Josephine Burns, chair of Without Walls, says we shouldn’t lose sight of the power of outdoor art.


Outdoor arts brings the streets to life. It invades the public space, turns it on its head, reinvents it and then vanishes.

And what do audiences remember? A soaring poignant voice or a magical flute conquering the urban din, a wisp or clatter of words that make you laugh or weep, a high-flying acrobat describing an impossibly elegant movement. These things transform, at least for a moment, how we think about where we live and who we are.

Outdoor arts and the world of fashion have a lot in common. Think about it: both must make an immediate impression otherwise fail to attract an audience. To steal a millennial term, both are “Instagrammable”, adept at making people stop and stare – to take notice. Both embody a diffusion of ideas into and out of ‘the street’, styled, made more fabulous, by artistry and design – those cunning in the ways of enchantment.

Both have an enduring imagery (recurring photos and the rest) that define a sensibility and a style that puts the UK in prime place in the ’soft-power’ battle. But we are nothing without innovation – now massively threatened by the decline of arts in the curriculum. We have to DO something about about this…