Taking theatre to the community

By Department of Theatre second-year students Mathilde Hirth, Hannah Jones, Clara Friedrichs and Imogen Withers

Image from 2018 Family Theatre Day. Photo Credit: Lizzy Cummins, Travelling Light Theatre

Working with Travelling Light Theatre Company and our lecturer Jess McCormack in the Department of Theatre, we’ve created performances for a Family Theatre Day 11-4pm on Saturday 4 May at Barton Hill Settlement. We’ve organised how the event will run and promoted it among families in the local communities. During the day, families in Lawrence Hill are invited to drop in, watch performances and enjoy other activities held by the Travelling Light Theatre Company Youth Board.

Members of the Youth Board collaborated with University of Bristol students to come up with activities to go alongside the performances. Through several workshops, we explored the role of facilitation and different ways of making theatre for young audiences. The aim of the theatre pieces and the day itself is to give the children a place to be imaginative and inventive – where they are as much part of the performance as the performers. We will take the audience on a journey under the sea, into a world of music, to a little post office at Barton Hill and to save our planet from plastic.

Image from 2018 Family Theatre Day. Photo Credit: Lizzy Cummins, Travelling Light Theatre

Being involved in the Family Theatre Day and the school performances has been a great experience. Sometimes at university you can lose sight of what you’re doing the degree for – and you can get stuck in the academic bubble of lectures and deadlines. Interacting with communities that we don’t normally get to meet, and may get to work with after graduating, gives a new perspective and context to everything we learn in our courses. Creating theatre for children is refreshing, fun and so important. It’s great to know our performances could have an influence on the way they see the world and themselves in the future.

We have loved this project in so many different ways. From exploring information about Barton Hill Settlement to making a real piece for the festival, it has been great fun. We love the fact that we’re getting to interact with a community in Bristol. A lot of students don’t get that chance and it’s given us the opportunity to consider what sort of theatre we want to share – and important messages we want to explore through theatre.

We feel so lucky to be a part of such a fun and diverse festival. We often make theatre and show it to our peers. But to go outside of the university, share it with the wider communities beyond our theatre bubble and take time to bring a little joy and fun to some children’s everyday life has been amazing and inspiring.

Supported by proposed Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, the Family Theatre Day is a free day of fun for families with children 4+. From 11-4pm on Saturday 4 May, the team will be putting on four exciting performances, painting faces and holding a cake and crafts sale. Donations will go to Travelling Light Youth Theatre, based in Barton Hill Settlement.

What can universities do for cities and their people?

A blog post from Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development. 

This was the question in our minds on 29th March. A day that was previously marked as the UK’s farewell from Europe, insteaheld the first Bristol Forum in City Hall. The landmark event was put together by the universities of Bristol and the West of England in partnership with a wide range of city organisations. 

I was on a panel answering questions from around the hall during an exciting day full of presentations, discussions and debates. The proposition was that the research capability of the universities – coupled with the knowledge and capability from the city and its people – could address local challenges. I sensed a real buzz of willingness and optimism to work together in the hall. 

The panel was asked a variety of questions. Two that particularly stuck in my mind were: 

Q: How could we make the buzz today last? 

A (from me)If we get investment and partners from outside the city to support the research, we can turn this into further action. 

Q: How could the universities contribute problem solving capacity to address the city’s challenges?” 

A: I suggested we should change this question to “How could universities help solve the problems facing the city and its communities?”We can, and should, work together on research and developing evidence to support policy making and delivery – and we’re already doing this, for example in health, through Bristol Health Partners. 

But more directly, the way the University evolves can help address some long-standing challenges our city facesAn obvious example is that the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus will help open eastern access to Temple Meads for all (with the help of Network Rail, WECA and the Council). And the campus can also help create investment in the area to support new jobs and homes nearby, generating opportunities for our neighbours.  

The star of the panel was Nasra Ayub, the undergraduate officer of the Bristol Students Union. She spoke passionately about the opportunities that university life and education had given her – and lit up the meeting with evidence of the contributions students can make to the city.  

So the first Bristol Forum was a great success – but it raised as many questions as it settled. How can we get business more involved? How can we get more funding for health research and other areas to work with our city partners? How do we enable and respect participation in research by small organisations and individuals? How should we debate and resolve contentious areas of the relationships between the city and its universities?  

These questions are particularly relevant in relation to our development plans for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus. You can find out more about our plans here. 

What does the future of work look like?

