Artist-in-residence – Vanessa Kisuule

 

Vanessa Kisuule

Vanessa Kisuule is one of three Artists-in-Residence working with local communities on projects to celebrate the regeneration of the Temple Quarter area and document its heritage.

Vanessa is an award winning spoken word artist, recently appointed as Bristol’s city poet. She’ll be sharing her reflections and writing poems which explore the stories of the local area and its inhabitants, collecting memories from the past and hopes for the future. 

 

Click here to share your stories with Vanessa or call 0117 428 2322.

The Sorting Office Site: A Halfway House of Ghost Stories  

It takes a considerable leap of the imagination to walk through the cavity of the former Royal Mail sorting office and envisage a gleaming new university campus in its place. Despite its crumbling frame, there is something irrevocably sturdy about the structure. I can’t quite imagine it giving up without a fight. Even the way it will be demolished speaks of architectural stubbornness: rather than blowing up the structure in one cathartic motion, the contractors must ‘nibble’ away at the site with an extractor that will reduce the building to rubble over several weeks. Though initially disappointed that the building wouldn’t meet its end with a literal bang, I now appreciate the subtle poignancy in this death by slow mastication. It’s fitting that parts be taken away gradually, much in the way the building has decayed of its own accord in the twenty-two years since the sorting office was shut down. It’s the perpetual affliction of a poet to see metaphor in the most arbitrary of happenstance, but I like to hope this idea is striking for others to contemplate as well. 

The archival responsibilities we have to a space, even when we are radically changing it, are fascinating to ponder. As we were escorted around the site, stories of varying plausibility were relayed to us. Some were mostly true with the inevitable garnish of hyperbole, others seemed to be mere urban myths. But don’t the myths we make up become a part of our historical truth in their own way? The site, in this way, feels like a halfway house of ghost stories. Indeed, there are stories as yet untold beneath one’s very feet around the perimeter of the site. There are an estimated 70-1000 bodies buried there after a cholera epidemic that swept the city in the 1800s. It is strange to think of the ethical duty we have to lives long gone and silenced under asphalt. But what a testament to the cyclical nature of time: as we build something new, we must also reconcile with the past that we dig up in the process.  

As I walked along the pitted floors scattered with pigeon feathers, desiccated carpet squares and endless mountains of debris, I couldn’t help but marvel at the playfulness of the space and how much of an inadvertent playground it has become. To speak of its ‘aesthetic’ would be suggestive of a deliberate curation that is not at play, but there does seem to be an incidental beauty here. I found myself charmed by the asymmetric chunks of tiles making scrambled mosaics on the floor, the walls that boasted meticulous murals and graffiti tags that would not look out of place in parts of Stokes Croft. It’s the sort of environment that media agencies spend thousands artificially creating for edgy networking events and pop up vintage stalls. If the university hadn’t bought this site, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a young tattooed micro-brewer specialising in niche IPAs had instead.  

But this space is not the all too common facsimile of counter culture we’re so used to seeing these days. There is a genuine spikiness here, an authentic deviance that is both bleak and thrilling. One of the old safes is reimagined as the locked entrance to a gay bar, an ominous political commentary if ever I saw one. The tags ‘Le Peng’ and ‘SHN’ recur frequently, the monikers of artists who have flaunted their stealth in getting into the building undetected. I fell a little bit in love with the swaggering aggression of this towering, majestic eyesore, the simultaneous fragility and belligerence of this not-quite-place. As an artist and as a human, I have learnt how to feel at home in the belly of a contradiction, so it stands to reason that this site speaks to me on a guttural level. It’s hard to imagine a time when it was an orderly place of work where things were filed and organised into neat piles and people dutifully clocked in and out. I am interested in these stories of the postal workers, how their regimented schedules may compare and contrast with the street artists who, decades later, scrambled into the husk of this once functioning business to reappropriate it in their own names.  

These stories may not be the remarkable kind that traditional history is so enamoured with. They are not the narratives on which instrumental change hinges. But they are the stories that have character and spunk, that perhaps relate to the communities we are trying so hard to retain as our cities become increasingly modern. The only hope for the survival of these stories is to ask probing questions and seek out those who may have answers, however partial. 

