Bristol’s pioneering role in quantum and deep tech research and commercialisation.

A Q&A with Mustafa Rampuri, Director of Enterprise Services, University of Bristol.

1. For those that don’t know much about you, what is your role and what is your background?

My role is to help the University of Bristol deliver on its vision to support our partners, students and staff to achieve their enterprise and entrepreneurial aspirations. This means ensuring our innovation and enterprise assets like Engine Shed, SETsquared Bristol and QTIC+ are fully enabled to help achieve extraordinary outcomes within our region.

2. What does QTIC+ do?

QTIC+ is an innovation centre which supports businesses to take deep and emergent technology to market. Our core specialisms are quantum enhanced businesses, but we also have a great track record in cybersecurity and future networks. We provide business and technical support, as well as office, meeting and breakout spaces, high quality laboratories, a hackspace for prototyping and building device technologies, and of course, great coffee.

3. Why is quantum technology so important?

Quantum technologies work in ways that are very different to classical technologies. By harnessing the properties of single particles of light or single atoms, engineers and scientists have developed a new class of technology that goes far beyond the limitations of classical physics. This allows us to measure with greater precision, sense with greater certainty, provide communication secured by the laws of physics, simulate ultra-complex interactions, and solve problems using quantum computers that would be forever out of the reach of classical machines.

4. How are quantum technologies already influencing our lives and which sectors in your view will see the biggest growth looking forwards?

The advent of quantum technology has set in motion a chain of events that are already changing technologies that we rely on. For instance, cryptography, used to secure our online lives, is moving towards being “quantum safe” to mitigate that quantum computers are becoming so powerful they will render our current encryption schemes vulnerable to attack.  Looking forwards, the applications will be incredibly broad and exciting, from pharmaceuticals to the energy sector. Specific examples could be faster drug discovery through simulation and analysis of more complex molecules or helping to reduce our carbon footprint through optimisations of complex interactions such as autonomous transportation.

5. Why is the UK one of the world’s major investors in quantum research?

The UK has invested in quantum for decades, however in 2014 the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme launched which has invested over £500m in research and technology development. The West of England Combined Authority had the foresight to coinvest and awarded the University of Bristol £35m to establish QTIC+.  The University of Bristol is today one of the world’s leading quantum centres, boasting three Nobel prize winners.

6. QTIC+ is due to move to the new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus (TQEC) in 2023. What will this mean for QTIC+?

As we transition to the Temple Quarter Campus we will take the keys to new state of the art labs, a Design Factory for rapid prototyping and a suite of offices, breakout and meeting spaces. All under the same roof with University industrial partners, academics and students, creating a vibrant and creative atmosphere that will attract talented people and make a great venue for supply chain development, building new networks and drawing investors to the region.

7. How can we attract more diversity and inclusion into the quantum and deep tech sectors?

This starts by breaking out of conventional modes of working to encourage people from diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life to engage with these types of activities in a way and a format that works for them, and together with community organisations who know best how to do this for the groups they represent.  It also needs visible role models and leaders from diverse backgrounds who people can take inspiration from and who can use their influence to help level the playing field. This is not easy and establishment organisations need to do more to help address the imbalance. Importantly this isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a real business imperative. Organisations with a diverse workforce are more resilient and can attract a broader customer base. Bristol, as a city, is a great example, with over 90 languages spoken. This represents more than 90 potential export markets; it means employees who have different relationships with technology are included in the product definition allowing more versatile technologies to be created that have broader appeal.

8. How would you describe Engine Shed?

Engine Shed is one of the region’s leading organisations that support enterprise and entrepreneurship. It has a formidable track record and has consistently set the standard for support for a variety of organisations to drive inclusive economic growth in the region.

9. How is QTIC working with Engine Shed and SETsquared Bristol to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the region?

The new Enterprise Services remit brings together the University’s internationally recognised enterprise and innovation assets and programmes covering a broad range of support, networks and facilities for a wonderful mix of companies. Drawing this together enables the whole region to benefit from the investments made by regional and national government, our partners and the University over many years.  For me, I’m thrilled to be working with these extraordinary teams and I’m looking forward to creating even better services and support then before.

