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Amnesty launches urban art at Edinburgh Festival with Live Graffiti performance

Amnesty International has teamed up with six cutting-edge graffiti artists from across Scotland to hold an exciting exhibition inspired by 'the fight for freedom of expression'. Each painting depicts a freedom of expression case from Amnesty’s history, from 1961 to the present day. The paintings will be on show at the C Venues SoCo Urban Garden on Edinburgh's Cowgate from Saturday 31 July.

Amnesty will also host a live graffiti performance on Saturday 7 August, where five of the artists will create a spectacular mural inspired by the struggle of the 88 Generation Student Group, who were locked up in 2007 for up to 65 years for protesting peacefully against the Burmese government. The live performance will be attended by Waihnin Pwint Thon, a human rights campaigner whose father is a political prisoner in Burma. Waihnin Pwint-Thon said:

“The situation in Burma is terrible; we have no human rights or any form of freedom at all except for the people who support the regime. My people do not have any future under this military regime. In your hand, you have a key to open the door of human rights and freedom in Burma. Please use that key.”

Festival-goers can also join Amnesty’s campaign for freedom in Burma by having their picture taken with the name of a Burmese political prisoner written on their hand. Amnesty campaigners will be out on Edinburgh’s streets this year asking festival-goers to take their own stand for freedom of expression, in solidarity with the people of Burma. At Amnesty’s Stand Up For Freedom comedy event on 19 August, the audience will be asked to take action for Zarganar, Burma’s top comedian, who is currently serving a 35-year jail sentence for speaking out against the government.

Amy Whiten (aka Syrkus), one of the artists taking part, said:

“I hope through the medium we use, the impact of large artworks, and the appeal of watching live painting, that we can make the concept of ‘human rights’ more accessible and raise awareness.

"Often as street artists, the projects we are asked to take part in are a bit ‘empty’... without much meaning, maybe a mural for a bar or festival. They can be really fun and it is great when you can create work of your own, but this project was a great opportunity to work to a brief, to push ourselves and to gain the interest of people so more people know about these stories and the work that Amnesty does. It feels lovely to be asked to be a part of a project like this.”

Amnesty International’s Programme Director in Scotland, John Watson said:

“The Edinburgh Festival is a unique celebration of the right to freedom of expression, attracting writers, artists and performers from across the globe for more than 60 years.

“But it’s important to remember that this right has been hard won, and that around the world, the struggle for freedom of expression goes on.

“From Soviet East Germany to modern-day Burma, graffiti has been a vital way for the oppressed to express themselves. Using graffiti to tell these stories is not only original and exciting, but also draws attention to graffiti's role in the history of the fight for freedom of expression.”

Interviews and photo/TV opportunities with the artists and Waihnin Pwint-Thon are available on request, in advance of and during the live graffiti performance.

The following media collateral is available on request:

·    Images of the paintings
·    Images of the artists at work
·    High definition video clips of the artists at work


Media are invited to attend the live graffiti performance on Saturday 7 August. The artists will begin painting at around 15:00, and will finish their painting at around 20:30.

For photos and video footage of the live graffiti performance, we recommend press and TV media arrive at the venue between 16:30 and 18:00. At this point, the painting performance will be at its most visually interesting, as the final image begins to emerge and the artists will be most active. In addition, the venue will be less busy at these times, allowing a clearer view of the performance.

Festival-goers will be in attendance throughout the performance, but we are advising the public to arrive from 18:30 to view the last hours of the performance.


Dates:         31 July - 30 August 2010
Times:     10:00 – 03:00
Cost:         Free
Address:    C Venues SoCo Urban Garden,
233 Cowgate,


Dates:         Saturday 7 August 2010
Times:     18:30 – 21:00
Cost:         Free
Address:    C Venues SoCo Urban Garden,
233 Cowgate,


The artists taking part in the exhibition are:

Syrkus     -

Syrkus is Amy Whiten. Amy studied illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College, Dundee, and is co-owner of the independent Recoat Gallery in Glasgow, which specialises in contemporary urban art, pop surrealism and lowbrow from Scotland and around the world.

Her painting depicts The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo from Argentina, a group that campaigned for information about the whereabouts of their Children's rights, who had been “disappeared” by the government during the “Dirty War” in the 1970s.

Rekor         -

Rekor is Ali Wylie. Ali started painting at age 13, and studied graphic design at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee. He is co-owner of the Recoat Gallery.

His painting is inspired by the case of Wolfgang Welsch, an East German poet and dissident who was imprisoned whilst trying to escape to West Germany in 1964.

Elph         -

Elph has been a prominent name in Scottish graffiti for more than 10 years. He recently exhibited pieces illustrating the work of Scottish poet Robert Burns, and regularly runs art workshops with youth groups.

His painting portrays the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who reported extensively on the war in Chechnya before her assassination in 2006.

Derm         -

Derm is a well-established graffiti artist and has exhibited throughout the UK. He was recently involved in a large-scale graffiti project in a ghost town on the west coast of Scotland.

His artwork is inspired by the concept of Freedom of Expression.

Conzo     -

Conzo specialises in graffiti art and graphic design inspired by cartoons and small-town Scottish culture. He recently co-founded the Destrukt Design Agency in Glasgow.

Conzo’s piece depicts the story of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, two bloggers from Azerbaijan arrested after they posted a satirical video on YouTube.

Mark Lyken         -

Mark Lyken, from Dundee, has been painting since the 80s, and divides his work between traditional graffiti, and more abstract gallery exhibitions. More recently, he has been collaborating with Rekor and Elph.

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