Art / ashton court festival

Images of the Bristol counterculture, by photographer Matthew Smith

By steve wright, Tuesday Jan 31, 2017

Matthew Smith is one of Bristol’s unsung photographic heroes. Since moving here in the early 1990s, Matthew has been tirelessly documenting aspects of Bristol’s art, music, festivals and activism – from the inside.

He’s now launched a Kickstarter fund to publish his first book Exist to Resist, a photographic record of the 1990s’ “lost freedom of festivals, free parties and protest”. The book will feature images shot within Bristol itself, alongside others showing the city’s influence on counterculture and resistance across the country.

Way Out West at the 1995 Ashton Court Festival

From raves under the Suspension Bridge to early Ashton Court free festivals, and from anti-roadbuilding protests at Solsbury Hill near Bath to opposition to the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (which outlawed raves and certain forms of dance music), Matthew has compiled a unique document of Bristol’s counterculture, activism, and music and arts scenes across two decades. As such, his book deserves to see the light of day.

To support Matthew’s Kickstarter fund, visit

To view further samples of Matthew’s work, visit

Pictured top: scene from the third anti-Criminal Justice Act march, London, October 9, 1994

Another scene from the third anti-Criminal Justice Act march

A warehouse rave on Feeder Road, Bristol

Ashton Court Festival, 1995
Demo opposing roadbuilding at Solsbury Hill, Bath, May 3, 1994

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