Finding Common Ground

Linking communities along Bristol’s waterways


In our cities we are experiencing an erosion of public space. Bristol’s population is predicted to rise by 95,000 within the next ten years with many new homes being planned. While existing neighbourhoods understand the need for people to have homes, especially for the 1300 sleeping on our streets, we’d like to be part of the conversation. How this can best happen in a sustainable way? How can we preserve unique environments? Where can we plant more trees? Will there be enough schools? Health centres? Buses? Cycle lanes? And what about our community and cultural

During this summer we have been leading Walk n Talk events within our riverside neighbourhoods looking at how we can help communities be part of the decision making and planning in relation to changes in the built and cultural environments of Bristol.

Emerging from Art within the Cracks this project sets out to talk to Bristol’s citizens and find out what they think about how the city can best grow. We’re interested in what unites us and are using the Rivers Frome, Malago and Avon to link neighbourhoods. The areas we are beginning with are Frenchay, Eastville/Easton, Bedminster, Hotwells, Hartcliffe and Withywood.

Who are we? As artists we’ve been co-creating with communities for a couple of decades, creating community gardens, performances, films, songs, maps and, as activists we’ve help people share their ideas.

Here are some of the activities we’ve produced with communities in the past

Commissioned by Gingko Projects and Keepmoat Homes, The Butterfly Effect by Brave Bold Drama explored what residents enjoyed about being in natural spaces. This video and the results of the engagement will be shared with an artist commissioned to design and build a permanent nature space onsite of a major new housing development

I developed activities for Peaceful Portway 2015 as part of Sharing Communities

Lizzie Philps has written with communities in the landscape using GPS Trackers

Annali Grimes has been working with locals to improve this neglected area
Grace Kress campaigns for ctizens rights using graphic design and community arts
Amy Hutchings has painted murals with people of Hotwells and Withywood
Gill Simmons has been co-writing songs with communities about their environments

It’s not just artists, we’re also working with Action Greater Bedminster, Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association & Frenchay Village Museum. And we’re talking to ACORN Union, Liveable Neighbourhoods, Extinction Rebellion, Bricks Bristol, UWE, Bristol University, Bristol Health Partners, Windmill Hill and Malago planning group, Bedminster Green Hub and many more.

We’ve teamed up with Bristol Artists’-Led Forum and Diverse Artists’ Network to co-create participatory activities to bring back into our communities in 2021 when we have clarity about Covid-19 restrictions. We are presenting these activities at Gardiner Haskins in October 2020. We want you to come and help us create Unlocking Bristol an installation with sound, painting and sculpture so we can collect city-wide views on what citizens need to improve our city- we believe that locals are the experts in their areas.

We’re still fundraising, but we’d love to hear from you if you want to join the conversations and journey with us to find common ground.

HighWaterLine Bristol report, 2015, Isobel Tarr & Anna Haydock-Wilson is a great resource in community engagement around social issues and a production guide for a city wide project.

Reading list:

My personal motivation in devising this project is my experience of my upbringing. Inner City London has been feeling development pressures since the 1980s, using my home town, Deptford, I have been musing about the impacts with friends which you can see in this film.

Here is a video presentation of how my practice has developed to lead me to Finding Common Ground