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Making their mark in Southsea

Creative couple Nicky Gray and Mark Jones (aka Fark Fk), from The Tea Tray café in Southsea, have created a street gallery for talented artists. They tell Kate Thompson how it all started. Photos by Callum Hartley.

The next time you find yourself in the Palmerston Road precinct, be sure to check out the street art gallery that has taken up residence in the alleyway next to Debenhams.

What was once an uninviting cut-through to the parking behind the precinct, has been transformed – part of a street art revolution that is quietly taking place in Southsea.

“We always wanted to make an outdoor gallery space to show the art from internationally renowned artists and more homegrown talent as well.

“We wanted to create a space for artists and a place the public can enjoy too,” explained Fark.

While Fark Fk is known for his distinctive birds – he is delighted that a giant gull now adorns Southsea Pier, and his tagline ‘Be excellent to Each Other’ has become a feature in Marmion Road – Nikki, who owns The Tea Tray café in Osborne Road, is the one who brokers the deals with property owners and authorities to make it all happen.

“Who would have thought an alleyway behind Debenhams could look so great and it’s all thanks to the forward thinking property-owners who were happy for this to happen slap-bang in the middle of Southsea,” he said.

While London, Brighton and Bristol all have acknowledged street art areas, Fark believes it is only a matter of time before Southsea has a similar reputation.

He and Nikki are working on a hush-hush event that will put Southsea on the international street art map.

“We are working on bringing a major street art event here, and while I can’t say too much more about it at this stage, it would mean bringing some really big names here to engage with local street artists and the wider community,” he said. There are similar events and festivals happening in countries like America, Australia, Japan, and Norway.

While he is undoubtedly delighted that street art can now be found in pockets across the city (the Skate Park and former casino site in Osborne Road), Mark is also pleased with the work he has done with local schools.

A workshop at Harbour School saw kids with attention issues focusing on making art, while another project to create a giant map of Portsmouth in his signature style at the Portsmouth High Junior School was equally pleasing.

“One of the most satisfying things you can do is work with kids. It’s amazing to see them focus and switch – off as they get absorbed in creating something.

“It’s great to be able to show them the opportunities that can come from, art and share a different way of seeing the world. “I absolutely love it,” he said.

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