As regular listeners will know, here on Born again Swindonian I’m keen to get ‘out there’ anything ‘arty’ that’s going. Even when a ‘thing’ isn’t my thing I like to give it a shout-out. And as I’ve discovered since I set this blog up there’s so much arty stuff happening in Swindon it’s quite amazing. Indeed that very sentiment was expressed in a recent guest post from Beatrice, part of the Second Mouth group.  So the latest addition to the arts scene in Swindon is Free Art Friday which, apparently, is a global movement. So isn’t that fine thing – Swindon being part of a global movement?

I really like this idea and would love to chance upon a piece but the chances are slim as I’d never get myself organised enough. I’m not sure why but it vaguely brings to mind the art boxes one used to be able to get in the Arts Centre.  There was an old wooden condom vending machine on the wall into which you stuck a pound coin and out popped a little box of out. I absolutely LOVED it. It was like some sort of lucky dip. I still have all the pieces I collected artfully (Ha!) arranged in a 3D box with a perspex front. Can someone not bring that scheme back? It was great!  Anway, here to tell us more about Free Art Fridays is Sarah Harris who describes herself thus: ‘ A mum of 4 boys aged 12 to 24  that works as a statistician . An enthusiastic amateur artist in my spare time. My favourite artists are Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg and various street artists including Borondo, Alexis Diaz and Herakut.  Other hobbies  are Sci Fi , comics, ice hockey (Swindon wildcats season ticket holder of many years). I’m the main point of contact for FAF Swindon but there are lots of other peeps involved too.’ So now you know. Actually, that’s interesting about the ice-hockey interest. A guest post about that would be good! Okay – that’s enough waffle and twaddle from me. Now over to Sarah:

Free Art Friday Swindon

Free Art Friday is a global movement, originated by My Dog Sighs, a street and gallery artist from Portsmouth – who in turn was inspired by a number of other artists who have been happily distributing their work for free for many years.

In essence – it relates to pieces of art made to give away, which are left out on the street or any other public place (usually, but not always, on a Friday) for any passer by who takes a fancy to it to pick up and take home. For free.

The finder has the thrill of the hunt or the excitement of an unexpected gift – and it is just as exciting for the artist: leaving the artwork out in public, guerrilla style; wondering who will pick it up; getting an acknowledgement and a thank you if they are lucky; and new exposure to a whole new audience.

This short video from the BBC’s Culture Show explains the whole concept pretty well:

The Swindon Launch

We launched the Swindon branch of Free Art Friday with a major event in late July – over two days (the last Friday and Saturday in the month) 200 pieces of art made by over 50 artists were distributed all around the town:

Free Art Friday pictures

Free Art Friday pictures

On the Saturday in particular, one of the hottest days of the year, we were out dropping art in the town centre, Old Town, Coate Water, Lydiard Park, Queens Park, and many other well-trodden local spots for 13 hours straight! But it was totally worth all the effort as we had plenty of delighted finders:

Free art Fridays

Free art Fridays

Ongoing weekly activity: 

Now that the big launch is out of the way, we have settled into a regular routine of smaller drops every Friday – we are currently putting out 4 pieces a week in various spots around town, and will continue to do so while we still have art to give (so let’s hope the contributions keep coming in from our wonderful artists….)

For the finders, we hope they are finding it a really fun experience, because who doesn’t love a treasure hunt??

We post “hint” photos to the Free Art Friday Swindon Facebook page as each item is dropped, to give a clue to where it is, and then the race is on to see who can find each piece first! We always hope that the finders will complete the circle by taking photos of themselves with the pieces they have claimed and post them back up to the Facebook page along with a message to the artist – after all, everyone likes to get some feedback 🙂

And as for the artists, for the professional artists this gives an opportunity to create anything they like, free from the constraints of commerce, try out new ideas, and just have fun! And for the keen amateurs, it’s a way to get their artwork out into the world, and enjoy the reactions of the strangers who claim it for their own, and it makes a nice change from giving stuff to family and friends

The artists can make any type of work that they like, the only rules: 1) make sure that the work is easily removable and does no damage to its environment,

2) nothing too adult in theme, as these items are going to be left in a public place where anyone could pick them up, including kiddies and

3) probably best to stay away from anything edible as we don’t want to be attracting the local wildlife (unless they are art fans!)

For further details, please see our Facebook page:


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