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Bristol Cultural Development Partnership/ 25th Anniversary

By Andrew Kelly and Melanie Kelly BCDP culture | ideas | arts and sciences

Bristol Cultural Development Partnership/ 25th Anniversary By Andrew Kelly and Melanie Kelly

Published by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership 2017

This book has been published to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP).


Š2017. The copyright holder for the text is BCDP. The names of the copyright holders of the images are provided with the individual captions. No text or images may be reproduced from this publication without first obtaining the permission of the relevant copyright holder.





The views expressed in this book are the authors’ own and not necessarily shared by any other partners, staff or associates of BCDP, or those involved in their projects. Cover captions Front cover: Original artwork by Alys Jones. Inside front: Audience members at Festival of Economics, 2016 (@JonCraig_Photos). Inside back: Performer in adaptation of Frankenstein at John Wesley's Chapel as part of Bristol800, 2016 (@JonCraig_Photos). Back cover: Launch night fireworks for Brunel200, 2006 (Paul Box). Book designed by Qube Design Associates Ltd Printed by The Complete Product Company Ltd on FSC certified paper Published by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3RA We are grateful to the following organisations for their support of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership:

The Bristol Festival of Ideas website includes details of some of our projects.

The BCDP Story/


Capital of Culture/


Great Reading Adventure/


Festival of Ideas/








The Future/







As chair of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) I am delighted to present this publication as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations in 2018.

After 25 years we could easily fill this book by just listing all our programmes, projects, reports, publications and consultancy work. We have had to be selective and choose a few highlights.

BCDP’s mission is: to build a better Bristol by making an outstanding city of ideas; to create, make available and celebrate great art for all; to ensure that artists, culture and Bristol contribute to the great issues of our time; and to offer everyone a chance to play a part through partnership working. BCDP has worked with partners across the city, playing a leading role in developing new and renewed cultural facilities, including the cultural regeneration of Harbourside. We have been at the heart of initiatives that have resulted in Bristol being recognised nationally and internationally as a cultural centre of excellence, with culture embedded at the heart of city futures. In this book we highlight some of BCDP’s landmark projects, which have contributed to – and often led – this transformation.


• Andrew Kelly takes up post as director of BCDP in March • Shortlisted for Year of Photography and the Electronic Image, a Millennium project, submitted in partnership with Bath • BCDP commences work on Centre for the Performing Arts, a new concert hall on Harbourside


Alongside the core partnership of Arts Council England, Bristol City Council, Business West, University of Bristol and University of the West of England, hundreds of organisations, groups and individuals have been engaged as partners and supporters on individual programmes of work. Our thanks go to all of them. We look back with pride and look forward with hope and ambition.

• Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) launched

• BCDP launches plans for a new cultural attraction on Harbourside, which was eventually to become At-Bristol (We The Curious) • Continued work on Centre for the Performing Arts • Key participant in the renewal of the Harbourside area • Worked on establishing a new film festival for Bristol


Judith Squires Chair, Bristol Cultural Development Partnership

• Launch of Brief Encounters short-film festival, which BCDP managed for five years • Launched largest programme outside of London to mark 100 years of cinema


• Behnisch Architekten wins international competition to design Harbourside Centre for the Performing Arts • BCDP hands over responsibility for Centre for the Performing Arts to new organisation • BCDP helps develop Watershed’s future planning • Work on various organisations, including The Print Project and Black Pyramid Films




• Continued to offer advice on Harbourside, Centre for the Performing Arts and At-Bristol


• Submit bid to the Urban Cultural Programme to deliver on the Bristol2008 promise – awarded £1.4m • Conduct organisational review of the Architecture Centre


• Launch of Creative Bristol

• Launch of Digital Arts Development Agency

• GRA: The Day of the Triffids



• BCDP partners with many organisations on plans to mark the turn of the Millennium


• At-Bristol opens

• Contribute to How Open is Bristol? – an intercultural city study in partnership with Comedia

• BCDP leads business planning work on Bristol Legible City

• GRA: The Siege

• BCDP partners with many organisations on plans to mark the turn of the Millennium

2006/ 2001/


• First Building Legible Cities conference

• Brunel200: programme marking 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (see p50)

• Best Value and Urban Design report for Bristol City Council

• GRA: Around the World in Eighty Days

• Launch of Animated Encounters – partner festival to Brief Encounters

• FOI speakers include Carmen Callil, Charles Handy, Bettany Hughes, Ruth Padel, Paul Rusesabagina, Rebecca Stott, Eric Sykes

• Bristol2008 Capital of Culture bid shortlisted and Bristol named one of six UK Centres of Culture (see p20)


• Evaluation reports on Bristol Legible City and renewal of Queen Square

• FOI speakers include Martin Bell, Tony Benn, Billy Bragg, Kiran Desai, Wole Soyinka, Clive Stafford Smith

• Bristol2008 Capital of Culture final decision: lose to Liverpool • Bristol Legible Cities 2: Making the Case – conference, publication and academic day • Consultancy reports for Arts & Business South West and Bristol Old Vic and work on proposed animation centre at At-Bristol • Making a Difference – an Impact Assessment of Animated Encounters, Brief Encounters and Wildscreen published • First Great Reading Adventure (GRA): Treasure Island (see p30)


• Conduct research for the SWRDA Creative Summit and Science City Bristol • GRA: Small Island

• Contribute to evaluation of British Film Institute education activity


• First Festival of Ideas (FOI): speakers include A C Grayling, Claudia Hammond, Nick Hornby, John Mortimer, Julia Neuberger (see p42)


• Participate in Heritage Lottery Fund’s Portrait of a Nation with showcase event in Liverpool • GRA: The Bristol Story • Secure further support from Arts & Business for ongoing reading and festival projects • FOI speakers include Kate Adie, Alaa Al Aswany, Matt Frei, Naomi Klein, Astrid Proll, Philippe Sands, Jon Ronson, Raymond Tallis



• Darwin200: 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin


• First Festival of Ideas prize for best book of ideas won by Flat Earth News by Nick Davies


• Bristol2014: 100th anniversary of the start of World War One (see p68) • Evaluation of No Boundaries

• GRA: The Lost World

• GRA: Bristol and the First World War

• FOI speakers include Margaret Atwood, Mary Beard, Steve Bell, Shappi Khorsandi, James Lovelock, Lewis Wolpert

• FOI speakers include Shami Chakrabarti, Arianna Huffington, Owen Jones, Mark Kermode, Kenan Malik, Harry Leslie Smith, Irvine Welsh

• BAC100: celebrating 100 years of aviation in the West of England (see p60)

• YPFOI debates: class and education, and the military

• Book prize: The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett • GRA: The Book of Aviation Wonder 2010


• FOI speakers include Stewart Brand, Martin Creed, Barbara Ehrenreich, Christopher Hitchens, Andrea Levy, Polly Toynbee


• First Festival of the Future City • Bristol and Romanticism project including launch of the Coleridge Lectures series

• Book prize: Dan Hind’s The Return of the Public

• GRA: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

• FOI speakers include Izzeldin Abuelaish, Martha Fineman, Temple Grandin, Kristin Hersh, Clarence B Jones, Jackie Kay


• FOI speakers include Tariq Ali, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Nawal El Saadawi, Caroline Lucas, Roberto Saviano, Theodore Zeldin

• First Festival of Economics

• YPFOI debates: masculinity, racism and mental health

• Publish The Book of Bristol Genius • Book prize: Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts


• Bristol800: marking 800 years of civic history • GRA: Frankenstein

• First Bristol Genius Award won by Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Children of the 90s)

• Coleridge Lectures theme: Utopia

• Start of formal partnerships with the Observer and University of Bristol for FOI

• FOI speakers include Laura Bates, Erwin James, Paul Mason, Chris Packham, Hsiao-Hung Pai, Alexei Sayle, Yanis Varoufakis, Lindy West

• FOI speakers include Geoff Dyer, Richard Ford, Tim Harford, Peter Hitchens, Robert Macfarlane, Elif Shafak, Jeanette Winterson


• Bristol2015: European Green Capital

• YPFOI debates: body politics and cultural appropriation

• Bristol Temple Meads Quarter: Gateway Project competition won by Joe Melia for Here • Book prize: Artful by Ali Smith


• Second Festival of the Future City

• Bristol Genius Award won by Bristol Urban Pollinators

• Coleridge Lectures theme: Revolution

• Draft West of England Strategic Growth Plan

• FOI speakers include Harriet Harman, China Miéville, Pankaj Mishra, David Olusoga, Michael Rosen, Arundhati Roy, Bernie Sanders

• First Mayor’s Annual Lecture and Debate • FOI speakers include Melissa Benn, Jung Chang, Jared Diamond, Philip French, Michael Palin, James Salter, Lynne Segal, Julia Unwin

• YPFOI debates: homelessness, language and representation in LGBT+ culture, and activism

• Launch of Young People’s Festival of Ideas (YPFOI): debates on pornography and social media



The BCDP Story/



For over two decades, BCDP has delivered: the creation of At-Bristol (now We The Curious) and the renewal of many cultural organisations; a Capital of Culture bid and a four-year follow-on programme; a citywide reading of The Day of the Triffids; a national celebration of the life and work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel; over 1,500 events in 12 years of Festival of Ideas; six Festivals of Economics and two Festivals of the Future City. And there’s been much more. I was appointed in December 1992 and took up the role of director in April 1993. I had been working in the School of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford (I graduated from the school in 1983 and joined the staff) and then spent 18 months developing a media centre in Huddersfield. Within a few years I had gone from researching the non-nuclear balance of forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and the impact of a nuclear attack on some of Britain’s cities to building cultural facilities and helping lead a programme of transformation of a city’s culture. I’d always been interested in the arts – an interest which has grown over the decades. But I’m also interested in cities; in management; in making change happen; in politics; science; and in issues like the environment. Anyone running the kind of programme we do – a programme which changes radically every one-to-two years – needs to have wide interests. Extensive reading and the assiduous gathering of information is essential. I guess this is why books and writing play such an important part in our work – especially with the ongoing Festival of Ideas but in many other areas as well. This short book brings together some of these projects to mark 25 years of work in the city. This introduction looks at the BCDP philosophy, other BCDP projects, and the lessons learned for Bristol and for other places. * * *

Previous spread: A selection of BCDP publications (author’s photo).


