement sessions. These sessions help create ideas themed around an aspect of Chelmsford's technology, science, nature, art, music or its people and their stories. Here are some examples of our murals which have been created in this way.

Ster's portrait of Lily, a young lady who won the young person's community champion awards.


Lily 2023

Ster UPC

Riverside Leisure Centre, Chelmsford, Essex

My Dog Sighs' eye on the side of Chelmsford Market that contains a reflection of The London Police in the iris of Kirsten, the Markets Team Leader.


Eye 2023

My Dog Sighs

High Chelmer Multi Storey Car Park, Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex

Two Philth Blake pieces on the multi-storey car park: one inspired by the Common Poppy, the county flower of Essex and the other taking inspiration from Marconi Ponds Nature Reserve.

Blue Flowers

Blue Flowers 2023


High Chelmer Multi Storey Car Park, Victoria Road, Chelmsford, Essex

Essex Poppy

Essex Poppy 2022


Victoria Road, Chelmsford, Essex

Brave Arts' portrait of Chelmsfordian Grayson Perry, inspired by a community engagement session with the Chelmsford Sea Cadets.

Glitched Grayson Perry

Glitched Grayson Perry 2022

Brave Arts

Rainsford Road, Chelmsford, Essex

The London Police mural includes detailed drawings of the Chelmsford skyline alongside elements that were suggested by the users of Chelmsford City Mencap.

Blue (untitled)

Blue (untitled) 2022

The London Police (active since 1998)

High Street, Chelmsford, Essex

The CCTV base painted by local artist Shelley Ings tells the story of the Essex witch trials, which took place just along the road from her painting site.

Essex Witch Trials

Essex Witch Trials 2023

Shelley Ings

Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex

An Ewok scene painted by Nik Vaughn, representing local actor Mike Edwards who played Logray the Ewok in a Star Wars movie.

Ewok scene by Nik Vaughn, 2023

Ewok scene by Nik Vaughn, 2023

Allegro Music by Morcky is inspired by Chelmsford's music legacy. It features portraits of musicians Dame Nellie Melba and Nitzer Ebb, as well as elements from flyers of legendary music venues, the Corn Exchange and The Army and Navy pub.

Allegro Music

Allegro Music 2023


High Street, Chelmsford, Essex

To learn more about Concrete Canvas, visit our Instagram accounts: @ConcreteCanvasChelmsford and @ChelmsfordForYou.

You can watch a video of Concrete Canvas 2023 on YouTube.

Candy Joyce, Project Manager, Concrete Canvas street art festival

This content was created as part of the Art UK Murals Digitisation and Engagement programme