There will be a lot of conflicting opinions about this campus and what it means for the landscape of Bristol. Pertinent and uncomfortable discussions must be had as to who benefits from these changes and who potentially suffers or gets left behind. Whilst emphasising the exciting potential of developments like the Temple Quarter, we must also give space for uncertainty, for fear, for lament and respectful commemoration of what has been.  

I don’t want to be a vessel for glib evangelising for the campus, as brilliant as I think it has the potential to be. This residency, for me, is a chance to think deeply about the stories we tell ourselves about the cities we hope to inhabit. It’s nigh on impossible to disentangle truth from myth, hope from delusion, blue sky thinking from bottom line economics. With the help of my fellow Bristol citizens, I hope to make work that holds this dissonance with humour and care, that understands the trauma that comes with change and also the hopeful progression. Rather than forcing neat conclusions, I hope to make work as messy, provocative, angry, complex, beautiful and compelling as the site itself.

Student, Chelsie Bailey, on the rich heritage of the Old Bristol Cattle Market

As a History student at the University of Bristol I’ve had the privilege of looking into the heritage of the University’s new Enterprise campus and the history of the old Bristol Cattle Market, operating from 1830 until the 1960s. I’ve discovered a rich and extensive body of archival material, both locally in Bristol, and nationally and I was really excited to be part of the film celebrating the history of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

I looked at changes in both legislation and public opinion around cattle markets in the nineteenth century, spurred by protests against the treatment of animals at Smithfield market in London. Working with members of the History and Veterinary departments at the University, an interdisciplinary approach has helped to uncover fascinating details of the experience of animals in the market and their treatment on journeys to and from the Temple Meads site.

Bristol Cattle Market initially held market day on Thursdays, with an additional opening on Mondays added later due to high demand. With numbers in the thousands at full capacity, the market held a range of livestock, including cows, calves, sheep, pigs and horses. The establishment of the Great Western Railway station at Temple Meads in 1840 increased the ease of access to the market, both for consumers and animals. Cattle travelled to the market on foot from local farms, by rail from the surrounding areas, and by boat from Ireland and Canada. The journey by boat in particular was reported to have been long and strenuous for the animals, with the minimum amount of food, water and physical space provided in efforts to keep costs low.

Bristol Cattle Market was nevertheless seen by many as the model of good practice in animal welfare, particularly in comparison to Smithfield. In Bristol, drovers – who walked the animals into the city – did not use the sharpened sticks commonly known as ‘goads’ to herd the cows. The location of the Market itself also ensured that the pens were of regulation size and there was less overcrowding in Bristol than at other major city markets, especially Smithfield. However the extent of animal welfare provision in the market should not be exaggerated. Butchers’ reports noted bruising and cuts on slaughtered animals, and a number of contemporaries observed unnecessary cruelty to cattle on the part of the drovers. One resident of St Phillip’s Marsh recalled her terror of market day as a child:

It was terrifying to hear the herdsmen shouting and hitting those maddened cows, and the Bulls had rings through their noses with men pulling them along on huge ropes. Blood would be running down from their faces where the rings had cut into their nostrils. Sometimes men would put a sack over the Bulls heads to quieten them down. Once a Bull put his backside against my Aunties front door and broke it down, and then one of the cows ran into the house.
Source: St Philips Marsh, The Story of an Island and its People, BRO Pamphlet/2054. P39

Through the nineteenth century, public awareness of animal cruelty was on the increase , exemplified by the establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now the RSPCA) in 1824. The Bristol branch of the society was established in 1842, and funded regular inspections of the market, increasing the number of cruelty cases brought to court. Contemporary newspapers frequently reported the details of such cases, with cases commonly involving the binding of calves mouths with twine, which became ‘quite sunk into the flesh’, to prevent the calves from suckling and the exposure of diseased animals in the market.
Source: The Bristol Daily Post, Monday February 11 1861

The Market allowed the city to grow, putting Bristol on the map as having a good market for space for the animals and closeness to a train line. The significance of the market, and it’s long history, should be reflected in the new development of the University to commemorate the lives of the people and animals who dedicated their lives to it. We hope the essence of the market can be understood for the importance it held for Bristol, and for feeding all those who benefited from it. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, and would like to thank the Brigstow Institute and the Temple Quarter group for their help and support. I hope you enjoy this film about our project and the history of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

Professor Guy Orpen on the civic university

The University of Bristol has its roots firmly planted in the city from its formation as a civic university. When University College Bristol opened in 1876, in rented premises on Park Row, it had two professors and five lecturers offering courses in 15 subjects – with local people as students, many of them studying at night.