BCDP was established following Peter Boyden’s detailed research and report in 1992. Funded by the three original BCDP partners – Arts Council England South West, Business West and Bristol City Council – the research investigated art forms in the city and their impact. It concluded that a body, independent of the partners but bringing them all together to plan longterm cultural development in the city, should be established. BCDP started work in 1993. Each partner had their reasons for joining. Arts Council England South West felt that Bristol, as the capital of the region, should have higher and greater aspirations for cultural development and activity. Business West knew that culture is important to a city’s prosperity and saw cultural development as part of a wider programme that included an initiative to house the homeless and plans to mark the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s sailing to America in 1497. Bristol City Council knew it needed to be more ambitious in its approach to culture and also had to work effectively with others in the city. We were fortunate to have outstanding leaders from partners who saw the value of culture in cities. Bristol visionary John Savage led from the front; Louis Sherwood invested organisational ability, passion, networks and funding; Martyn Heighton and Councillor Crispin Taylor helped drag a sometimes reluctant city council to work in new ways; and Maggie Guillebaud, Chris Bates and Chris Butchers led Arts Council England into the work and the partnership. Without these and many others BCDP would not have been created and a huge debt is owed to all for their leadership and ongoing investment. In recent years, both of Bristol’s universities have joined the partnership, fulfilling a long-held ambition to bring higher education into the organisation. * * * We have a ‘BCDP approach’ to our work: we seek to bring together the arts and sciences; embrace the widest possible range of organisations and individuals; build on, celebrate and commemorate Bristol’s unique history while looking to the present; and help raise and widen debate about ideas and issues crucial to the future. BCDP aims to implement a few projects directly; influence as many organisations and individuals as possible to develop joint projects through coordination of initiatives, fundraising and marketing; and inspire widely so that all can participate and take pride in what the city does and has achieved. In this way, significant projects are created, with maximum impact, for relatively modest support from public funds. BCDP does the early work that few others are able to do – bringing together the partnerships, establishing the case for the project, raising funds. This means that organisations and artists can get on with the work they are best placed 13

to do. It also strengthens the cultural sector and artists as funds raised by BCDP go to organisations, projects and artists directly – something we agreed from the start. At its height BCDP has only ever had five employees. At the heart of BCDP are core principles: Bristol’s past contributes to Bristol’s future; great art should be available to and celebrated by all; culture is about arts and sciences and embraces subsidised and commercial activity; the arts and the creative economy contribute to economic growth; partnership is critical – the more people and organisations that are involved in a project the greater the opportunity for successful creative thinking and action; lead where needed but work through and with others where possible and appropriate; extensive research is the basis for all work; marketing and campaigning are part of all projects; renewal of vision, work programme and activity is ongoing and based on thorough evaluation of all projects; long-term relationships are nurtured – especially in ideas, fundraising and project development; Bristol’s future is also the future of the West of England; and diversity is central to all work. At the centre of it all is culture and the importance this has for people; for the place where they live, study, work or visit; for jobs and prosperity; and – most of all – for quality of life. * * * This book covers six projects in detail. There are many others that we have worked on, some we have often led. Looking at a few of these shows the breadth of BCDP work and also the nature of the BCDP approach and philosophy. BCDP started work in 1993 in four main areas – all running alongside each other: making the case for Bristol; building the case for the partnership and partnership working; establishing at least one core project; and leading on the cultural redevelopment of Harbourside. Much of the work of partnership building and planning is never seen publicly: strategy development, networking, fundraising, planning and marketing. This is often the most underestimated though time-consuming and exhausting of all work, and remains so to this day – at least 60 per cent of time is spent raising funds, building and managing networks and partnerships, and developing strategies and business plans. Alongside this, there was a need to build confidence in Bristol. In 1993 Bristol was not regarded favourably by national funding bodies and national government. We couldn’t do much about government – though all we did at least contributed to a sense that change was happening and the city, in cultural terms, was moving forward. We had more success with national funding bodies and especially the lottery, then still young but one that offered opportunities which Bristol grasped eagerly. 14

Detail of Bristol Blue Whales, one of the Exceptional Fund projects that took place as part of European Green Capital in 2015 (Paul Box).


Making the case for Bristol meant being involved in debates taking place elsewhere and those generated by BCDP (we ran a series of conferences with linked publications – an early one was on managing partnerships; another looked at the impact of arts and culture); it meant accepting invitations to speak and attend many events; and far-reaching research was needed to underpin all work.

At the heart of BCDP has been the city of Bristol and the future of cities. We need to get cities right. As the world urbanises rapidly, cities offer the solutions to the looming environmental crisis. At the same time, cities are developing in the wrong way: superstar cities becoming a world apart from the rest; growing inequality; a housing crisis; and tension and dispute over immigration.

Considerable time was devoted to the renewal of the Harbourside area, then a priority for the city. New cultural institutes were regarded as essential, but these were always seen as coming at the end of the process, not at the beginning (as happened). Plans for a new concert hall – the Harbourside Centre – were already in the job description for my post; alongside this was our proposal for a new centre looking at wildlife – the Electronic Zoo – joined soon after by a science centre with the move of the Exploratory from Temple Meads. This eventually became At-Bristol.

Much of our work over 25 years has been about creating new organisations and institutions and festivals and strengthening the cultural organisations and activity in the city. We also wanted to make the city work for all. Bristol Legible City was an important development for us and we worked on this for over five years. This was a system unique to Bristol and one that highlighted the need to look at the city as well as individual projects. We asked the question: what’s the point of building new cultural facilities if people can’t find them? (hence the need for new maps and signage). But Bristol Legible City also meant that we could look at how people used and

It was an exciting time to be working on these projects. Harbourside is much better with the new and renewed cultural centres – though people were right to protest about the architectural quality of the housing. In addition to the capital redevelopment of Harbourside, we ran a bid for the 1998 Year of Photography and the Electronic Image and launched and managed the film festival Brief Encounters, established as part of the national celebrations of the centenary of cinema in 1995 but which was successful enough to become an annual event. The development of Brief Encounters was another good example of how BCDP worked. The idea started to develop in 1993 when I met with Aardman Animations. I knew of their work and an early visit to the offices was a treat. I asked them what we could do to help them. They said there were two things: faster planning permission with portacabins (needed for production) and projects that celebrated the media industry in the city. We tried but got nowhere on the portacabins but decided to go ahead with a festival that focussed on short film and animation and which celebrated Bristol and film-making internationally. The partnership that resulted – bringing together BBC, Aardman, other companies, Watershed and the universities – led to a festival which is now in its 22nd year. These early projects showed the BCDP approach at its best, even if the Harbourside Centre for the Performing Arts eventually failed and the Year of Photography bid was lost. They were about arts and sciences; they built on aspects of what Bristol was good at, even excelled in (hands-on science, animation and short film, natural history media); and BCDP did the work no-one else was able to do before handing over to others to run. They established the partnership as a key part of Bristol’s cultural planning and future and laid the foundations for the work to come. * * *


Some of the musicians at Arnolfini performing a newly commissioned work that marked the 70th anniversary of Arts Council England in 2016, part of Bristol800 (Mark Lythaby).


understood cities and bring in different disciplines and thinking. It saw us run three conferences and publish two books as well as help manage the project. I learned more about cities from this project than any other we have done. Building on this, in 2015 we launched the Festival of the Future City as part of the European Green Capital year. We received an Arts Council England Exceptional award for our Bristol2015 work. This meant that we could support large-scale arts projects such as the Arcadia Spider in Queen Square and the Theaster Gates Sanctum work with Situations. We’d already run many projects as part of the year but felt that we needed to look at cities and the future of cities. This was to be more than the issue of sustainable cities: we’d covered that a lot in 2015. We wanted to have something that looked at all the issues facing cities: the housing crisis; how to deal with concerns about immigration and promote integration; the future of work; social mobility and inequality; cities and wildlife; and making sure that smart cities were ones for all, not just a few. Over 20,000 people participated in the first festival and the linked Bristol2015 events. When we ran the second Festival of the Future City in 2017 – a much smaller programme with little build up – over 13,000 people were involved, making Bristol a centre for public debate about cities. * * * Inevitably there have been some failures and disappointments. The loss of the Harbourside Centre was a blow to the city: as well as it significantly expanding opportunities for music production and performance in the city, it would have added much to the renewed Harbourside area and become an international symbol of the new Bristol. It also dealt a psychological blow and for some years the appetite for large-scale cultural projects seemed to disappear. The renewal of the Colston Hall and the plans for a new arena have begun to recapture some of that confidence. Losing the 2008 Capital of Culture bid was another blow – this one more personal as well as a loss to the city. In truth, the odds were always stacked against us with a decision likely to be based on political and social need. But we also lost it ourselves. I learned from this to make sure that political leadership was solidly behind a bid. We wouldn’t have won, but to go into the final judging panel interview with a council in which no party was in control due to an inconclusive election result, meant that we gave the appearance of chaos when up until then – inside the council and out – we had shown unity and professionalism. It’s partly why I supported the case for an elected mayor for Bristol. Despite this, it’s essential to apply for most awards. Bidding shows confidence; provides a tangible reason to plan and raise debate. The only failing in the end is to fail to plan for loss and defeat. On Bristol2008 we were prepared for this and – in addition to the campaign seeing culture rise 18

up the political agenda rapidly over those three years – we received much financial support in the quasi-compensation deal established by national government which meant we could deliver Brunel200 and four other years of projects. The next time a British city will be European Capital of Culture will be 2023. Bristol – alongside some other major cities – decided not to bid this time, for good reason. Brexit may see it all cancelled anyway. * * * Finally, it’s worth reflecting on leading and managing partnerships. Four years into the job I did an Executive MBA. I wanted to do a general MBA not a specialist one. I was keen to learn from others in public and private sectors (I think the academic staff appreciated having someone different, too: it must have been more interesting to read about Watershed – my dissertation subject – than change in the tyre industry or how to make shopping trolleys work better). It was at this time that I came across the work of Malcolm Gladwell. His book The Tipping Point articulates best what change agents need, especially the ability to connect, gather knowledge and market extensively. He summed up what being a partnership leader needs most of all. Anyone wanting to make change happen should read this. * * * There’s much more that could be covered here: the establishment of the Digital Arts Development Agency; getting South West Arts Marketing started; printing and distributing 85,000 copies of a 200-page cartoon history of Bristol; the time we commissioned 23 poets to write in the spirit of Romanticism and had 21 read their poems on the same evening; our first – and probably only – play, Frankenstein, commissioned to mark the time when Mary Shelley lived in Bristol; our short-lived Bristol Genius Awards (surely due a comeback). Each one represented something unique for Bristol; many built on the remarkable history of the city but looked to the future; each one – in a small way – helped move the city forward. There’s no doubt that Bristol is in a far better position than it was 25 years ago when BCDP started. The range and quality of cultural activity is stunning; the city is now seen as a cultural leader and is the city that others aspire to becoming. There have been many temporary setbacks – and in 2017 austerity measures may make some of these permanent – but Bristol will bounce back. BCDP can’t claim all the credit for this; our partnership has been a partner and colleague with many others, but it has helped change Bristol for the better. I feel fortunate to have been part of this. Andrew Kelly Director, Bristol Cultural Development Partnership


Capital of Culture/



On 4 June 2003 Liverpool was named the European Capital of Culture for 2008, beating bids from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle and Gateshead, and Oxford. The shortlist had been announced in October 2002 from a longlist that had also included Belfast, Bradford, Brighton and Hove, Canterbury and East Kent, Inverness and Norwich. Bristol’s bid had been led by BCDP. The European Capital of Culture initiative was launched in 1985 and is designed to: • Highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe. • Celebrate the cultural features Europeans share. • Increase European citizens' sense of belonging to a common cultural area. • Foster the contribution of culture to the development of cities. Experience has also shown that the title can be an excellent opportunity for: regenerating a city; raising a city’s international profile; enhancing civic pride; invigorating a city's culture; and boosting tourism. The selected hoststate publishes a call for applications six years before the title-year. 2008 marked the second time the award was to be allocated to a UK city, the first being in 1990 when the competition was won by Glasgow. BCDP began work on the Bristol bid as soon as rumours of the launch of the competition began to appear. Not only was there a chance to celebrate Bristol’s arts and culture widely, there was also the opportunity to run a campaign to further embed culture in a city growing in confidence about its offer within the city and outside of it. By the time the competition was launched officially, Bristol’s bid was well advanced. BCDP took the planning and campaign forward, taking advantage of all the work of the previous few years which had seen data collection, research and analysis of Bristol’s cultural strengths and weaknesses. Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council, was chair of the bid team with Andrew Kelly, BCDP, as the bid director. The board included representatives of Arnolfini; At-Bristol; Bristol Chamber of Commerce