10. To what extent can Bristol do more for entrepreneurs?

Bristol as a region values entrepreneurship highly, however through focussed action to bring about a collective voice for the region then it will enable lines of investment to be opened. Through increased promotion of the region’s businesses and entrepreneurial talent, including better coordination of networks, increased capacity for training and skills and investment to address key market failures, the region will be well placed to thrive over the coming years.

11. How do you see the future role that universities need to have in a city economy?

Universities as anchor institutions play a vital role in regional economies; they act as attractors and producers of talent, investment and knowledge. During the pandemic, the University of Bristol has refocused on its civic mission proving that it has a role to play in supporting stimulus and economic renewal, particularly with communities in the region who would normally be overlooked, remaining in the productive margins.  The University will of course need to adapt and change continuously and its ability to do this will be the mark of success.

12. If someone is interested in exploring opportunities in quantum, who should they talk to?

If you are a high technology business looking for technical space and support we’d love to talk to you. Please visit the QTIC website and get in touch, or talk to our colleagues at Engine Shed or SETsquared who can help make an introduction.

This article was originally published by Engine Shed, as part of the Let’s Chat series. 

Life after COVID-19

By Professor Martin Parker, Lead for Bristol Inclusive Economy Initiative

All our lives have changed this year, because of something which is 120 billionths of a metre in size. Despite the death and suffering, and the clear evidence of inequalities, many of these changes have been positive. We will have driven and flown less, bought less, walked more, cycled more and cooked at home more. The air is cleaner and our cities are quieter. We can hear the birds, and the sky is not slashed by contrails. We might have spent more time with our families or housemates, helped neighbours or joined some mutual support or volunteering group.

Perhaps we will have done some more gardening, crafts, art or caught up on decorating or DIY. We might have read a book that we always wanted to read, or seen a film that has really made us think, and that we wouldn’t have bothered with in busier times. We will have wondered what we really need and remembered to value some very ordinary things that we miss.

Image Credit: United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

At the start of lockdown in the UK, in March 2020, I asked people I knew from academia and civil society whether they would be interested in writing short essays about the possibility of a better future after COVID. I told them that I would be requiring their contribution very soon and that I would only allow them 4000 words and very few references.

I also worried that, in the middle of the chaos, my forced optimism was tin-eared, misunderstanding the gravity of the times. I even thought about calling the book ‘covidtopia’, deliberately jarring so violently with the mood that my intention could not be mistaken. I also worried that this was a bad idea, an opportunistic excuse for another book that no-one needs, and that I should do something else instead. Like collecting shopping for elderly neighbours, or learning how to make facemasks from old tea towels.

But within a week, I had received well over twice as many offers of chapters as I needed. Other people seemed to be thinking the same as me. Lots of other people wanted to preserve something good from all this horror. Even by shrinking the chapters and growing the book, I still had to reject half of them. So imagine this book twice the size, ten times the length, with essays on changing legal structures for companies, on play, on children, on transport and holidays, on consumption and marketing, on compassion, nature, housing, meat, activism, social media, universities and a host of other topics.

It has been common to suggest that the coronavirus crisis is really just a dress rehearsal for the much bigger climate crisis to come. Moving towards a zero carbon economy will involve many of the changes that we have seen over the past few months, but it will be necessary to embed those into the structures and routines of our lives in enduring ways.

For example, if more people are working at home, then this suggests that a great deal of the office space in the centre of cities will no longer be needed. The University of Bristol has been functioning from home offices and kitchen tables across the south west since mid-March. This doesn’t mean that we won’t need workplaces, but perhaps that we won’t need to think about buildings next to car parks as the dominant model.

But what happens to city centres if we use them less? Can the empty retail and office blocks become spaces for apartments, repopulating the city centres? What sorts of transport might we need, if the 9-5 commute is no longer a routine? What sorts of housing, schooling and care might help people work successfully from home, or local workspaces? As soon as we begin to change one element of our lives, all the other assumptions need to change too. This is the opportunity that the little virus has given us. Whether we make the most of that opportunity remains to be seen.

This post was originally published on Transforming Society.

Life after COVID-19 edited by Martin Park is available to order for £7.99 on the Policy Press website.

Working with the LV=GI team: the heart of data science

Originally published on Engineering blog

We live in a world of big data, with all the questions that raises around privacy and how our data is used. Data scientists and data engineers are helping answer those questions and a team from LV=GI is embedded within the School of Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Engineering Maths.