Drawing on a local history of education in medicine and engineering the University itself was formed in 1909 with the support of the City Council and individual citizens alike.

And it was always innovative – the University was the first higher education institution in England to admit women on an equal basis to men.

Over the past century the relationship between the city and its University has waxed and waned, but the last decade has seen a strengthening relationship as the mutual benefits to be gained have become strikingly obvious.

Bristol is a wonderful city in which to live, work and study, and for its citizens there is much to be gained from having one of the world’s top 100 universities at its heart. That said, for much of the past century neither the University or the city has actively sought to build on that mutual benefit.

This dynamic changed after the 2008 financial crash. The world now needs much closer partnership between cities, their communities and their anchor institutions, universities included, across the public, third and private sectors.

Now is the time to reimagine our University as one of the world’s great civic universities

We welcome the opportunity to build on the education and research that is our core mission by actively partnering with the health, educational, cultural, industrial, community and governmental organisations in our city-region.

We have been following this path for a decade and more. We were founder members of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol Health Partners, the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and the Learning City Partnership – to name but a few. The University played a key role in launching the Science Park by basing the National Composites Centre we own and operate there as its anchor tenant. Likewise, the University runs the Engine Shed and the global number one SETsquared Centre at Temple Meads.

Our role is clear – we can and should work with others to change the city for the better – to create jobs, cultural, social and learning opportunities. So, what next?

The city faces great challenges in building on success in challenging times, while bridging its divisions and sharing opportunities more fairly. Similarly, the University is under tremendous competitive pressure to be able to deliver public good while public funding is on the retreat.

The good news is that we can rise to these challenges together. The Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus is the most visible of these opportunities. Its development is gathering pace, and the prospect of us having a campus that is for open collaboration with business, third sector partners and communities of the city has attracted great interest.

Research and innovation on the campus will co-create solutions to the challenges faced by society in Bristol and around the world – in the face of climate change, technology and demographic shifts – and bring out the talent that we need to deliver those solutions in practice.

To succeed, co-creation will require us to learn from, and partner with, our wonderful city and learn from the expertise of its diverse and challenging communities, businesses and organisations.

We invite you to join us on this journey – help us to reimagine how the University and city can work together to meet the challenges we face over the century ahead.

 

 

Artist-in-residence – Paul Hurley

Paul Hurley is one of three Artists-in-Residence working with local communities on projects to celebrate the regeneration of the Temple Quarter area and document its heritage.  Paul, who is a Bristol-based performance artist, will look at how both human and animal communities inhabit the site and connect with each other.

His insights will be turned into a series of films to be shown on multiple screens to create a thought-provoking and immersive experience.

I’ve lived and worked in Bristol for a number of years but am always seeing it in new ways. The city is always changing, but so am I – my perspective shifts when I meet new people, learn new things about Bristol, or see and observe different lives being lived here. This was one of the starting points for my residency at the Temple Quarter. How can I make an artwork about a city that is always changing? And whose story is most important? Mine? The University’s? Someone who’s been born and raised here? Someone who’s recently arrived and wants to feel welcomed?

This then got me thinking about ‘communities’ (never a simple term) around South and East Bristol and the encounters they might have – encounters with me and my art project, as well as with the broader project of the new campus and the University at large. I have a long history of making performances with communities as well as performances with and as animals, but have never mixed the two. It struck me that in a big development project like the new campus, the communities around it are multiple – both the different human communities that live and work around here, and the nonhumans that also inhabit its spaces.

My plan is to create a performance for video work that will bring together some of these different communities in a kind of council or community meeting to reflect on the area’s past and to think about its future. This meeting will be attended by representatives of different human and nonhuman communities, expressing their interests and concerns. The work will be a space for differences to be explored (differences of opinion as well as differences of lived experience), and to consider how the campus might fit into a broader ecology of human and nonhuman lives in the city.

Fun Palace Barton Hill Settlement blog: – 6th October

On a slightly cold and rainy October day I went to Barton Hill Settlement, to take part in one of Bristol’s annual Fun Palace events. The Settlement is a community centre dated back to the early 1900s. There are some interesting archival photos here. Although the clothing and the centre might look very different today, the activities of the centre remain focused on creating opportunities for local residents to participate in positive and life-affirming activities. Fun Palaces are an initiative that “promotes culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture”. At Barton Hill, the day brought together artists, University staff and families to play video games, make bubble paintings, eat samosas and enjoy a free lunch from Food Cycle.