Previous spread: Bristol2008 promotional balloon in London on day of submission, 2002 (Bristol2008/BCDP).


and Initiative; Bristol Evening Post and Press Ltd; Bristol Regeneration Partnership; Kuumba; South West Arts; South West Electricity Board; Spike Island; and the University of Bristol. In addition to Andrew Kelly, those working on the application included Nicky Rylance, who had particular responsibility for communications and public affairs, Bryan Angus, who was the arts projects manager, two researchers and various assistants. The vision for 2008 was that culture would reach the heart of every community in the city, with activity in homes and offices, shops and streets as well as cinemas, theatres, galleries, concert halls, parks and squares. The aim was to get more people acting, dancing, singing, playing, climbing, reading, writing and swimming (sport was an integral part of the bid). By 2008 Bristol’s cultural facilities would be renewed and expanded including ambitious plans for a new world-class music centre to replace Colston Hall, a new Museum of Bristol and seven new swimming pools. Bristol2008 was seen not as an ending but as the next stage in the continuing development of Bristol as a creative and dynamic city at the heart of Europe. The ideas for the bid had been developed in many ways: Andrew Kelly gave a series of presentations to many different cultural, educational, political and amenity groups and societies, including most of Bristol’s many Rotary groups, local political parties and virtually every cultural organisation in the city; a series of citywide debates and conversations led to the development of key themes; existing activity was mobilised with ideas developed through initiatives like At-Bristol and the Encounters festival; many one-to-one meetings were held with individual artists and cultural organisations; Arts Council England (though it could not help formally) contributed material looking at the regional perspective; and an attempt was made to bring the whole of the South West behind the bid (that achieved only limited success). The shortlist judges liked the panache of Bristol’s proposals and were impressed by the range of cultural activities in the city and the regeneration of Harbourside. They were particularly pleased with the attempts made by the bid team to engage others as extensively and inclusively as possible. The campaign used the strapline ‘Let’s get it together’ as an indication of the collaborative, community-wide effort that was required. Among the items of promotional material created was a set of postcards and on-street posters featuring photographs of local people and the words ‘Here, here’: Anna, a performer from Cirque Bijou; Jane, a ferry skipper; Michael, a mechanical brush sweeper; Abdul and his team of butchers; Charlotte, a student. A joint photograph of both of Bristol’s football teams – City and Rovers – was taken to symbolise city unity (this proved controversial with both fans and players). Plans to ensure local commitment included presenting every Bristol citizen with their personal key to the city in 2007, giving them the right to participate in arts and culture and asking them to share in the responsibility of building a better Bristol. 23

The first Bristol2008 newsletter included a list of ten things Bristolians could do to support the bid. These were: • Tell people what a wonderful city Bristol is. • Tell us what you would like to see happen in 2008. • Don’t drop litter and, if you see litter, pick it up. • Display a 2008 sticker in your car or at home. • Hang a flag or banner on your business premises. • Add the 2008 logo to your letterhead or emails. •V  isit one of Bristol’s great cinemas, theatres, museums or art galleries once a week. • Read more books. • Take up a sport, hobby or pastime. • Get involved with events in your community. The 164-page bid document opened with an executive summary written in verse by local poet Fiona Hamilton. The spiral-bound book was ingeniously designed to resemble a ‘B’ for Bristol when closed and an ‘8’ for 2008 when opened. It was illustrated with specially commissioned photographs of Bristol landmarks and some of the people who supported the bid. A variety of poems on a Bristol theme where interspersed throughout the text. The five objectives of Bristol2008 were: • To celebrate European culture and cultural development. • T o promote community and civic pride, belonging and ownership of the city. • To create the new culture of the future. • To ensure that the city works for the benefit of all. • T o be an inspiration to other cities in Europe, through what is achieved and the way it is done. The five main themes were: •B  uilding bridges: Bristol began with a bridge and has built metaphoric and actual bridges ever since. The key project for this theme was to be the renewal of existing bridges and the creation of new ones. •E  xploration, experimentation and discovery: Bristol is an international city and a major centre for trade, manufacture and innovation. It is also a centre of non-conformism. Key to this theme was Electric 2008, a worldwide digital arts project based on the successful digital advent calendar Electric December. 24

• The creative city: Bristol is a city that embraces creativity and creative thinking and has pioneered artistic development. The key project was to be The Catalyst, a year-long programme exploring experimentation, exchange and creative processes. • The city in harmony: Bristol is a home for healthy living, sustainability, science, medicine and the environment that attracts people in search of a better quality of life. The key project for this theme was to be the complete wiring of the city by 2008 so that all would have access to digital communications wherever they might be. • The contemporary city: Bristol is a young, diverse, radical city, full of energy and can-do spirit. The key project for this theme was to be Bristol a Go-Go, a celebration of youth culture linked to performances in all the countries that could be visited from Bristol airport using Go airlines. Bristol in 2002 was described as being poised to enter a new golden age. Topics included in this section of the bid document were: the green city; the city of music; excellence in architecture and urban design; the city of performance; the city of photography, film and new media; Bristol firsts; Bristol women; Bristol – capital of clubbing; excellence in higher education; The Bristol School of Artists; Bristol faiths; the healthy city; the city of festivals; Bristol’s parks; and Bristol – restaurant capital. Bristol’s cultural facilities were to be transformed during the build-up programme between 2002 and 2008. Arts projects referred to in the bid included: • The development of the YMCA building in Bedminster to create a new base for the community theatre company ACTA. • The relocation to Harbourside of the Faculty of Art, Media and Design at the University of the West of England. • A new circus training facility in St Paul’s Church. • A state-of-the-art arena that would seat 10,000 people. • A creative industries centre based in the old council house. • The expansion of Kuumba, the Royal West of England Academy and Watershed. Upgrading the city’s heritage sites and sporting infrastructure was identified as a priority and there were to be significant improvements to the city’s work on sustainability. With its facilities revitalised, gaps in provision filled, new festivals, training programmes and exhibitions and the city working together better than ever, by 2008 Bristol was set to be able to take full advantage of the cultural activity on offer. The proposed 2008 programme was designed to bring together highprofile international extravaganzas and street events; activity in the city 25

centre and in the city’s neighbourhoods; learning about the past and planning for the future. The centrepiece was to be the creation of 2008 new artists. The programme was driven by the people and for the people and designed to be of benefit to all who wished to participate. In the business plan the total financial investment required to deliver the programme was £464.96m, of which £17.61m still needed to be raised through additional fundraising. It was anticipated that most sponsorship would come from national and international sources but some local companies had already been identified who would support specific aspects of the programme. For example, Burges Salmon Solicitors was interested in sponsoring youth facilities for music. There was a four-month gap between the submission and the final decision. Part of that period was spent answering the judges’ queries and on routine BCDP work. However, most of the time was used to plan the delivery of the programme. It had been agreed right from the start of the process that as much as possible had to be delivered as promised, win or lose. The announcement in June 2003 that Bristol had been unsuccessful was obviously disappointing after all the work that had gone into developing the bid, building the partnership that would deliver the programme and securing the support of the city. It is fair to say, though, that this was not a surprise. It was always felt likely that the award would be given to a city in a less economically advantageous position than Bristol. Politically, Bristol was

also in chaos in the final stages of the competition with a hung council and no-one taking charge. This had already created some nervousness on the part of the judging panel whose first question in the final meeting was about the problems in the council; this was repeated by at least one visiting judge. What was odd was that the key reason given for not choosing Bristol was that the M32 split communities in the city. Few would dispute that intrusive major roads can be a problem (and one shared by other cities); what was odd was that when this appeared on the front page of the Bristol Evening Post it was the first time the bid team had encountered the reasoning – it had never been mentioned in the three years of the bidding process. However, BCDP had already started to deliver its proposed build-up projects. This included the launch of the first Bristol Great Reading Adventure on 6 March 2003, an activity that succeeded in getting people of all ages involved in new cultural experiences across the city. In 2004 a comprehensive application was submitted to the Urban Cultural Programme (UCP), which set out how the city could deliver further on the 2008 promise. The government, following pressure from Arts Council England, had established a fund for urban cultural projects to bid for from the Millennium Commission. This was open to any place – not just the shortlisted cities (which had been designated Centres of Culture). Bristol was awarded £1.56m to deliver a programme of cultural activity. Bristol2008 was a catalyst for identifying opportunities to improve cultural facilities in the city. By 2004 there had already been positive news for many of Bristol’s cultural organisations including the award of Hub status for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; new investment in Watershed; and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £11m for the proposed Museum of Bristol (later named M Shed). There was also increased coverage of cultural issues in the local media and new support for cultural activity generally. The UCP Creative Bristol proposal was in five parts: • Community engagement and involvement. • A core programme comprising: – The Year of Sport in 2004, focussing particularly on swimming. – Creativity, Imagination and the City from 2004 to 2006, with eight projects including Creative Education, developing an entitlement to the arts; Safer Bristol, promoting new cultural opportunities in the city centre; Neighbourhoods of Culture; Creative Renewal; and the first Bristol Festival of Ideas. – Brunel200 in 2006. – Celebrate Diversity in 2007, marking the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the transportation of enslaved people.

Awaiting the Capital of Culture decision at Watershed, 2003 (Martin Chainey).

• Increasing support for Bristol’s cultural organisations. • Regional cultural development.



• Capital projects, with over £230m committed to investment in facilities between 2004 and 2007 including Arnolfini, Arnos Vale Cemetery, Blaise Castle Estate, Bristol Cathedral, Bristol libraries, Colston Hall, Spike Island, ss Great Britain and the Royal West of England Academy. The UCP meant that Bristol could deliver many of the activities that were proposed in the bid. It saw a four-year programme of work that vindicated much of the stance that Bristol took in its application for Capital of Culture. It also meant that key initiatives, some of which were to grow to last nearly a decade, and one, the Festival of Ideas, which continues today, could be tested and established. Bristol bid to be European Capital of Culture because it was already a major centre for culture in Europe. It was essential that Bristol was seen to be on a par with cities like Liverpool, Newcastle and Gateshead, Birmingham and Cardiff. It was essential, too, that Bristol had the confidence to bid. By bidding, and achieving a shortlist place, it meant that many critics of the city at least appreciated that their criticism was misplaced. It meant that those outside the city judging the competition were able to see Bristol – some, for the first time in many years – and how much it had changed and how it was ambitious for a new future. It also meant – and this was a result of an ongoing campaign for culture – that the arts and wider cultural programming was embedded in the city council’s thinking and activity. That impact lasted for a long time. The bid and the success of the shortlisting and the follow-up programme were also a vindication of the BCDP approach: culture embracing the arts and science; commercial and subsided operations working together; partnership in all ways of working; ambitious aspirations for all work. It showed that a small team could lead a major bid and campaign by utilising the partners it had. Most of all, it showed that Bristol could move forward, even in the midst of adversity. Losing the award did not mean the end of the Bristol2008 project; as the rest of this book shows, in many ways, it was just the beginning.