By Dr Frederick Harry Pitts, Lecturer in Management at University of Bristol.

The future of work: you can’t move for mention of it today. Consultants, academics and policymakers all present a single, fast-approaching point of change. 

With automation, artificial intelligence and algorithms, we could be facing a utopia or dystopia — depending on who you talk to. For some, this means freedom from mundane tasks with luxury at the click of a button. For others, it’s the worry of losing purpose as technology takes over our jobs and eventually the world. 

The jury is well and truly out on how this will unfold. Estimates vary wildly as to how many jobs are at threat, with PWC suggesting some third of jobs at risk and OECD predicting a less severe one in tenOf course, the effects of this would be felt differently across roles and sectors. But overall, things are very unlikely to be as extreme as people imagine. 

What unites both utopian and dystopian visions is the idea that technological change is inevitable. Both agree we must adjust our expectations of what work can and should be like in the future. But this doesn’t mean it’s out of our control. What is clear is that the future of work will be characterised by technology changing how we approach things, instead of simply taking our jobs. And this will need careful management and oversight by business leaders, policymakers and workers representatives.  

The human element 

The future of work isn’t just a question of technology, but also of humanityIt’s important to recognise that social, political, legal and geographical processes will determine how all these changes play out. This means that the future of work will depend on how people and organisations are configured in different places. And it means that we as humans, together with our institutions, can ultimately decide and control what the future of work will be like. 

Maybe its better to speak of futures of work rather than a singular imminent futureIt’s not just how technology reshapes working practices that’s at stake. But also the forms of management, governance and ownership best equipped to deliver a better world of work for everyoneIt’s not enough to look at these futures of work, whether good or bad, through a one-sided technical or scientific lens. We need an interdisciplinary approach together with the study of society, organisation, political economy, law and culture.  

Practicing what we preach 

At the University of Bristol, we’re already working across disciplinary boundaries to get to grips with thisYou can see it at the New School of Management through the Faculty Research Group for Perspectives on Work, and in the Bristol University Press online magazine Futures of Work. And we’re also considering how education and training can challenge current practices to encourage new ways of thinking. But in all of this, its important to include perspectives from wider communities at the coalface of the changes underway in the world of work.  

The new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus will provide a state-of-the-art infrastructure to host this — bringing together social scientists and engineers in one space to work together on the big challenges facing usIt’ll boost our existing work with the businesses and social enterprises already innovating at the edge of the futures of work. But itll also encourage new discussions with a wide range of stakeholders on key topics. From the costs and consequences of the changing world of work to our human capacity to control the futures contained withinwe’ll be part of the conversation. 

Find out more about the University’s plans for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus at bristol.ac.uk/templequarter.

Next steps for the new campus

Former Royal Mail Sorting Office during the demolition process

With demolition of the former Royal Mail Sorting Office well underway, we’re ready to progress with the next stages of the planning process. 

Since we secured outline planning permission in July 2018, we have continued to work with communities, businesses, the West of England Combined Authority and Bristol City Council to shape our plans. Phase one of the public consultation will run from 11 April to 1 May 2019 and will include the detailed design of the student residential accommodation. Well also take the opportunity to show an update on the proposed layout of the entire site. 

There are a number of ways for you to share your views. All information will be available online from 11 April and you can come along to one of the following meetings or drop-in sessions. 

Public meetings: 

  • Tuesday 16 April, 5-7.30pm at Barton Hill Settlement, 43 Ducie Road, Bristol BS5 0AX 

Drop-in sessions: 

  • Tuesday 16 April, 12-2pm & Thursday 25 April, 1-3pm at Engine Shed, Station Approach, Bristol BS1 6QH 
  • Wednesday 17 April, 5-7.30pm & Thursday 25 April, 5-7pm at Hannah More School, New Kingsley Road, Bristol BS2 0LT 
  • Saturday 27 April, 2-4pm at Windmill Hill City Farm, Philip Street, Bristol BS3 4EA 

In the meantime, take a look at how much the site has changed since demolition began two months ago:

This first phase of public consultation will be followed by a second phase in the summer—this will focus on the academic buildings and public spaces. 

Temple Quarter -tales of yesterday, today and tomorrow

A blog post from Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development. 

The derelict sorting office is now being demolished bit by bit; not with a swinging ball or major explosion, lest we disturb the rail passengers in their new trains sitting at Platform 15! The old building, constructed in the 1930s and abandoned over 20 years ago, was once a lively workplace on a site with a much longer history – the Cattle Market. Removing the building is an early step of the journey to the new campus. It is also acts as a trigger to reflect on the past of this part of the city and more widely on the part that culture and creativity will play in its future.