I used the opportunity to do a creative mapping exercise with families, drawing a map of East Bristol and asking people to draw where they thought different nonhuman communities might live. I discovered not only that most children can draw animals better than I can, but that they see the city as a place shared with a huge a range of nonhuman animals. As well as obvious ones like cats and dogs, people drew ladybirds, snakes (spotted near the river Avon), gulls, bats, nits and a pet tortoise. Almost 60 species (although that included a panda, two monsters and a reindeer).

Just one afternoon spent chatting to families not only opened up my own thoughts about the nonhuman communities around here, but felt really encouraging about how the project idea can connect to peoples’ imaginations. We will see how bringing human and nonhuman communities works – maybe the final piece will include a panda and a monster!

 

What will education look like tomorrow? Martin Parker looks at how universities can help local economic regeneration

Martin_Parker

Universities are clearly important players in their local cities, with huge effects on employment, housing, and culture. Bristol is no exception, with the Temple Quarter project by the main railway station set to transform that area of the city and have huge effects on its neighbouring communities. I am the new Director of an institute established at the University which tries to understand just how the development can maximise benefits for the citizens of the city who often have nothing directly to do with higher education. Why should they care about Temple Quarter?

Speaking at the Economics of Happiness conference at Bristol Harbourside in October, I will be talking about my research on what university Business Schools should be doing to help local economic regeneration. Together with Sado Jirde from the Black South West Network, and Chris Brink (ex head of Newcastle University) we will be discussing just how universities shape dominant ideas. What are the roles and responsibilities of universities in relation to local economies? Can higher education respond better to the needs and demands of society? Can it help create different futures?

Given the challenges that face us, we will need economies that are low carbon and hence more local. This probably means smaller organizations, and a renewed attempt to govern and think in regional or civic frames. The age of the big organization might be behind us, and we need to plan for a future in which we can no longer afford long supply chains and a throwaway society. Neither can we afford the kind of social exclusions which mean that organizations tend to be dominated by middle aged white men. We know that the future will not be the same as the past, so can universities begin to shape it?

Martin Parker

Mustafa Rampuri, Research and Innovation Programme manager for Temple Quarter – Bristol Faces

“I’ve been at the university for 14 years and during that time I’ve been involved in lots of projects that cross the boundary between the university and industry. My role is to oversee the TQEC Research and Innovation programme and the Quantum Technologies Innovation Centre (QTIC). “

Mustafa Rampuri, Research and Innovation Programme manager for Temple Quarter talks about how QTIC will unlock new opportunities. #bristolface

Read the full interview here.

Down the figurative rabbit hole: Aidan Shilson-Thomas takes us on a historical journey

Aidan Shilson-Thomas is one of our students who is capturing the rich history of the Temple Quarter site. Read his findings about how a 200-year old visitors book revealed the secrets of Bristol’s imperial past.

History students working in the archives

As part of the team tasked with researching the History of the site where the University’s Temple Campus will be built, our brief sometimes seemed overwhelming: ‘Find out about the people who lived and worked there’. Sounds simple enough?

The land around Bristol’s enterprise quarter has been farmed, worshipped on, industrialised, deindustrialised, developed and levelled time and again for over 1000 years. The campus will be a major development, but from a historical perspective it’s just another blip on Bristol’s map.

With such rich history we were faced with a true mountain of source material. The archival records ran to hundreds of ‘items’, and some of these were hundreds of pages long! It’s no surprise, therefore, that we sometimes chanced on the unexpected. When you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, or even exactly what you’re looking at(!), the smallest detail can take you on a trip through the archives.

On the same land where part of the new campus will be built, 400 men, women, and children worked for John Hare & Co. in the 18th and 19th centuries, producing stunning decorative floorcloths that were sold around the world. A visitor’s log from the 1800s shows that people visited from as far away as Barbados, Cuba and New York.

Reading through the log, I had expected to see some international visitors. But an entry which took us all by surprise was for three signatures which had been marked as being from the sons of the King of Ashantee. What on earth were three African princes doing in a carpet factory in Bristol?