Tony Robinson with the case containing the Bristol2008 bid, 2002 (Bristol2008/BCDP).



Great Reading Adventure/



On 6 March 2003, World Book Day, Bristol launched its first citywide reading project – the Great Reading Adventure. This community-focussed cultural initiative aimed to bring people together and raise standards of literacy by encouraging everyone in the city to read the same book at the same time. It was part of the build-up for the bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2008 and was organised by the Bristol2008 team and their partners, led by BCDP. Andrew Kelly had witnessed the impact of mass-reading projects when visiting Chicago in 2001. The city was then gripped by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the book chosen for the first One Book, One Chicago project. He was taken by the idea of a single book capturing the imagination of an entire city and the opportunity for total strangers to discuss the book while travelling to work on the bus; for schools to be involved in linked literacy and arts projects; and for local businesses to set up reading groups. The Bristol Great Reading Adventure was the first time a reading project on this scale was held in the UK. It became an annual event until 2010 and was the cultural highlight of the year for many people. Although the aims shifted slightly with each new project, the basic principles remained the same: • To promote Bristol as a centre for literature. • To encourage learning about the city’s heritage. • To promote debate about the future of Bristol. • To help develop standards of literacy. • To get more people reading and writing. Evaluation has shown that all ages and all socio-economic groups embraced the project across the Bristol city-region, helped in a large part by the involvement of the city’s branch libraries, schools and other centres of learning as well as the local print-media.

Previous spread: Edson Burton, a local author, reading at the launch event in Bristol at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum for the 2007 Great Reading Adventure, Small Island (Martin Chainey). Andrea Levy appeared at the Liverpool launch.


Treasure Island: 2003 The book chosen for the first Great Reading Adventure was a thrilling tale of piracy and adventure by Robert Louis Stevenson that could be enjoyed by both children and adults and which has key scenes set in Bristol. On launch day actors from the street-art company Desperate Men, disguised as marauding pirates, sailed to the heart of Bristol’s Harbourside in the replica of John Cabot’s Matthew. Here they were greeted by hundreds of local school children, who received copies of the book and were entertained with juggling, sea shanties and cannon fire. The central activity of the Great Reading Adventure was the distribution of 8,000 free copies of the Penguin Classic edition of the book. These were delivered in bulk to libraries (mainly for use as loan items, including sets given to reading groups), schools, the business community and Bristol City Council employees and members, or sent by post to individuals on request (a practice that eventually proved too costly to continue: the use of a variety of sites in the city where people could pick up copies became the preferred method for future projects). The books were donated by Penguin to mark the relaunch of its Classic series. In addition, 340 Puffin and 145 Ladybird editions of Treasure Island and 56 Captain Pugwash books (for very young readers) were distributed. Bristol libraries purchased 35 large-print, ten video, three DVD and five European language versions for borrowers (alternative formats and languages were made available for all projects whenever possible). In addition to the free and loan copies circulating around the city, Treasure Island was in the top ten bestsellers list at Blackwell Bookshop on Park Street throughout the month the project ran – topping the list in the final week, beating books by Jamie Oliver and Michael Moore. A high-quality illustrated readers’ guide was produced and also distributed free of charge. A programme of film screenings, lectures, competitions and puppet shows was mounted and people were encouraged to organise their own piratical happenings and reading group gatherings. The Bristol Evening Post serialised the book in 51 daily instalments, each illustrated in colour with pictures submitted by local school children (estimated to have had a readership of 168,000 people a day). A teachers’ pack, partly based on material produced for the Tobacco Factory adaptation of the book in 2002, was distributed to all schools in the city and there was a dedicated website which included an online Treasure Island web game and had over 3,000 visits. Among the local companies that gave their support were Aardman Animations, who contributed artwork of Wallace and Gromit in pirate garb for use on support and promotional material; Bristol Evening Post and Press Ltd, who provided extensive coverage of the events; and the Society of Merchant Venturers. The first Great Reading Adventure formed part of the Bristol2008 promotional campaign, with special postcards and posters produced depicting local people reading the book with the tagline ‘Let’s Read it Together’. 33

The Day of the Triffids: 2004 On 8 January 2004 something sinister was stirring at the Wildwalk botanical house in the heart of Bristol. Following reported sightings of a sevenfoot tall homicidal plant, scientist and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis, award-winning author Helen Dunmore, Bristol’s Lord Mayor and pupils from Severn Vale School wound their way through the steamy interior to investigate. There, beneath the tropical canopy, they encountered a towering triffid puppet and stacks of John Wyndham’s science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids. And so began Bristol’s second Great Reading Adventure, led once again by BCDP working in close collaboration with Bristol libraries and other partners. The project formed part of the Creative Bristol initiative, which aimed to deliver as much of the programme contained in Bristol’s bid to be Capital of Culture as possible. Wyndham’s book was chosen because, as well as being an enthralling story, it could be used to promote Bristol as a place for science, innovation, creativity and green initiatives. The project ended officially on World Book Day, 4 March, although the reading of the book and some classroom and library activity continued after this date.

The Siege: 2005 The Siege, by Bristol-based author Helen Dunmore, tells the poignant story of the suffering and survival of civilians in wartime, focussing on the first terrible winter of the 300-day siege of Leningrad in World War Two. BCDP distributed 4,500 free copies of the novel (published by Penguin) to schools, colleges, libraries, the business community and members of the public. For younger readers, 1,000 copies of Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War and 1,000 copies of Dunmore’s Tara’s Tree House were used. 5,000 copies of the readers’ guide, 65 educational packs and a dedicated website were also made available to provide background material on Dunmore, the events at Leningrad and Bristol’s own wartime experience. The website is archived at and had over 18,000 visits in its first three months. There was a significant increase in the number of artist-led workshops BCDP provided to schools and libraries including, for the first time, dance.

Among the materials distributed free of charge were: 4,100 copies of the Penguin Classic edition of The Day of the Triffids; 1,000 simplified versions of the book (Evans Fast Track Classics series); and 500 picture books on an environmental theme, Michael Foreman’s Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish. Rather than sending a small number of books to every centre of learning in the city, schools and colleges were asked to pre-register for classroom reading sets and educational packs. A total of 73 of these were then distributed. As part of its 150th birthday celebrations J W Arrowsmith Ltd printed 10,000 readers’ guides for the project free of charge, along with feedback questionnaires and some of the publicity posters, which featured a special Aardman Animations Wallace and Gromit image. Arts & Business provided matched funding for Arrowsmith’s support through its New Partners Scheme. The guides and promotional material were designed by Qube Design Associates Ltd, who went on to design all the subsequent Great Reading Adventures. Qube also designed the project website, which had over 10,000 visits in the first three months. Grayling PR managed the media campaign free of charge. A specially commissioned 12-part comic serial based on the book was published in the Bristol Evening Post, with an estimated readership of around 216,000 people a day. It was devised by local artist Simon Gurr. Artist-led workshops inspired by themes raised by the project took place in schools and libraries. There was also a science fiction weekend with screenings of classic films and television programmes, and lectures and discussions on Wyndham’s work. City Inn provided free accommodation for the speakers, who included the authors Brian Aldiss and Christopher Priest. 34

Left: Promotional photograph taken at Bristol Airport with staff from EasyJet and the specially commissioned triffid puppet on launch day for the 2004 Great Reading Adventure (Martin Chainey). Right: Promotional photograph for the 2005 Great Reading Adventure featuring material from the Bristol Record Office (Martin Chainey). David Facey (on the right) is the son of Jim Facey, who took some of the Bristol Blitz photographs reproduced on the website and in the readers’ guide. David donated the Facey collection to the archive.


2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the war so it was apt that the Great Reading Adventure chose a book that allowed readers to reflect on the devastation and camaraderie of that period. BCDP was keen to encourage the sharing of wartime reminiscences and family stories before they were lost forever. The Bristol Evening Post published a daily archive photograph with accompanying explanatory text on the letters’ page of the newspaper throughout the project. On the weekend of 5-6 February a selection of feature films showing civilians under attack in wartime were shown at Watershed, interspersed with talks on different aspects of the experience of being under siege. In addition, Helen Dunmore was interviewed on stage by Sara Davies of the BBC. On 26 February there was An Afternoon with Helen Dunmore, an event for Bristol reading groups organised by the library service and held at the Fortune Theatre. The 2005 Great Reading Adventure officially ended on 3 March 2005, World Book Day. Only seven per cent of those who returned a questionnaire had read the chosen book before compared with 37 per cent in 2004 and around 50 per cent in 2003. This was the first time support for the Great Reading Adventure was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund in recognition of the innovative way in which it engaged people in learning about their city’s past. Around the World in Eighty Days: 2006 This project formed part of the Brunel200 celebrations, which covered the whole of South West England and were led by BCDP. The chosen book was Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, a story that captures the spirit of the Victorian age of fresh horizons and new ideas. It conveys the sense of daring and adventure brought by innovations that transformed the speed and reliability of travel across the globe. On 5 January 2006 a Victorian English gentleman, his French valet, an Indian princess and an incompetent detective could be seen travelling by train between Swindon and Penzance and by rickshaw around Weston-Super-Mare, heralding the first of 80 days of reading activity. At the time this was the biggest and longest-running Great Reading Adventure to have taken place: 52,000 copies of the full-text edition of the book (provided at cost price by Oxford University Press with a special Aardman Animations-designed cover), 40,000 of the readers’ guide, 50,000 of a newly commissioned illustrated children’s adaptation and 200 copies of the picture book All Aboard were distributed free of charge across the region. In addition the children’s edition of Around the World in Eighty Days was serialised in six episodes in the Bristol Evening Post, Swindon Advertiser, Bath Chronicle, Torquay Herald Express and The dedicated project website included extensive background information along with details of the wide range of activities taking place in the region’s schools, libraries and other venues including artist-led workshops, talks and puppet shows. It is archived at and had over 15,000 visits during its first three months. Readers were 36

Wallace and Gromit artwork created for the 2006 Great Reading Adventure (Aardman Animations Ltd).

