Art festival axed in struggle for funding

Robin Ross
Robin Ross
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Blackpool artist Robin Ross has pulled the plug on street art festival Sand Sea and Spray after struggling to get financial backing.

The weekend event has taken place in five of the past six years – with Robin taking a year out when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

But this year’s plans have been dropped, despite the international reputation Robin says the festival has gained in its short lifespan.

Even with no date or firm plans in place, there had been interest from national TV and from American street art fnas wanting to take in the Blackpool scene.

In the five years of Sand Sea Spray, more than 60 street, urban and graffiti artists have taken to the streets of Blackpool to leave their mark, with many making return visits because of the reception they receive in town.

“Getting artists to come back, and to go away talking about how much they loved Blackpool, that was the object of the festival,” Robin added. “To get great art done in Blackpool by great artists, and to get people leaving the town saying, ‘Don’t believe what you read about Blackpool’. We’ve achieved that.

“It has been an incredible thing and I will miss it.

“I’m open to suggestions [for ways to make it happen], but someone has to stand up and support it.”

Robin, who runs the Rock Factory Print Studio off Abingdon Street, said funding had become increasingly hard and frustrating to secure, with many grants now needing match funding to succeed.

In previous years, support has come from Arts Council England, Blackpool Council and charity Creative Arts And Futures.

Robin is proud of the legacy that Sand Sea and Spray has created for the resort’s own street artists, working alongside some of the top artists in the genre.

“We bring people in to take part, but it inspires our artists,” he said. “We had six artists in last year, and I defy anyone to be able to pick out which pieces were by the locals and which by the international guys.

“Places like Leicester, Cardiff, Sunderland and Cheltenham have started similar events, based on my model here, which shows it worked.

“I once had a pair of 80-plus-year-olds shout at me to stop painting over one of the works in preparation for a new one one.

“That was when I knew it meant something, when I knew it had worked and had been accepted, which makes this decision really hard.”