Sharing Communities is the name I gave to my Bristol 2015 Neighbourhood Arts Programme commission running from April to October 2015, as part of Bristol’s European Green Capital year.
The brief was to work across the Cabot, Clifton and Clifton East Neighbourhood Partnership area of Bristol engaging people in re-use, re-purposing and recycling.
It’s such a diverse area, taking in the leafy heights and former slave trade residencies of Clifton to council estates in Redcliffe with issues of disengagement and racism.
I met with residents and stakeholders from Bristol City Council, Bristol University staff and students, local businesses and organisations to find out what people’s concerns and interests were and I developed five projects:
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks was an idea to encourage students and more permanent residents to share resources and skills as a way of diffusing some of the tensions that locals thought derived from ever growing student numbers. This was a partnership with Bristol University student union (UBU), Bristol University Waste Services and Community Liaison.
- Your Place to Play was a consultation event for young people in the Cumberland Piazza with Young Bristol
- Float your Boat with the Underfall Boatyard explored boating re-use and creative engagement about of the restoration of the yard. I created a large banner with photos of re-use stories gathered by Isobel Tarr, and a sound track with Liz Purnell and ran several ‘boat making’ workshops for families. We then floated the boats in the Cumberland Piazza.
- Growing Communities began as a series of conversations with people in the neighbourhood who were doing great stuff with gardens, but I met some council estate residents at a neighbourhood forum and embarked on a partnership to do some re-use and planting at their annual Children’s Day event and build a garden in the children’s playground in the estate. I also painted a mural with the kids.
- The Wayfarers were bandstands designed and built by the fantastic trainee architects I acquired from UWE as the first part of the brief I wrote for Rachel Sara’s Live Project. I had met a group who were organising extended road closures for the A4 Portway running through the Avon Gorge after sporting events, so that the community could enjoy the space. I wanted to see how the acoustics sounded against a rock face and the group wanted some creative activities for their event. The brief specified that the structures had to be made from re-use materials and be transported manually.
The main legacies from Sharing Communities for me were that I joined the Peaceful Portway Steering Group and helped them run more successful events, reducing emissions and giving the community access to this iconic space- in 2017 we had 10,000 visitors in a single 4 hour event; inspired the Underfall Boatyard to keep re-use at the heart of it’s activities; established a collaboration with the trainee architects which led to raising £20,000 for the Cumberland Piazza and making our own pocket park. I also got involved with the fantastic Bristol Re-Use Network, joining conversations about circular economies.
The main challenges were the tight timescale and working with marginalised people without the support of youth and community workers.