encouraged to share their own travel tales on the Phileas Blogg page. 1,000 copies of the full-text edition of Around the World in Eighty Days were used in a book crossing initiative. They were initially released at airports, train stations, bus depots and take-away food outlets. Each copy had a numbered sticker inside asking anyone who picked it up to let BCDP know where they found it. Books were tracked from Chinese restaurants in Plymouth; platform 19 at Edinburgh rail station; Gardermoen Airport in Oslo; a shopping mall in the suburbs of Prague; Ituzaingó in the Province of Buenos Aires; and the Sinai Desert, among other sites. Small Island: 2007 The Great Reading Adventure expanded further in its fifth year with a project that brought together Bristol and South West England, Liverpool and the North West, Hull and Glasgow. Overall coordination was by BCDP working in partnership with Liverpool Reads, Hull Libraries and Glasgow’s Aye Write! Book Festival. It ran from 11 January to 31 March 2007. The chosen book was Andrea Levy’s Small Island, a widely acclaimed and award-winning novel that describes the arrival in post-war Britain of black Jamaican immigrants, the descendants of enslaved Africans. The project was linked to the 2007 commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill. Levy’s novel addresses the 37

themes of identity, racial awareness, forgiveness, ignorance and survival with humour, high drama, anger and pathos, making it an unforgettable read and a fitting topic for discussion in 2007. All the main cities that worked on the project had historic links to the slave trade as well as to its abolition. 50,000 free copies of a special edition of Small Island (published by Headline) that included references to the project were delivered across the country – from Glasgow to the tip of Cornwall – for distribution through libraries, schools, businesses, community centres and other sites. 80,000 copies of the readers’ guide giving background information about Levy, slavery and migration were distributed alongside the books. 8,000 copies of a special edition of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy and 3,000 copies of Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace were provided for the use of younger participants in the project. Over 100 public events took place including library talks, panel discussions, exhibitions and competitions plus over 60 artist-led school workshops. The website had over 20,000 visits in its first three months. It is archived at The Bristol Story: 2008 For this year the Great Reading Adventure went back to being an initiative for Bristol only. The project ran from 24 January to 31 March 2008. The chosen book was a specially commissioned graphic-style history of the city by writer Eugene Byrne and artist Simon Gurr aimed at a reading age of 11 and upwards. The Bristol Story was an entertaining, informative and sometimes challenging read of battles, killer diseases, daring (or mad) explorers, pirates, riots, sewage and what were described as brainimproving educational bits. 85,000 copies were distributed free of charge to libraries, schools, local businesses, community groups, scout and guide troops, bookshops, hospitals, heritage sites and individual members of the public. 10,000 copies of a special shortened adaptation – The Bristol Comic – were made available for younger or less confident readers. Participants were encouraged to find out more about the city by also reading the accompanying support material (25,000 readers’ guides were distributed) and visiting the project website at, which had 16,000 visits in three months. This was the first time the Great Reading Adventure had been based upon a book that had not been previously published; one that was in a graphic format; and one that was non-fiction. The Bristol Story was used as the city’s contribution to Portrait of a Nation, which was run by the Liverpool Culture Company, members of the Cultural Cities Network and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The campaign worked with young people across the UK to showcase their own local, regional and national identities through a series of events, which fed into a high-profile production that closed the Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations. In Bristol a programme of artist-led workshops was provided to 15 selected Bristol schools and college sites coinciding with the Great 38

Left: Promotional banners for The Bristol Story in 2008 (Martin Chainey). Right: Launch day promotional photograph taken at Bristol Zoo with pupils from New Oak Primary and the Lord Mayor for the 2009 Great Reading Adventure (Vicky Washington).

Reading Adventure. The participants created collages, comic books, written work and drama pieces on the themes of identity, roots, heritage and culture, focussing in particular on the city neighbourhoods in which they were based. A group of pupils from Hillfields Primary School, accompanied by teachers and BCDP staff, travelled to Liverpool to represent the city in a three-day event. The Lost World Read: 2009 The year 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book On the Origin of Species. The dual anniversary was celebrated throughout the world. One project which united large sections of the UK was The Lost World Read, a mass-reading of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World to mark what would have been the Edinburgh-born author’s 150th birthday in addition to the Darwin anniversaries. It took place from January to March across the South West of England, Hampshire, Shropshire, the City of Westminster, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Overall coordination was by BCDP working with a wide range of partners. During the course of the project, 45,000 free copies of the full-text version of The Lost World were distributed (a special edition published by Oxford University Press) along with 64,000 copies of a simplified version of the 39

novel, which had an Aardman Animations-designed cover; 41,000 copies of a graphic biography of Charles Darwin by Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr; and 30,000 copies of the readers’ guide. There were over 16,000 visits to the dedicated website during the project and over 700 people downloaded the unabridged audio version of the book. Over 130 events were listed on the website’s What’s On pages including more than 60 activities for children that took place during February half-term. 2009 was the last full-scale, stand-alone Great Reading Adventure to be led by BCDP. In 2010 the project was part of the education programme within the BAC100 celebrations and 20,000 copies of The 2010 Book of Aviation Wonder were given away. In 2014 it formed part of Bristol2014 when 20,000 free copies of the book Bristol and the First World War were distributed. Both projects had a section within the main programme websites rather than a website of their own. Since then BCDP has distributed free books as part of the Festival of Ideas: 1,000 copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of its publication and Malcolm X’s death and 50 copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 2016. Both of these projects included providing books to staff and inmates at HMP Horfield. Having begun with the commitment that the books should be provided to all free-of-charge, the full-scale Great Reading Adventure became a prohibitively expensive enterprise in a time of dwindling funding. It would have been against the spirit of the project to have expected individual readers to pay to take part. It was also felt that the Great Reading Adventure served to celebrate the joy of physically holding a book and, although some material could be downloaded in digital format, it was the books themselves that were to be treasured. It was particularly important that as many people as possible had the opportunity to own a book to keep for future generations or to share with friends, family and neighbours. Among the feedback comments received from readers over the years are: • T reasure Island: ‘This is a story that has stuck in my memory for over 60 years and reading it again now that I am living near Bristol rekindles the excitement of a stirring adventure story.’ • T reasure Island: ‘It’s one of the ones I always meant to read and now I have I’m very pleased. It’s a riveting read. As an adult reader of a book written for children, it held my interest completely... ‘ • T he Day of the Triffids: ‘To my surprise I really enjoyed it and found it a real page-turner. The story was so well written and, in view of recent scientific developments, only too credible. Some serious points were made in a way that was never heavy.’

• The Siege: ‘This was a great way to make me read a book I wouldn’t otherwise have heard of or chosen to read. I found it was an intricate exploration of the hardships of war. Also a great way to boost the profile of a local author.’ • The Siege: ‘I have passed the book on to my daughter. I hope she will appreciate what it is like to live under such terrible conditions.’ • Around the World in Eighty Days: ‘Once I’d got used to the style, I found it impossible to stop reading. The Great Reading Adventure is a fantastic idea as I would never normally have read this book. It’s also nice to know a lot of other people are reading it too. Thank you!’ • Small Island: ‘I’d thought about reading it for ages, and this spurred me on. I couldn’t put it down! The Small Island Read project was a great way to introduce me to an amazing book.’ • Small Island: ‘Thought I would struggle with it as it’s not my type of read, but I enjoyed it – humorous but thought-provoking.’ • The Bristol Story: ‘Loved it. Read it in one sitting and, despite a prior interest in local history, found much in it that I didn’t already know. I especially liked the tone – a very engaging mix of fun and fact.’ • The Bristol Story: ‘I have lived in Bristol all my life and The Bristol Story told me so many new things! There should be one for every city in the world!’ • The Lost World: ‘I really enjoyed the book. It made me feel like a small boy again as it stirred up and fed my imagination that has been neglected for a long time, it seems.’ • The Lost World: ‘I am 58 years old, female and I don't think there is a "wrong age" to read this book. I know I would have read it with the same excitement in my teenage years... I think anyone interested in evolution, science, our planet will find the book a very pleasant read. Thank you for making this available to us.’ The Bristol Great Reading Adventure showed the magic of books and reading and of sharing that experience widely. It highlighted the importance of libraries to many parts of the city. And it was fun to do. Like many BCDP projects, a one-year test was run to see if this would work. The success of Treasure Island meant that many more annual projects were possible, some of which would go national and be UK-wide. In many ways it was the BCDP project that reached the largest and widest range of people.

• T he Day of the Triffids: ‘Excellent. Compulsive and thought-provoking. You know it’s a good book if you find yourself thinking about it the next morning at work.’ 40


Festival of Ideas/



The Bristol Festival of Ideas, founded and led by BCDP, aims to stimulate people’s minds and passions with an inspiring programme of discussion and debate. It began with six days of sessions held in At-Bristol, Watershed and Bristol Grammar School from 16 to 21 May 2005 as part of the Creative Bristol initiative (which grew out of the Bristol2008 bid). Topics covered on that first occasion included arts management and cultural planning in the twenty-first century; happiness in life and work; why popular culture is good for you; how to build prosperous economies; evolution, science and religion; and the value of the arts. Included in the festival was a day-long conference assessing the opportunities for marking the bicentenary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 2006 (the programme which became Brunel200). The morning comprised sessions on the Victorian vision and Brunel’s work in Bristol. In the afternoon boat and bus trips to Brunel-linked sites in the city were available. Speakers during the day included novelist Mavis Cheek; authors Tristram Hunt and Francis Spufford; Matthew Tanner, director of ss Great Britain; and Sue Kay, executive director of Culture South West. The conference enthused existing Brunel200 partners and helped to secure additional support. A series of linked special events for young people was run in At-Bristol from 14 to 20 May. This was called the Young People’s Festival of Ideas, a name that was revived in 2013 for a new regular season within the main festival programme. The Festival of Ideas was also linked to a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Penguin books in the city that was the birthplace of the company’s founder, Allen Lane. This included a Puffin day aimed at family audiences with sessions on Angelina Ballerina, the works of Roald Dahl and William Shakespeare and appearances by writers Dick King-Smith, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. Pat Kane, a musician, journalist and activist, was appointed the festival’s Thinker in Residence. His role was to promote debates, contribute to sessions and work with schools, businesses, organisations and individuals in developing thinking strategies.

Previous spread: Audience at Roberto Saviano event in At-Bristol, 2015 (@JonCraig_Photos).


Shappi Khorsandi at the Tobacco Factory, 2008 (Vicky Washington).

In his opening remarks in the festival brochure, director Andrew Kelly said: We want to challenge, provoke and learn. And we do so by bringing some of the best writers, artists, scientists and thinkers to Bristol to debate with the best we have here. Though the festival has grown considerably in size since then – becoming a year-round event of over 150 sessions – this ethos remains the same today. Much of the work in running the festival in its first years was undertaken by Andrew Kelly, supported by BCDP and venue staff when available. A small group of volunteers began to be assembled to help at sessions and with publicity, drawn from regular audience members. In 2013 Zoë SteadmanMilne was appointed the festival’s first dedicated project director and joint programmer. She is currently supported by Amy O’Beirne, who began working with BCDP as a volunteer and has been employed as a research assistant and project coordinator since 2014. An informal advisory group was established to help manage the festival. More an ideas group than one charged with financial and personnel management, it brought together enthusiasts for the world of ideas, representatives from Bristol’s (and later Bath) universities, business people, artists, publishers and many others. 45

Gathering in At-Bristol of poets commissioned for the Utopia-themed Festival of Ideas weekend, part of Bristol800, 2016 (@JonCraig_Photos).