We learned that they weren’t there voluntarily. These princes were hostages to the British government after a treaty with the Ashantees broke down. Whilst in Britain, it was claimed that they had ‘greatly profited by care and attention bestowed upon their education; they [then] engaged in a tour through England to inspect the different manufactories…previous to their return to their native country.’

In light of this we re-examined another entry from an ‘Edward George Jenkinson, in service to the New Zealand government.’ Some digging revealed that Jenkinson was a translator who served the governor of New Zealand, and that he had brought 11 high-ranking Maoris to England in 1863 to teach them about British industry. This was, reported the Scotsman, so that they could ‘obtain such general information respecting the greatness and power of England as may prove a benefit to themselves and to their several tribes on their return…’

The Maori’s were also introduced to Christian leaders and visited the home of John Wesley. The Ashantee princes had received a similar treatment, and the papers reporting on their tour claimed that they had become ‘sincere and true converts’ to Christianity.

From these signatures we discovered a different history of the site to the one we’d been looking for. As a key manufacturing site, an exemplar of British industry and enterprise, John Hare & Co. became a means to carrying out the ‘civilising mission’. It was part of a process of religious and social indoctrination that was meant to acculturate not only the Ashantee princes and the Maori leaders, but also, eventually, the people who they ruled in Britain’s empire.

The history of the site of the new campus can give us a sense of perspective. The campus will be the next chapter in the site’s history, not the first. It was an ‘enterprise zone’ long before we decided to call it one! It also gives us fresh insights into the city that we all live and work in. Bristol has an intimate, complicated and problematic association with Empire. Our site’s history newly reveals one of the many ways that this was forged and reinforced.

 

 

Meet the team – our new head of programme delivery

Nicola Key is the Head of Programme delivery for the Temple Quarter Campus taking over the reins from Neil Bradshaw. She oversees the whole range of activities that are required to design, build and operate the new campus. We caught up with Nicola to see what attracted her to working for Temple Quarter and what she thinks of the project and the wider university.

I was excited to work for the Temple Quarter Programme as I really enjoy roles where I can create a large impact on society. I see the campus as vital for the ongoing expansion of the University. I’ve lived in Bristol since 1996 and have seen significant levels of urban regeneration within the city centre over the last 20 years. I’ve always been mystified as to why the area around Temple Meads station contains so many derelict buildings and looks so shabby. When I found out about the new campus project I was thrilled that finally the arrival at Temple Meads station would be revitalised.

Being new to the university, my view is that it’s thought of within Bristol as a bit of an ivory tower. There are some incredible people here from over the world as well as lots of inspiring people from the UK. The buildings are not particularly accessible and are generally considered closed to the people of Bristol. I see Temple Quarter changing that, it’s going to be much more of an open site, more collaborative and will involve many more organisations and people from around the city. The campus will allow more people to visit, members of the public will be able to visit socially and for training. It will be a step change in the way that the university has been seen to be operating and takes it back to its original roots where it once set out to be a civic university. I think it has lost some of that along the way and so the new campus will really help us to create an environment where we have open doors to a wider audience.

The space inside the buildings will be about collaboration and knowledge sharing between different groups of people, between students on different courses across different schools and faculties or between businesses and community organisations. This will mean a change in the way that we teach. Students will have the opportunity to sit on projects working alongside businesses throughout their academic course rather than having to spend a year away, so it will provide a much more integrated and enriching study experience for our students.  Having been a student on a thin sandwich business studies course in the 1980’s, I spent term time both in and out of the university, however the experience in the business was completely disconnected from the learning. The Temple Quarter Campus is a great opportunity to integrate project work with learning and it’s a completely different approach that I can see will be a huge benefit to our students.

We are keen to collaborate with people from across different areas of the university to get some ideas about how we want the campus to work so please do get in touch with the team if you would like to be a part of this exciting new project.

I started at the university in July 2018 and my favourite thing about working her so far has been the people. I have been welcomed with open arms and had a fantastic reception, it’s been amazing.

Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security – Bristol Faces

“I was attracted to the University’s academic excellence and its future ambition. Particularly the Temple Quarter Campus and the ambition to be a modern civic university that’s integrated with the city and has a social mission.”

Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Bristol gives his views on cyber security, Bristol and the Temple Quarter Enterprise  Campus #bristolface

Read the full interview here.