Chloe Young works as a data engineer in LV=GI’s data science team. They make, build and deploy the machine learning models that are used by call handlers while speaking to customers. They check the models meet the necessary standards and that they’re working properly and they raise alerts if they don’t.

Tell us a bit about your work

Our data science team has three locations, and I’m lucky enough to be based at the University as part of our collaborative partnership, so I split my time between LV=GI projects and university projects. This means I sometimes work with groups like the Smart Internet Lab, supporting our co-designed and co-delivered master’s degree programme – or with student societies giving talks and holding events like the Datathon with the Data Science Society.

The Datathon event

Educating and guiding the next generation is one of the key partnership goals. We’re in a unique position: we get access to academics and students, and have an input into some of their amazing research. We love the highly energised environment – it makes for a really interesting workday!

Both the University and LV=GI share a knowledge base that goes beyond simple project engagements. LV=GI gain access to a large pool of potential team members, as well as academic colleagues who enable us to be at the forefront of research. Our colleagues from the University are able to demonstrate real-world applications of their work.

What did you study and why?

I took physics at the University of Kent and then a master’s by research in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Southampton. For my undergraduate degree I was torn between engineering, physical geography and physics. I chose physics for its flexibility; I could continue to improve on my maths and problem solving skills so they would be of use in any future studies. My master’s let me apply what I’d learnt to some problems I loved and was fascinated by. I didn’t know it at the time, but it gave me the coding skills to get me started with a career in tech.

What did you do after your degree?

Before joining the data science team here, I worked at a data consultancy as a DevOps Engineer. During my two years there I went from having only a brief knowledge of cloud technology to becoming a certified Amazon Web Services Solutions Architect.

What was your favourite toy as a child?

I loved anything crafty, those stained glass window gel paints, any sort of cross stitch or sewing project, anything where I could make something totally new.

This year’s theme for International Women in Engineering Day is ‘Shape the World’ – how do you think engineers will do that in the next 10 years?

With the rate everything is moving now, we’ll definitely see massive changes. In my job you have to keep learning all the time to keep your skills relevant; new technologies emerge that can improve or totally change the best way to do something. New tech will improve how we use data science; we’ve really only just began to scratch the surface. In the future I think it will continue to make our daily lives easier, and I think we’ll see it used more widely to make intelligent business decisions. Most importantly, I think as the number of people with these skills grows across all academic disciplines, it will be used much more widely to enhance our research and drive us towards new discoveries.

Chloe Young

What does it mean to declare climate emergency?

By Professor Martin Parker, Lead for Bristol Inclusive Economy Initiative

Does it make any difference that Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and hundreds of other organisations have declared a climate emergency? Is it all just hot air? On the 12th March, the Inclusive Economy Initiative and the Law School at Bristol University organised an event to discuss what it meant for an organisation to do something about their carbon emissions and wider impact on society and the economy. Over 260 people signed up, and despite the coronavirus bearing down on us all, about 70 turned up to hear some fantastic discussions.

Last year saw a rash of climate emergency declarations from local and national governments, academic institutions across the globe, representative bodies of numerous professions and industries and many individual businesses. Why is making a climate declaration important? Has anything changed for those that have? What else can be done to address the emergency? In a context of Extinction Rebellion protests and clear evidence of climate change, what can organisations actually do?

Martin Wiles (Head of Sustainability for University of Bristol), Nina Boeger (Law School, University of Bristol) and Chris Dunford (Head of Sustainable Futures, We The Curious)
Martin Wiles (Head of Sustainability for University of Bristol), Nina Boeger (Law School, University of Bristol) and Chris Dunford (Head of Sustainable Futures, We The Curious)

After an introduction from myself, we had two panel discussions followed by some sparkling questions from the audience. The first panel was chaired by Nina Boeger from the University’s Law School in discussion with Martin Wiles, the Head of Sustainability at the university, and Chris Dunford, the Head of Sustainable Futures at ‘We The Curious’, Bristol’s science museum. They are both ‘educational’ institutions with a particular responsibility for disseminating knowledge about climate change and both agreed that ‘declaring’ was the easy part. The problem was what to do next.