University staff and students are gathering the stories of those who worked in the area to document its past. The Cattle Market site was the home of a real market for cattle and other livestock from the mid-19th Century until the 1960s. As you’d expect of Bristol it was also more concerned with the welfare of the animals than most such markets in the UK. Before then, the site was home to John Hare & Co. who were makers of fine decorative cloths and visited by traders from around the world. So, our new campus will be able to draw upon many decades of past enterprise and openness to the world and reflect back those stories.

There are more current stories to tell too – of cultures that have their home in Bristol today. Just across the canal, the women of Lawrence Hill have found the sort of voice we expect to hear more of as the new university community is established in Temple Quarter. To help bring these tales to life we will establish a programme of activities we are calling Twilight Temple Quarter. These will share the knowledge and cultures of Bristol communities and those of the world around us, outside the more formal hours of work and study on a traditional campus.

In these early days of plotting the campus and telling its story we have commissioned artists to tell their tales, inspired by the site’s past, present and future. As a fine example, I commend the poem “Brick Me” penned by Vanessa Kisuule to mark the start of the demolition. Vanessa is one of three Temple Quarter artists in residence, a Bristol graduate and the current city poet.

The new campus will provide venues where the citizens and communities of our great city can share their tales both indoors and out. While the buildings will have spaces open to the public, there will be much larger areas on the Cattle Market site, much larger than Queen’s Square, for us all to enjoy and use for cultural and creative activities. The interplay will not end there. We will look to blend the understanding of the human condition held by creative artists with the opportunities that technologists can create, to generate real, welcomed, societal value.

Brick me – a poem

Today marks an important milestone in the creation of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus as demolition begins on the old sorting office next to Bristol Temple Meads Station.

As we say goodbye to the eyesore that has stood derelict for over 20 years, Bristol City Poet and artist-in-resident Vanessa Kisuule has written a poem to mark the occasion. We’ve worked with Vanessa to create a film that captures memories of the past as we look forward to new beginnings.

 

Facing the future together: City and University

A blog post from Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development. 

The tides of history seem particularly turbulent at present. As Brexit swirls, cities, their people, businesses and organisations wonder about the way forward, our country faces very uncertain times. It feels more important than ever that we work together to support each other. We need to ensure we offer our young people opportunities to thrive whilst protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

A University like Bristol has much to offer in such times. Most obviously we offer employment (to 7,000 staff) and education (to our 24,000 students) as well as world-leading research.

Our students are more hard-pressed than previous generations; spending upwards of £10,000 a year in local businesses and services as well as high tuition fees. They are facing working lives that are longer and more uncertain than ever before. Despite these pressures, they enliven our city – in its cultural and sporting scene, by volunteering across its communities and bringing their vitality to its heart. And for many they make Bristol their home after they graduate, adding to the vibrant feel of one of the UK’s fastest growing cities – a regional hub for innovation and opportunity.

Our researchers seek understanding of our world today, invent ideas for its future and work with the NHS, industry, and society to understand how best to bring them to action. They launch new enterprises – like Ziylo this year’s $800m start-up company – and attract others to join in the endeavour with us. Often our graduates join these employers to provide them with the skills they need as doctors, engineers, managers, civil servants, teachers and scientists.

Our city needs many such jobs to be created, filled and sustained if we are flourish in a time when cities globally are vying for just these jobs. The scale and pace of competition is frightening – from Barcelona, Bangalore, Boston and Beijing to name just some of the Bs! Competition comes in many areas – aerospace, manufacturing, creative and business to name a few.

We face it too – competition in all we do and from all round the world. Our challenge is to attract and empower the most talented students and staff; to secure the resources to allow them and our educational, civic and research mission to succeed; and to bring value to our city and its people. We cannot do this alone. We need to work ever more closely with our city, its people, businesses and communities.

So, I’d argue that we need to be clear about what’s at play – all our futures. These are times of opportunity as well as challenge, and our city and University have just begun the journey to a closer partnership. There is much more we can do together – to change the face of the city east of Temple Meads and provide better futures for all in our wonderful, diverse, edgy but unequal city.

We will need to be honest with each other about the tensions as we face the future but pulling together we can put Bristol on the world stage, a place that tests futures and finds the best of them.

This post was originally published by the Bristol Post on 17 January 2019.

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?

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.