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.