There were some clear similarities. Both were keen to stress the importance of a plan for carbon reduction with clear goals that can be audited. If the declaration is not to be seen as a PR exercise, then people inside and outside the organisation have to see things changing. This means keeping on top of many small but important decisions about procurement, everyday practice and messaging. It means doing most things differently, and perhaps cancelling other projects, such as the ‘We the Curious’s xmas ice skating rink, or encouraging academics not to go to international conferences.

Apart from the operational stuff, the biggest taboo that needs to be addressed is often the business model itself. Whether students flying from China or tourists driving to Bristol, some of the core assumptions about the way that the bills are paid might need to change. A declaration doesn’t solve these problems, but it allows them to be discussed. It allows things to become thinkable which were previously too difficult to approach.

We then moved on to the second panel, chaired by Fiona Ellis, a director of the network Business Declares. She was in conversation with Dave Hunter, a Consulting Solicitor at the b-corp law firm Bates Wells, and Ben Tolhurst, the Head of UK Property Asset Management at JLL, the world’s biggest property management company.

Ben talked about what it was like being an ‘employee activist’ within a large corporation, but began by noting that a declaration needs to be supported at the highest levels of the business. For virtually all organisations, climate change will destroy their existing business models, so there is an element of enlightened self-interest that needs to be recognised and exploited. Policies on travel, food, energy, single-use plastic and so on need to be changed, but no organisation can change the world on its own. This means that Ben and JLL are now trying to influence clients through their training and hence providing legitimacy for other organisations to change too. His key question is ‘how do you make people want to change’, and that means changing yourself too.

Dave echoed this in a smaller organisation and a different context in beginning by asking ‘how do you take the staff with you?’ Employees and clients need to understand why Bates Wells is changing, and that has meant conversations with a wide variety of people and organisations about different aspects of carbon neutrality. For example, the organisation is now default vegetarian: people are not served meat unless they explicitly ask for it. Again, the organisation is also trying to influence its sector, to be an example for what other law firms might do, seeking to use law proactively as a force for good, not just a passive tool to interpret regulations. Just like the umbrella organisation Business Declares, the idea is to show other people what can be done, to demonstrate a new way of doing business.

What did we learn?

There were lots of questions covering a wide variety of topics. What does an ‘emergency’ response look like, and how might the climate emergency be compared with the covid emergency? How do we deal with sceptics, with people who aren’t engaged? How do we tell different stories about what it means not to be able to do what we used to do? How do we get the trillions of dollars moving out of carbon and into renewables? Can capitalism be reformed to be less destructive?

In all of this, there was frequent mention of the importance of not polarising the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’. If an organisation declares support for Extinction Rebellion, will that alienate people who find their tactics annoying and mean that the messages won’t get through? On the other hand, maybe we have no time to worry about people’s feelings, and simply need to explain the science. If we have a position of influence, then we need to use it, with our friends, co-workers and whatever sector of the economy we work in.

We agreed that we needed more events like this, discussing particular aspects of what it means to prepare the groundwork for an appropriate business response to a societal and environmental, global emergency. The language of emergency must not lose its energy, but it must also turn into routines and policies, as all these speakers have elegantly demonstrated.

It has been interesting to see in the fortnight since the event, how quickly some steps which seemed impossibly radical just a few days ago have been implemented without resistance – almost feeling like a dry run for the changes we were discussing. It would be nice to think we might be able to come together again to review how things have progressed before the year is out. If you want more information, get in touch with us at

Is digital technology undermining our democracy?

By Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

Democracy is debate. But unfortunately access to the “free marketplace of ideas” where citizens see all sides of the debate isn’t equal.

The internet was going to fix that.

Instead, we now live in an era of democratic backsliding, with at least 80 countries having become less democratic during the last decade. And much of that decline is being blamed on the internet, which facilitates the spread of disinformation, hate speech, incitement, and foreign interference in elections.

This is exactly why universities around the world, including the University of Bristol’s Digital Futures Institute, are working with tech giants, governments and the third sector to examine how this happened and what we can do about it.

Targeting the problem

Much criticism has been directed at the social media giants, in particular Facebook – it was recently labelled “digital gangsters” by a UK Parliamentary committee.

There’s a basic incompatibility between democracy and Facebook’s business model of “microtargeting”. We know from psychological research that 300 “Likes” are sufficient to infer someone’s personality with greater accuracy than their spouse.

