We ‘HEART’ our Students

We ‘HEART’ our Students


Last weekend some lovely overseas postgrad students came down to the Cumberland Piazza in Hotwells to help Art Under the Flyover, an HCCA project, paint pillars. It’s the second time some of them have been. One couple live locally, and the first time they came along I immediately handed them an hour’s worth of paint brush washing, which they did with real kindness. I was delighted that they offered again and brought some friends.

Our neighbourhood has a huge student population and I occasionally hear some really negative things, like, ‘they’re transient, aren’t they?’, ‘they don’t care about the community’, ‘they just make loads of noise at night and leave their rubbish all over the street.’ Is this the whole story? Certainly not the case with Malin and Caleb, from Germany and the US, who painted pillars. Only here for a short time, they got involved and are helping improve our local environment. I totally ‘HEART’ them, as my Instagram-ing 5-yr old would say.

But there’s something more serious going on than Instagram ‘heart-ing’. The Bristol Big Give was set up in 2014, raising £180,000 for charity, supported by the UBU Get Green programme. The latest Big Give event was in march this year, in partnership with the British Heart Foundation. You may have seen the big red recycling points dotted around the neighbourhood. This is a wonderful example of students putting hearts and minds in to helping us re-use our ‘rubbish’ and raising money for charity.

mapping exercise SU

On Monday 8th of June, we were invited to the Bristol University Student Union to their Celebrating Volunteers event and we took along a map of the neighbourhood. The idea was to find out about their volunteering experiences by creating a key to our map using a variety of stickers. We asked them:

  • Did you borrow or lend a cup of sugar? How well did you get to know your neighbours?
  • Where did you find the household items you needed?
  • What did you get involved with locally?
  • Did you have any issues with re-use & recycling?
  • Would you consider swapping your skill for assets from your neighbours?

We found out that:

  • Many students found it hard to get to know the more permanent residents
  • There wasn’t enough household recycling facilities with the high density of rental properties
  • The secondhand and charity shops in Stokes Croft and on Gloucester Rd were great for buying stuff they needed
  • An area wide ‘pavement swap’ during freshers week in September would be a great idea

So, Sharing Communities is going to work with UBU Get Green to do an event in freshers week 2015 which introduces new students to information and ideas about how they can access items that their neighbours no longer need and can offer their skills to local residents.

When I was a student I lived all over London and did odd jobs for people like cleaning, nannying and gardening. I left college with no debt (those were the days of no fees- imagine!) and I got to know neighbours. My most regular gig was with Eileen Cooper, who encouraged and inspired me to study fine art, and who’s oldest son taught me everything I know about dealing with creative children of unique willpower!

I would cherish (and pay) a student to help me out- as a freelancer I can’t commit to a childminder, can’t afford a cleaner, but do need help sometimes! And perhaps my daughter could teach a student about managing unique and creative willpower in turn!

Let’s all ‘HEART’ our students and not just see them as a transient population, but as an integral part of our community, people we can share with, swap with and enjoy.


Arts Council_Official Partner_Landscape_RGB

Growing Together

Growing Together

Communal Gardens are good for the soul!

The Town Green

Growing food or flowers as part of a community has numerous health and social benefits for people of all ages. Many years ago I did a project with Age Concern in Waltham Forest and I will never forget the delight of the people I interviewed about their allotment communities. Opposite my old nursery school in Deptford committed locals transformed a dumping ground into a beautiful herb garden  and saved a small pocket of green space from encroaching development.

It’s not only good for our souls, but essential for our cities to have green spaces, attracting pollinators, absorbing carbon and giving us spaces to meet and create.

This weekend 6th & 7th June 2015, Bristol is home to the Get Growing Garden Trail where Bristol’s food growers open their gardens and community plots and in our neighbourhood CHIS have organised Green Squares and Secret Gardens giving us the opportunity to visit large private gardens.

Sharing Communities is aiming to put our neighbourhood on the food growing trail as well as highlight all the amazing community garden projects already happening, such as The Town Green in Cliftonwood (above) and Easter Garden near Blackboy Hill. There are so many local groups who are working on growing more produce. With the exception of a few streets, we have small gardens, though many people have allotments just over the river, so maximising the communal and ‘waste’ spaces is the way to grow!

On the Cumberland Piazza in Hotwells, the local community have been using sacks as planters for years, and have now installed some purpose built ones made by Bristol Wood Recycling Project. The Wild Place Project, part of Bristol Zoo, are working with HCCA for several months and are now growing native plants for the site ready for planting next month. HCCA is also building a rainwater harvesting devise on the roof of some disused toilets as the site has no plumbing. Many people would like to see food grown on the piazza, so the pollution levels will have to be tested.

The Incredible Edible Network is a national food growing support group and here in Bristol they are helping people develop food growing in underused spaces, so we’ll be talking to them, too.

Avon Wildlife Trust have mapped our city to show all the green spaces. Here’s our neighbourhood.

It would be fantastic to take a community wander from the Downs in the north to the harbour in the south and look at what has been done and what more we could do. We can stop at various places along the way for refreshments and a bit of creative planting and creating planters from all sorts of unlikely objects. We’ll also be sketching, painting and photographing plants and spaces with skills artists.

  • Are you a gardener or food grower or a garden-y artist?
  • Have you transformed a communal space?
  • Do you know if any waste spaces we could turn into communal growing spaces?
  • Do you have spare seeds or plants to share with others in your neighbourhood?

Please get in touch annahaydockwilson@icloud.com

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