Festival sessions may be in the form of a lecture, a one-to-one interview or a panel debate. There is usually time for audience questions. Many sessions are linked to promotional tours by authors for new books and often end with a book signing (since 2015 the festival’s bookselling partner has been Waterstones). Other sessions are programmed to tie-in with a particular theme or season. BCDP seeks to have the best available speakers on any given subject, mixing established names with newcomers. The programming also seeks to reflect the cultural diversity of the city and the diversity of ideas. It does not shy away from controversial subjects; focusses thinking and discussion around issues of concern to the city without being parochial; entertains and educates; and aspires to have an impact – at the very least in raising the level of debate on a subject. The aim is to promote deep engagement with a subject and idea. The talk/conversation/panel is just the starting point: wider engagement is encouraged through links to articles and reviews online; recommendations of past books and writing; and additional commentary on the issue whenever possible. The first festivals were promoted through printed brochures, word-ofmouth, local media and through partners, venues, sponsors and funders. The Festival of Ideas used the Creative Bristol website at first but launched its own website in 2008, which was relaunched with new branding in 2015 ( As a mailing list has grown – initially compiled from past bookings and subsequently from online registration – the regular Festival of Ideas e-newsletter has become increasingly important as a promotional tool. This is now supported with an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, which in addition to enhancing marketing is also part of extending the debate. Local print media support has dwindled with the demise of Venue magazine and limited interest from Bristol Evening Post but since 2012 the Observer has been the festival’s national media partner, providing free advertising space and coverage for the May programme. In the years since 2005, the Festival of Ideas has become a key part of the Bristol annual cultural programme. The focus on 46

Bernie Sanders about to begin his lecture at St George’s Bristol, 2017 (@JonCraig_Photos).

building partnerships and getting the message out through all means of media – and through the partnerships that are established – has seen this impact strengthened year-on-year. The Festival of Ideas does not have a single, central box office. However, since 2011 the online booking service Eventbrite has been used whenever possible. This was initially introduced to reduce the administrative load of managing bookings for free events but many paid-for sessions are also now being booked this way (in-person and telephone bookings are still handled by the relevant venue). A wide range of city-centre venues host the sessions, including university lecture halls, churches, artist studios and museums, in addition to Arnolfini, Colston Hall, St George’s, Watershed and We The Curious. Over the years a core audience for the festival has been developed but BCDP is always looking to expand this, primarily through targeted work with partners including both of the city’s universities, Ujima Radio, Rising Arts Agency and Salaam Shalom. As a way of building digital audiences worldwide, sessions have been audio recorded and uploaded to SoundCloud since 2007 and there is also a Festival of Ideas YouTube channel. Building new audiences for the festival has been a key and an ongoing task. The world of ideas affects everyone and all should have the opportunity to participate. 47

Audience satisfaction – those rating a session ‘Very good’ or ‘Good’ on feedback surveys – is often in the 90 per cent range. Feedback comments have included: • ‘ We are so fortunate to have the Festival of Ideas in Bristol. The programme is wide-ranging and stimulating. Long may the festival thrive!’ • ‘ We love the Festival of Ideas and have been to many of the events. They are always interesting, easy to get to and thought-provoking.’ • ‘ The festival is itself a wonderful idea, raising serious issues in an entertaining and accessible way, and encouraging public discussion.’ • ‘A wonderfully thought-provoking, enlightening and varied stimulant!’ • ‘I think the Festival of Ideas is brilliant! Good variety, all the talks look interesting – it was difficult to choose which to go to. Very exciting to think it's all happening in Bristol.’ Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival, said: ‘Bristol Festival of Ideas is a constant source of inspiration, one of the most creatively and consistently brilliant inquiries in Britain into how we live now.’

Among the festival’s special seasons and initiatives are: • The Festival of Economics: Launched in 2012 and programmed by Diane Coyle (University of Manchester), this annual event is held each autumn and attracts economists and other experts from around the world to debate with each other – and their audiences – some of the key economic questions of our time. • Young People’s Festival of Ideas: Launched in 2013, this series of debates on critical issues affecting young people today is a partnership between the Festival of Ideas, Arnolfini and Rising Arts Agency. Under-25s are at the core of the programme: choosing the topics; organising and planning the sessions; participating as panellists, performers and audience members. • Novel Writers: Although primarily a festival for the ideas generated by non-fiction books, some fiction authors have been invited to appear, including major names like Margaret Atwood and Paul Beatty. Since 2014 the festival has also partnered with Spike Island in the promotion of Novel Writers, a monthly book club for debut novelists. • Coleridge Lectures: Inspired by Coleridge’s radical lectures in Bristol in the 1790s, a new annual series of Coleridge Lectures was launched in 2015 that looks at issues of concern around a single theme. The lectures usually take place in the spring. • Festival of the Future City: Held in 2015 and 2017, this autumn event aims to be the largest public debate about the future of cities. It brings together politicians, writers, artists, scientists, change-makers, academics, journalists, students, the public, economists, futurists, policy-makers, roboticists, philosophers, film-makers, think tanks, charities, social enterprises, city-builders and more. The Festival of Ideas was established to continue the debates that Bristol2008 started. It is an example of the uniqueness of the city: BCDP was keen not to have a standard literary festival but one that offered something different about the world of books and ideas and one that reflected Bristol’s pre-eminence in these areas. As a city of ideas, Bristol deserved to have a bigger platform for its work and a forum for debating the ideas that have an impact on the place. Over the years this has meant that the festival has been involved in contentious areas – whether Bristol should have an elected mayor is one of many – but it offered at least a neutral space in which to have those discussions. As the world gets more complicated, the economy more troubled and our cities both problem-ridden and the places where solutions to those problems will be found, the Festival of Ideas will become more and more important.

Audience waiting for Future of Social Justice event in the Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building, 2016 (Policy Press, University of Bristol).






Brunel200 was a year-long celebration of the life and work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – one of the world’s most versatile, audacious and innovative engineers – that was led by BCDP in 2006. It marked the 200th anniversary of Brunel’s birth. Through Brunel200 BCDP aimed: • To ensure widespread awareness of the life and times of Brunel along with other engineers, past and present. • To encourage greater awareness and knowledge of the value of heritage and its role in learning and regeneration. • To highlight the importance of creativity and collaboration in project development and delivery. • To promote engineering, arts, science, innovation, design and architecture. • To attract more visitors to Bristol, and its Brunel attractions in particular, as well as encourage visitors to the South West. • To create the new Brunels – creative people dedicated to looking in original ways at how to develop and create future towns and cities. The Brunel200 programme included exhibitions and debates, arts and engineering projects, garden tours and urban trails, television programmes, comics and academic books. It reached communities in towns and cities, in schools, colleges and universities, in museums and galleries, and online. Brunel200 was both a celebration of the past and a demonstration of the relevancy of history to the way people live today and will live in the future. It sought to appeal to those with a general interest in Bristol and the South West and those interested in more niche aspects, such as promoting contemporary art and design or exploring the lives of the Victorians. Because of the diverse subject matter, BCDP could seek the support of engineering companies as well as those dealing in transport, tourism, the arts and heritage.

Previous spread: Some of the 285 pupils who contributed to the creation of Glen Eastman's Chain Reaction at ss Great Britain, one of the Brunel200 arts projects, 2006 (Matt Simmons). Also pictured is the official Brunel200 Isambard Kingdom Brunel (Martin Williamson), who attended events throughout the year.


Performers in the open-air concert attended by over 150 people that marked the culmination of Triangulation (Matt Simmons). The project was developed by Reuben Knutson, Pete Judge and Bob Walton – artists who work, respectively, in image, sound and language – and celebrated three of Brunel’s lesser-known sites in the vicinity of the Cumberland Basin.

Work on the project began in 2002 when BCDP drew together a small advisory group. Initially looking at the prospects within Bristol, by early 2004 the group had grown into a much larger body of interested parties and the proposed programme had expanded to cover the whole South West region. Successful applications to the Millennium Commission’s Urban Cultural Programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with backing from a range of sponsors and other funders – including Arts & Business, Bond Pierce, Butcombe Brewery, Discovery Channel, First Great Western, Osborne Clarke and Rolls-Royce – provided a total spending budget of around £4m. The press launch for the programme was held on 12 April 2005 in Bristol. The Brunel200 website went live on this date and featured some of the hundreds of images that had been gathered for use in publicity and research material. To better support BCDP’s increasing workload, the advisory group made way for a smaller operational group backed by marketing, education and exhibition sub-committees. The core BCDP team of Andrew Kelly (director), Melanie Kelly (research director and project manager), Alison Parsons (accountant and company secretary) and Rachel Thorne (assistant) was supplemented by two fixed-term Brunel200 staff appointments: Ruth Sidgwick (project manager) and Sue Sanctuary (education coordinator). Martyn Heighton served as South West Brunel200 Champion in the early stages of development. Most of the Brunel200 marketing material and publications, along with the website, were designed by Qube Design Associates Ltd. 53

On 8 April 2006 – a day of glorious sunshine and torrential rain – thousands gathered on Observatory Hill at Clifton Down in Bristol for a free concert featuring performances from Brunel Brass, Bristol Choral Society, Dance Bristol, ACTA community theatre, jazz musician Andy Sheppard and 200 saxophonists. Thousands more gathered in Cumberland Basin for the best view of the star of the show, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. As darkness fell and the final notes of Sheppard’s rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ drifted away, author and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis, accompanied by the three young winners of the Send Brunel a Birthday Card Competition, pressed a giant plunger set on the terrace of the Avon Gorge Hotel. From this cue, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was bathed in a new, state-of-the-art lighting system and seconds later the opening salvo of a spectacular display of fireworks set to music rose into the air. This was the stunning culmination of the official opening event of the Brunel200 programme. There were three major Brunel200 exhibitions in Bristol: The Nine Lives of I K Brunel at the ss Great Britain’s Maritime Heritage Centre; The Forces That Made Brunel in At-Bristol; and Brunel and the Art of Invention at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. There were also smaller-scale exhibitions in Bristol and across the region. These included: a touring exhibition organised by the British Postal Museum and Archive; a collection of photographs by Nick Hand of local companies bearing the Brunel name

shown in a disused early twentieth-century toilet block; a showcase at the Architecture Centre for some of submissions to the 200 Ideas for Bristol Competition held to coincide with the Festival of Ideas; Brunel Exposed, a contemporary look at Brunel’s work around the city by sixth-form student Ashlee Taylor, who also ran workshops introducing young people to pinhole photography and digital camerawork; and displays at Falmouth Art Gallery, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, The Subscription Rooms in Stroud, the Royal Cornwall Museum, the Holburne Museum in Bath, Newton Abbot Museum, Teignbridge and South Hams Museum and Torquay Museum. BCDP was always keen to include a variety of publications as part of the programme. These could provide a tangible, lasting legacy for the year. The most ambitious was Brunel: In Love With the Impossible, a large-format, beautifully designed collection of newly commissioned essays featuring over 460 high-quality illustrations. The book was sponsored by seven engineering companies (recruited by Alf Perry of Arup) and the Society of Merchant Venturers. Another important publication was the comic-book biography of Brunel written by Eugene Byrne and drawn by Simon Gurr. Smaller publications included the three pocket-sized walking trails of the city that could be picked up at the Tourist Information Centre and other sites: Brunel’s Dockside, Brunel’s Clifton and Victorian Bristol. Brunel200’s main educational programme was developed with Creative Partnerships. It enabled access to a wide range of learning opportunities for all ages and all abilities. It is estimated that at least 20,000 children benefited from the Brunel200 school residencies and other live projects in Bristol. These included: • 30 performances of Brilliant Mr Brunel!, Richard Ellam’s touring science show for KS2 and KS3. • 20 school visits by Brunel impersonator Martin Williamson. • 40 performances of the Brunel puppet show for younger audiences, The Stovepipe Spectacular Vernacular or ‘The truth beneath the hat’. • A flotilla of model ships created by pupils at Chester Park Junior School in Fishponds working with sculptor Barbara Ash. • Hybrid inventions devised by children at St Bernard’s Primary, Shirehampton working with Toby Hulse and Pickled Image. • The creation of an enormous bridge installation in the school hall at Blaise Primary led by the artists Paper, Scissors, Stone. Individual venues and organisations across the region also organised their own Brunel-themed educational activities.

