Brighton may be bereft of world-class art galleries but it does have one of the finest collections of graffiti in the country.

Lawrence Marzouk set off on a tour of the town's public gallery to find out about the burgeoning graffiti scene.

  • A battle between the proponents of graffiti, who claim it is a misunderstood art form, and those who dismiss spray painting as vandalism still rages.
  • But in Brighton a truce has been called between the warring factions and, with peace, art has flourished.

The city council continues to crack down on taggers who deface walls and buildings but, by allowing Brighton and Hove's talented graffiti artists the space to create, a host of internationally renowned works have appeared.

The New England development has the country's longest graffiti mural, Kensington Street has a collection of work that draws in spray paint aficionados from all over the world and a smattering of other striking pieces can be found within a one-mile radius of Brighton station.

The Argus toured the city with graffiti artist David Samuel, owner of Rare Kind graffiti shop and gallery in Trafalgar Street, Brighton, to explore the hidden, and not so hidden, gems on offer.

David said: "Over the last three or four years, Brighton has been up there with the best.

"Most graffiti artists will want to visit here and my shop would never have worked if people who are into graffiti hadn't moved to Brighton.

"There are so many great artists in the city and some of the best in the county."

At first, Councillor Gill Mitchell, head of environment at Brighton and Hove City Council, was sceptical about helping the artists but she is now convinced the graffiti has become a real draw.

She said: "I have to say, when the idea was first put forward, I was in two minds.

"It sent out a bit of a mixed message because we were removing it and prosecuting taggers - and there have been some high-profile prosecutions - and on the other hand, we were working with them.

"It was a case of let's just see, and I think what they have produced has been quite stunning.

"It has become a bit of a tourist attraction, with people stopping and taking photos."

Tim Moore, of Cityclean, which tackles graffiti in the city, said the number of tags had dropped dramatically and working with the artists to find legal sites had largely been a success.

The presence of top-quality spray work in Kensington Street has deterred taggers from returning to the road.

He said: "What we have done is to work with the graffiti artists in Kensington Street because we were getting a lot of tags.

"We then arranged to allow them to use it to do good graffiti.

"We know there is a handful of really good graffiti artists in the city but we do tackle the people who come along and do rubbish tags and we are removing rubbish work."

The Argus graffiti tour of Brighton

Prince Albert pub, Trafalgar Street
This is probably Brighton's most famous piece by one of the most well-known graffiti artists in the world. Banksy, from Bristol, started as a freehand artist then turned to stencilling because of its speed. He phoned The Prince Albert pub three years ago after spotting the huge John Peel mural to ask if he could add his own work. The pub agreed and under the cover of night he arrived to paint the now famous Kissing Policemen. The painting was defaced last year when two men decided to paint over it in black and Banksy contacted the pub to offer a replacement. But it has since been restored and protected and is still drawing in the crowds. Pub manager Will Moore said: "It has been fantastic. We thought the police wouldn't like it and a few were slowing down to take a look but they were just taking photos." Bansky's work can be found across the town, including one piece in Park Crescent and a number of his famous rats along the seafront.

Kensington Street
Kensington Street currently has two out of three alcoves painted with gigantic murals and the third is also likely to be spray painted as a memorial to James Brown. Last year, Brighton-based Alex Young and Paul Barlow, along with a host of American graffiti artists, were given the opportunity to express themselves on a huge scale. And with the help of cherry-pickers, they produced some of the best work on show in Brighton. Highlights include the pair's image of bombers soaring above the city. Fellow artist David Samuel said: "Everyone is looking up at the planes dropping their pieces (names) on the city. The artwork is a metaphor for the graffiti artists' work." "Bombing" means to go out writing and the artists are dropping their work and names across the city. David said: "This stuff just doesn't get done in England - Alex and Paul have got amazing skills." A game of hip hop chess is also on show. It covers two perpendicular walls and for a perfect view there is a small cross on the pavement opposite, next to a drainpipe. Another artwork to look out for is a list of words American artists heard while in Britain and used to create a piece. You can spot "wicked", "oi" and a few unpublishable words.

St George's Mews
Snug One is the man behind the mural on Damage hairdresser's on the corner of St George's Mews and Trafalgar Street. The London graffiti artist spent four months on the piece, which is best viewed from outside the Rare Kind shop and gallery opposite. Charlie Scott, aka Snug One, has produced dozens of pieces for shops across the capital and even worked with Moorfield Eye Hospital. Shop owner Dave Henley said: "It is amazing and lots of people stop to take photographs. "It used to be run-down outside with tagging and drug dealing but that has all stopped now."

Elder Place This wildstyle piece is by Vibes, a student in Brighton but originally from London. Wildstyle is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti. Due to its complexity, it is often difficult to decipher what has been written. In this case it is the graffiti artist's name, Vibes, which has been used as the starting point. This form of graffiti interweaves overlapping letters and shapes with arrows, spikes and other decorative elements. Wildstyle pieces are also known as burners.

New England Quarter
At 500 metres long, this is the longest graffiti piece in the country and has something for everyone. David said: "People came from all over the world to do this, from Japan, Germany, America, Spain. "This is the biggest mural in the country and it took three days with 320 people. "Like all art forms, graffiti is about what the artist feels or wants to say. "Graffiti is tied closely to hip hop culture, so a lot of the sketches involve that sort of urban street imagery." LA spray painters Revok, Rime and Sever are among the many famous graffiti artists to have graced the wall with their work. If commissioned, their paintings would have cost up to £20,000 each. The spray paintings are in a range of styles and each has a different theme or message. There is an anti-war piece, another about religion and one depicting characters from the TV comedy programme The League of Gentlemen.

To see a map of the city's best street art, click here.

Street art of vandalism? Have you say below.