The city is famous for its music and film industries, and was a finalist for the 2008 European Capital of Culture, but the title was awarded to Liverpool.
See No Evil, a street art event in Bristol, started in 2011. Bristol is also home to one of the seven national Foodies Festivals, taking place 13–15 July 2012, with master classes by Levi Roots and Ed Baines, as well as city beaches, restaurant tents, pop-up cinemas and burlesque shows.
The city's principal theatre company, the Bristol Old Vic, was founded in 1946 as an offshoot of The Old Vic company in London. Its premises on King Street consist of the 1766 Theatre Royal (607 seats), a modern studio theatre called the New Vic (150 seats), and foyer and bar areas in the adjacent Coopers' Hall (built 1743). The Theatre Royal is a grade I listed building and is the oldest continuously operating theatre in England. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which had originated in King Street, is now a separate company. The Bristol Hippodrome is a larger theatre (1,951 seats) which hosts national touring productions. Other theatres include the Tobacco Factory (250 seats), QEH (220 seats), the Redgrave Theatre (at Clifton College) (320 seats) and the Alma Tavern (50 seats). Bristol's theatre scene includes a large variety of producing theatre companies, apart from the Bristol Old Vic company, such as Show of Strength Theatre Company, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and Travelling Light Theatre Company. Theatre Bristol is a partnership between Bristol City Council, Arts Council England and local theatre practitioners which aims to develop the theatre industry in Bristol.
A number of organisations within the city support theatre makers. The Residence "artist led community", for example, provides office, social and rehearsal space for several Bristol-based theatre and performance companies. Equity, the actors union, has a general branch based in the city.
Since the late 1970s, the city has been home to bands combining punk, funk, dub and political consciousness. Among the most notable have been Glaxo Babies, the Pop Group and trip hop or "Bristol Sound" artists such as Tricky, Portishead, and Massive Attack; the list of bands from Bristol is extensive. It is also a stronghold of drum and bass with notable artists such as the Mercury Prize winning Roni Size/Reprazent as well as the pioneering DJ Krust and More Rockers. This music is part of the wider Bristol urban culture scene which received international media attention in the 1990s.
Bristol has many live music venues, the largest of which is the 2,000-seat Colston Hall, named after Edward Colston. Others include the Bristol Academy, The Fleece, The Croft, The Exchange, Fiddlers, Victoria Rooms, Trinity Centre, St George's Bristol and a range of public houses from the jazz-orientated The Old Duke to rock at the Fleece and Firkin, and indie bands at the Louisiana. In 2010, PRS for Music announced that Bristol is the most musical city in the UK, based on the number of its members born in Bristol in relation to the size of its population.
The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery houses a collection of natural history, archaeology, local glassware, Chinese ceramics and art. M Shed, the museum of Bristol, opened in 2011 on the site of the former Bristol Industrial Museum. Both museums are operated by Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, which also runs three preserved historic houses – the Tudor Red Lodge, the Georgian House and Blaise Castle House – as well as Bristol Record Office.
The Watershed Media Centre and Arnolfini gallery, both in disused dockside warehouses, exhibit contemporary art, photography and cinema, while the city's oldest gallery is at the Royal West of England Academy in Clifton.
Antlers Gallery, Bristol's nomadic gallery opened in 2010, moving around the city into empty spaces on Park Street, Whiteladies Road and Purifier House on Bristol's Harbourside. The commercial gallery represents Bristol based artists through exhibitions, art fairs and private sales.
Stop frame animation films and commercials produced by Aardman Animations and television series focusing on the natural world have also brought fame and artistic credit to the city. The city is home to the regional headquarters of BBC West, and the BBC Natural History Unit. Locations in and around Bristol have often featured in the BBC's natural history programmes, including the children's television programme Animal Magic, filmed at Bristol Zoo.
In literature, Bristol is noted as the birthplace of the 18th century poets Robert Southey and Thomas Chatterton. Southey, who was born on Wine Street, Bristol in 1774, and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge married the Bristol Fricker sisters. William Wordsworth spent time in the city, where Joseph Cottle first published Lyrical Ballads in 1798.
The 18th- and 19th century portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence and 19th century architect Francis Greenway, designer of many of Sydney's first buildings, came from the city, and more recently the graffiti artist Banksy, many of whose works can be seen in the city. Some famous comedians are locals, including Justin Lee Collins, Lee Evans, Russell Howard, and writer/comedian Stephen Merchant.
University of Bristol graduates include magician and psychological illusionist Derren Brown; the satirist Chris Morris; Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz; and Matt Lucas and David Walliams of Little Britain fame. Hollywood actor Cary Grant was born in the city; along with Dolly Read, UK Stars Ralph Bates and Norman Eshley. Peter O'Toole, Kenneth Cope, Patrick Stewart, Jane Lapotaire, Pete Postlethwaite, Jeremy Irons, Greta Scacchi, Miranda Richardson, Helen Baxendale, Daniel Day-Lewis and Gene Wilder are amongst the many actors who learnt their craft at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, opened by Laurence Olivier in 1946. The comedian John Cleese was a pupil at Clifton College. Hugo Weaving studied at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School and David Prowse (Darth Vader, Star Wars) attended Bristol Grammar School.