Pupil at Elmfield School for the Deaf in a Brunel-themed performance developed with Travelling Light Theatre Company (Paul Box).


Brunel200 sought to bridge the gap that has developed between the arts and sciences, celebrating all forms of creativity and raising awareness of the shared goals and methods of visual artists, performers, engineers, 55

architects and scientists. This approach was exemplified by the 30 new arts projects supported by Brunel200 in Bristol and the 18 that took place in the wider region, which used an array of art forms to explore engineering, industrial heritage and local communities. They included music commissions, quilting, touring theatrical shows, site-specific sculpture, exhibitions, festivals, promenade performances, crime fiction, discovery trails, radio broadcasts and an epic poem. Through their research and through their partnerships with people in other disciplines, the commissioned artists not only provided a variety of ways in which the public could engage with Brunel and the wider themes of the Brunel200 experience, but also broadened their own understanding of the creative and collaborative process. Feedback quotes from various participant surveys used during the course of the programme included: • ‘I didn’t really know who [Brunel] was or what he did before; the project opened my eyes to some of his amazing accomplishments.’

• ‘In my opinion, it is very important to be aware and to be proud of one’s past. Especially for the young people as it helps them to understand where they belong, what our predecessors did for us, to make our life what it is now.’ • ‘Honestly had no idea of how talented the man was. And I’ve become extra proud of the bridge; it’s a great icon of creativity, design and determination.’ • ‘I am pleased that Brunel200 trusts individual artists enough to recognise that we can create work, run projects, deliver them to time, make our art accessible to and draw in new audiences just as successfully as organisations… other funding schemes and public event organisers should take note.’ The majority of those who responded to the various surveys used in assessing Brunel200’s impact believed that the programme had succeeded in its goal to raise awareness of local heritage and increase civic pride.

• ‘ What an amazing man Brunel was! He should be depicted on a bank note!’ • ‘Events such as Brunel200 do much to encourage us all to be a part of local life, to wish to participate and give something to the community, however little. This has its own rewards in a sense of belonging and wellbeing – far more valuable than the financial rewards we are constantly encouraged to pursue in the contemporary world.’ • ‘Brunel is an awesome figure to whom we owe so much and to all who made his works possible.’ • ‘I am extremely grateful to Brunel200 and the sponsors in providing me the opportunity to celebrate Brunel’s birthday, to meet so many wonderful people and to have obtained such marvellous memories and experiences.’ • ‘Brunel makes me proud to be a Bristolian.’ • ‘ The whole thing was a perfect event and made one proud to live in the great city of Bristol.’ • ‘ This is just the sort of event that can really unite a place and create huge amounts of positive feeling.’ • ‘Discovering and exploring history like this, alongside young people, has been an exciting, fascinating and highly educational experience, not only for the children, but also myself. The scope and range of the children’s imaginations are inspiring and I’m sure elements of this project will carry over into my own creative practice.’ • ‘ The pupils still talk about it now and I feel that they have developed a new approach and understanding of the whole design process. They were also all extremely proud to have their work recognised. Overall a great success.’ 56

Handing out free copies of Around the World in Eighty Days on the train between Swindon and Bristol for the launch of the 2006 Great Reading Adventure that formed part of Brunel200 (Neil Phillips).


The programme evaluation report listed some of the year’s achievements in figures including: 40,000 Estimated number of people who attended Brunel’s birthday party on Clifton Down. 136,000 Number of copies of the free Brunel graphic biography circulated across the South West. 159,236 Number of visits to the Brunel200 website between April and September 2006.

301 Percentage increase of people visiting ss Great Britain on the Easter weekend in 2006 compared with 2005. 3,400

Number of Brunel in Devon trail guides produced.

8,614 Number of visitors to the Brunel exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery. 25,831 Number of people who saw the Royal Mail touring Brunel stamp exhibition. 449 Number of entries to the 200 Ideas for Bristol Competition.

1,800 Number of items referring to Brunel200 that appeared in the media.

800 Number of visitors to Nick Hand’s photographic exhibition in the disused toilet.

380 Number of people who had a slice of Brunel’s birthday cake at Stroud.

1,317 Number of votes cast in the straw poll at the Battle of the Gauges exhibition at STEAM Museum, asking visitors which gauge they preferred, narrow or broad….

10,000 Number of bottles of Fizzambard bottled water produced. 147,000 Estimated number of people who visited The Nine Lives of I K Brunel. 7,600 Number of copies of Brunel: In Love with the Impossible sold or given as gifts. Over 2,000 Number of people who visited Brunel’s gardens at Watcombe during the week of his birthday. £1,593,905 Estimated monetary value of media coverage (advertising space equivalence) of Brunel200. 23,291 Number of people who borrowed Around the World in Eighty Days from library services in the South West in the three months of the Great Reading Adventure (compared with 704 in the previous six months). 135,000 Pints of draught Brunel Butcombe beer drunk in 2006. 999 Total number of entries to the Clifton Crossing Competition to design an alternative bridge. 70 Percentage increase in number of enquiries to the Brunel archive at the University of Bristol in 2006. 5,024 Number of children who took part in Brunel workshops and performances run by Folk South West in the region’s schools. 136,000 Number of South West Tourism Brunel200 maps produced. 70 Number of different nationalities that visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge visitor centre between May and November 2006.


… and the number of votes that Brunel’s broad gauge received.

5,000 Number of outsize replica platform tickets issued by Stroud for their Brunel200 events. 92 Number of appearances by the Bristol Brunel actor Martin Williamson at Brunel200 events. 20,000 Approximate number of children who saw Sixth Sense’s production of Toad’s Great Western Railway Adventure. 37,500 Number of visitors to Clifton Suspension Bridge’s visitor centre between May and November 2006. 37,739 Number of visitors to Brunel and the Art of Invention. Over 700 Number of entries to the Send Brunel a Birthday Card Competition. A million

Estimated number of people to have taken part in Brunel200.

Brunel200 was a gift to BCDP: an opportunity to celebrate Bristol’s close association with a charismatic character who changed the world; a chance to once again bring together arts and sciences, as Brunel did; a way to show the importance of engineering, then and now; and a means of bringing together the South West in a manner that no other project has done before or since. In terms of BCDP work, it was perhaps the most integrated of all projects and one that reached into more aspects of the city’s life than any other.

46 Number of alternate uses found for a stove-pipe hat in the Hotwells’ Hats Off to Brunel! Great Stove-Pipe Hat Competition. 58





BAC100 was a celebratory programme marking the centenary of the founding of the Bristol Aeroplane Company and the start of the aviation industry in the West of England. Hundreds of thousands of people have worked in aerospace in the Bristol region over the last century and the industry continues to be a major employer. The programme took place from 19 February 2010 to 30 January 2011 in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Wiltshire and online. It was developed and delivered by BCDP in association with industry sponsors, voluntary heritage groups, local authorities, arts organisations and charitable bodies. These included Airbus, BAE Systems, Bristol Aero Collection, Bristol Airport, Filton Community History, GKN, MBDA, RollsRoyce, Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, the Society of Merchant Venturers, South West Screen, UK Film Council, UK Trade and Investment and both Bristol universities. Many individual enthusiasts also contributed and people of all ages from pre-school children to retired industry employees took part.

Pupils from New Oak Primary (below) and Hillfields Primary (left) in Bristol with the collages they made with the artist Gloria Ojulari Sule (Martin Chainey). A total of six collages were made. The images were copied onto weatherproof banners displayed at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Bristol Harbourside and Bristol Airport. It is estimated at least 250,000 people saw them. They were later donated to Bristol Aero Collection.

The story of aviation in the West of England is a complex one that covers a wide range of topics from the vision and bravery of the pioneers to the latest innovative engineering projects; from the worldwide connections achieved through long-distance flight and international business partnerships to the contribution made by the industry to the local community; from the role of aircraft in times of war to the changing passenger experience. It also embraces the future challenges facing the industry. Through BAC100 BCDP aimed: • To increase awareness of the achievements of the West of England aviation industry, past, present and future. • To increase interest in aviation archives and the organisations that care for them. • To increase regional pride. • To build new partnerships, networks and friendships. • To create a positive legacy.

Previous spread: The band of the RAF performing at the launch event attended by 300 invited guests at the Brabazon hangar at Airbus, Filton, for BAC100 (Airbus/ Martin Chainey). The full-scale replica Bristol Fighter built by graduates from Airbus, GKN and Rolls-Royce can be seen in the background.



Events included: • Flight, a major exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, which had 65,093 visitors between 18 September 2010 and 30 January 2011. Katherine Hann, a freelance consultant, was appointed exhibition manager and some of the ideas developed for the content and displays have informed the plans for the new industrial heritage museum Aerospace Bristol. 91 per cent of visitors to Flight who expressed an opinion said their awareness of local heritage had increased as a result of seeing the exhibition and 98 per cent said they would recommend it. • Smaller displays at heritage sites and libraries in the West of England region. • Take Flight, a 320-page hardback book telling the story of the Bristol Aeroplane Company from the earliest days to the present and beyond (15,000 copies were distributed). • A service of celebration at Bristol Cathedral. • Talks and debates as part of the Festival of Ideas. • A centenary rally and parade of Bristol-made buses, cars and lorries. • Higher education round-tables with representatives from industry. • A mass flight on Durdham Down of box-kites built by local children. • The planting of 100 fruit trees as part of Airbus’ support for the Convention on Biological Diversity's Green Wave initiative. • A heritage walk led by a National Trust volunteer around Larkhill in Wiltshire on 30 July to mark the first flight of the Bristol Boxkite. • Competitions and engineering challenges.

The launch, which was managed by Airbus, won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations West of England PRide Award for the Best Event category. A separate BAC100 Learning Project ran alongside the main programme. This was supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund Your Heritage grant, industry sponsors and the local authorities of Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The main elements of the education programme were: • An extensive website at featuring audio and film material, written text, images and interactive games. It had 68,884 visits between March and December 2010. 81 per cent of visitors to the website who expressed an opinion felt their local pride had increased as a result of seeing the site and 89 per cent said they would recommend it. • Workshops using collage-making, creative writing and simple science experiments to explore the history and technology of the local aviation industry. 1,500 children and young adults took part in a total of 81 sessions held across 30 educational sites. The workshop leaders were supported by a team of 28 graduate trainees from the aviation industry. Pupils from eight of the participating schools were given free open-top bus trips to Flight, provided by City Sightseeing Bristol. 82 per cent of teachers who expressed an opinion agreed their pupils had been inspired by what they learnt in the workshops and all said their pupils had learnt something new about aviation and had enjoyed taking part in BAC100. • Teachers’ resource pack including CDs containing PowerPoint presentations, teachers’ notes and digitised historic images; DVDs of historic film material; information posters; and a timeline wall chart. • A new publication, The 2010 Book of Aviation Wonder, presenting science and history in an engaging, enjoyable and informative way. 20,000 copies were distributed to form the 2010 Great Reading Adventure. 95 per cent of readers who expressed an opinion said they had enjoyed the book and 90 per cent said that they had learnt something new about the local area from reading it. Feedback comments received over the year included: • ‘ This has been the best day in the seven years I've been alive.’ – Primary school pupil after science workshop

Guests at the opening of Flight touching one of the giant wheels of the Brabazon aircraft (Martin Chainey).