Facebook patented this idea and enabled advertisers – including politicians – to segment their audience and target their messages more effectively. However much of the highly personal information used for microtargeting is inferred by Facebook rather than explicitly given by users.

If you use Facebook, it’s already building a profile of who you are – if you want to know what Facebook knows about you, download your data. Prepare to be amazed.

When politicians know their messages are confined to a partisan audience, there’s no pressure for moderation and extremism becomes politically rewarding. It’s also a recipe for disinformation. Politicians can get away with sending false information to a carefully selected group of potential sympathisers who are unlikely to object, even if they detect they’re being misled.

What are the solutions?

Rising social concern about the use of digital data and AI technologies in the political process is prompting big tech companies to do something about this. Google announced it’ll no longer permit microtargeting of political messages – applicable in the forthcoming British election and rolled out globally in 2020.

Although political campaigns reacted with outrage against the move, it’s a step in the right direction. It forces campaigns to be more palatable to a broader audience – making extremism less rewarding and opening the door to rebuttals. Facebook has also taken several steps to help safeguard the 2020 US election, including the clear labelling of misinformation and additional transparency measures. Thus far, Facebook has not addressed the problems arising from microtargeting.

Self-regulation within the online ad-serving industry is important, but isn’t enough to address the challenges. Research is being done in universities around the world to understand these practices, to examine their effects on citizens – and their voting behaviour – and to develop technologies that track and block the trackers or seek to expose systematic biases in ads.

The University of Bristol’s Digital Futures Institute recently received £100m of funding from Research England and 27 organisations keen to collaborate in shaping digital futures, including BT, BBC, Watershed, Knowle West Media Centre and Black South West Network.

Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be based at the planned Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, will work with partners to challenge the traditional, linear model of technical innovation. When technologies are developed without in-depth consideration of social questions, they abdicate responsibility for the future worlds they may be creating. By bringing social scientists and engineers together, the new Institute aims to pioneer a new way of creating digital technologies, with future societies at its heart.

Digital technologies are transforming our world. Instead of wondering what on earth will come next, Bristol Digital Futures Institute will work to democratise the future, driving inclusive and innovative technologies that benefit all of us.

A better digital future for all

By Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development

Last week saw Bristol in the headlines for a huge research award to enable the establishment of the Bristol Digital Futures Institute. With its remarkable facilities, the Institute will be led by Professor Dimitra Simeonidou and Professor Susan Halford at the heart of the new University campus at Temple Quarter. It will focus on developing not just the digital technologies of the future, but how they are to benefit society, people and businesses. The amount of money is enormous. UK Research and Innovation – the R&D funding arm of UK government – awarded the University of Bristol £29m, matched by £71m of private, and industrial support. This is a massive vote of confidence for the concept of the Temple Quarter campus achieved in direct competition with the biggest and best universities and their partners in the country.

The Institute will aim to generate 30 new collaborate projects per year. It has been hailed both as the means by which Bristol could support the development of franchises like Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep (by Aardman) and also achieve breakthroughs in design and manufacturing (by Airbus). The range of partners involved is remarkable – from Babbasa, KWMC and Watershed to Hargreaves Lansdown and BT – literally dozens, large and small, local and global in reach. They all seek to work across traditional divides to understand the potential and benefits of the digital world – whether by partnering the creative with manufacturing, community with industry, or computer science with sociology.

Perhaps today it is easier now than a few years ago to understand how thoughtful we all need to be about digital technologies. When Web 2.0 was first mentioned 15-20 years ago no one imagined that Google, Amazon, Facebook and the like would be the giants they are now. Even less predicted was the way social media would be the means by which US presidents get elected or communicate their policies! Nor did we understand how much others got to know about us as individuals and communities while we use the internet.

The new Institute will have at its heart the ambition to let people and society shape the digital futures that we face, together. It will develop the responsible innovation, regulation, ethics, acceptability and business models for new ways of living and working using the many emerging digital technologies. Whole new ways of operating society are arising almost daily – the potential for doing good is tremendous but so are some of the risks. By directly involving a wider range of people at the time the tech and its applications are being developed, the Bristol Digital Futures Institute will seek to maximise those benefits for all.

Businesses born in the digital age, those born longer ago, organisations and activities that could be digital – many people and parts of society will want to think through how they develop their futures. The Bristol Digital Futures Institute will be there in the heart of our city to help.

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

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.

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


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