• ‘I thought I wouldn't be particularly interested in the exhibition, because I am not typically engrossed by such topics, but the addition of historical context and various visual mediums used enabled me to gain an interest and therefore improve my knowledge. It definitely has broadened my mind as to what I will take time to observe in the future.’ – Visitor to Flight exhibition


• ‘ Thank you for inviting me to the book launch. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and your wonderful books are now being enjoyed by three generations of my extended family, aged 3 up to 73.’ – Guest at the BAC100 book launch • ‘ The resources and workshops have been fantastic, the children really enjoyed and benefitted from the knowledge of the workshop leaders and the books and posters are fantastic as is the website resource. Really great.’ – Teacher • ‘Outstanding; another alphas plus performance from [BCDP] and all their sponsors; it's vital this work is continued as a part of Bristol's legacy building but also part of its future. This project is a perfect fusion of all that is great about Bristol: arts, business, community, and of course engineering excellence.’ – Visitor to website There are few businesses that last 100 years; most companies close long before then. BAC100 provided the opportunity for BCDP to once again link the arts to the sciences and to celebrate a great Bristol success story – one that, though there have been massive changes over the years, provides the basis for more success today and will continue to do so into the future.

Pupils at Desai Memorial Primary School, Kawangware, Kenya who were donated copies of The 2010 Book of Aviation Wonder delivered by Virgin Atlantic pilot Bob Ilett, who also took the photograph.

• ‘I have always lived in the Bristol area and did work in the aerospace industry so have existing interest in local history and events, but the website has proved very interesting and helpful and has definitely told me things I was not aware of.’ – Visitor to website • ‘Everyone [in the class] loved having their own aviation annual. What a treat! They have been reading them constantly and sharing them with their families.’ – Teacher on The 2010 Book of Aviation Wonder • ‘I worked with a wide range of age groups in very different settings and I found it very interesting to see such enthusiasm for the project everywhere I went. I felt this was partly due to the fascination we all have for flight but also it was due to the hard work put in [by BCDP] in setting up the project, programme and all the extended events.’ – Workshop leader • ‘I am proud to have been associated with this whole project, which has brought our local industry into the limelight, and provided so much activity, education and fun.’ – Steering group member 66

Rebecca Hutchinson, who recruited volunteers from Airbus to assist with the education workshops, and Kayvon Barad, one of the volunteers, look at a copy of Take Flight during the BAC100 book launch (Martin Chainey). Next to Kayvon is Adam Nieman, one of the workshop leaders.





Bristol2014 was an extensive programme of activity which marked the centenary of the start of the First World War and also looked at other conflicts of the last 100 years and their influence upon the city. Managed by BCDP, it was launched in autumn 2013 and officially ended in March 2015, though some of the partner organisations are continuing to run war-related projects until at least 2018 (the Bristol Great War Network grew out of the Bristol2014 advisory group). Among over 50 partners involved in the development and delivery of the programme were volunteer-run local history societies, arts and culture organisations, heritage sites, groups associated with the armed forces, religious groups, the two Bristol universities, schools and scout troops, trade unions, archives and libraries, tourism bodies and the local media. With the First World War as its starting point, Bristol2014 provided a local response to an international event that changed the world, linking the exploration of heritage to an examination of contemporary wars that continue to have an impact upon communities in the city. The programme ranged from amateur concerts in community centres and churches, to the National Arts Orchestra of Canada performing at Colston Hall; from one-day poster displays of the latest research findings of a local history group, to large-scale object-based exhibitions lasting a month or more; from talks delivered in branch libraries, to a lecture by Sir Max Hastings which filled the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building; and from guided walks around the war graves of Arnos Vale Cemetery, to a tour of Bristol Central Library’s archive of material relating to opposition to the conflict. Topics addressed over the course of the year included: the protests of conscientious objectors and the experiences of those on the frontline; the changing role of women in society and the changes in political opinion; those who came to the city because of the war and those who were forced to leave; the impact of the war upon the physical fabric of the city and its industries; the ways in which the dead have been remembered and commemorated; eyewitness accounts recorded at the time and modern reinterpretations of what took place; and the legacy of the conflict, locally, nationally and around the world. Previous spread: Tim Shaw sculpture exhibited in Shock and Awe: Contemporary Artists at War and Peace at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA), 2014, part of the Back From the Front programme (RWA).


Actors Kim Hicks, Chris Yapp and Sheila Hannon from Show of Strength Theatre Company at the war memorial in Bedminster for the unveiling of the paving stone commemorating VC recipient Thomas Rendle, the subject of ‘From Vagrant to VC’ (author’s photo).


A group of inter-connected projects were undertaken with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). These were, in order of start date: • T he Bristol2014 website, launched at in April 2014 as a one-page holding site with a mailing list registration form and Twitter link. It was relaunched as a fully operational site at the end of June. It provided What’s On information, news, historic background material, articles (some submitted by members of the public) and resources for some of the individual projects. It was regularly updated until March 2015, by which time it had had 10,897 visits. • T he Learning Communities Digital Stories Project, a targeted learning module that combined acquiring and developing digital story-making skills with finding out about the First World War and other conflicts. The first session was held in April 2014 and the last in November. A total of 23 learners took part, including members of the local refugee and asylumseeking community, and nearly 100 minutes of digital material was produced and uploaded to YouTube.

• Researching Your Bristolian Ancestors in the First World War: A Guide written by Eugene Byrne. This specially commissioned 40-page book featured useful information aimed at those wishing to find out about their family connections to the war. It was produced in association with Bristol and Avon Family History Society and with the additional assistance of Bristol Record Office, the Local Studies Service at Bristol Central Library and local author Clive Burlton. 4,500 copies were printed and distributed free of charge in July 2014 and it is also available as a download from the Festival of Ideas website. • The Great War Stories map. Eugene Byrne provided the content for this free smartphone app based upon a specially created layer of Bristol’s Know Your Place online map. It was available to download from Google Play and the Apple Store from July 2014 and contained 154 stories. By March 2015 it had been viewed either in the app form or from the website over 1,800 times. • Festival of Ideas talks. This series of 20 free talks and debates on a warrelated theme was held between July and November 2014. It had a total audience of over 3,300. Of the audience members who completed a survey, 97 per cent rated the session they attended ‘Very good’ or ‘Good’. • The Great Reading Adventure 2014. 20,000 copies of the 120-page Bristol and the First World War were printed and distributed free of charge in October 2014. The book contained a fictional graphic story by artist Alys Jones based on local events along with a range of short essays commissioned from a variety of authors. • Moved by Conflict, a major temporary exhibition at M Shed exploring the physical, social and personal changes that result from war. There was an accompanying series of special events. A First World War-themed trail was also devised for use in the permanent galleries of the museum. The exhibition opened October 2014 and closed 1 March 2015, by which time it had had 10,114 visits. Of those who completed a survey, 95 per cent agreed the HLF-funded projects had ensured heritage was better interpreted and explained and 97 per cent had enjoyed the experience. The HLF grant also contributed to the cost of general marketing material for Bristol2014, which included printed brochures, banners, posters and e-newsletters.

Performer from Lydbrook Band at the premiere of Liz Lane's 'Silver Rose' (author’s photo).


Another important strand of Bristol2014 were the arts projects funded through Arts Council England. Commissioned artists included authors, photographers, fine artists, graphic artists, cartoonists, dramatists, architects, a rapper, a ceramicist, an enamellist, a composer of brass band music and a paper engineer. Each project had a page on the Bristol2014 website. Many of the artists spoke at a free all-day event in Watershed on 15 November held in association with the Festival of Ideas. Most of the visual artwork was displayed at the Re-membering exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) that formed part of the gallery’s Back From the Front programme. 73

Among the projects were: • ‘Leaving the Line: Images and Words of War and Wondering’, a collaboration between military historian Jeremy Banning and Tania Hershman, a fiction writer and poet. 500 sets of 12 postcards were produced, combining an image with a 100-word short story or poem. •S  teve Bell’s artwork 'The New World’, partly inspired by Paul Nash’s painting ‘We Are Making a New World'. •H  elen Dunmore’s short story 'A Silver Cigar in the Sky'. •A  ngus Fraser’s ‘The Flooded Trench’, a large-format photographic work that was inspired by a Siegfried Sassoon poem. •P  aul Gough’s suite of drawings that reflected on the fabric of memory. • Harvest’s War, Women and Song, a celebration of the Lena Ashwell YMCA Concert Parties of the First World War. Producer/director Anna Farthing worked with recent graduates of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama in interpreting archive materials. She and Bea Roberts then dramatised fragments of the artists’ lives, which were performed by Conservatoiretrained actors. •P  aper engineer Diana Beltrán Herrera’s commemorative paper wreath. •D  esigner Hasan Kamil’s three graffiti pieces.

• Composer and arranger Liz Lane’s new work for brass band and narrator called ‘Silver Rose’. The words were taken from the work of Bristol-born poet Isaac Rosenberg. It was premiered at a Remembrance Sunday concert at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with narration by Robert Hardy. • The Rupert Brooke tea service, created by Hanne Rysgaard, a ceramicist, and fine artist Anton Goldenstein. It was inspired by the knowledge that Brooke ate his last meal on English soil at Avonmouth before departing for the war. • Shawn Sobers’ 'African Kinship Systems: Emotional Science – Case Study: The Fate of the SS Mendi', an audio visual work made with local filmmaker Rob Mitchell. • Show of Strength’s performance piece 'From Vagrant to VC' about Thomas Rendle, a VC recipient from Bedminster. • Enamel artist Elizabeth Turrell’s commemorative peace medal. • 'The Sound of a Veteran' with words and music by Upfront MC and video material by Harry Gough. In addition 21 Illustration students at the University of the West of England produced a series of posters inspired by the Bristol2014 programme that could be viewed on the website. They were also displayed at the RWA; some were used in marketing material; and they were reproduced in the Back From the Front book, which was published in e-book format and as a limited-edition print version. Places need to have opportunities for thoughtful remembrance that can be shared by the whole community. Bristol2014 brought together a remarkable partnership: from churches and schools, historians and artists, to veterans’ groups and the military today. It successfully combined education and learning with moments of commemoration. Everywhere in Britain was affected by the First World War and Bristol was no exception to this. Through Bristol2014 BCDP succeeded in marking the bravery of soldiers as well as the futility of the conflict; honouring those who died and those who refused to serve; showing how the city welcomed refugees; and demonstrating how artists and writers have seen the conflict over the decades since its end.

Visitors using the research materials in the reading room at Moved by Conflict in M Shed (John Seaman).



The Future/ Much has changed since BCDP started in 1993. The world has become even more complex with the rise of populism and the campaigns for the break-up of nation states. We’ve seen the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media – and the internet has gone from being used by a few to a worldwide essential for most. We’ve had a financial crisis that threatened to bring down much of the world’s economies. There’s been a decline in trust in politicians, institutions and experts. People seem to have less time to devote to leisure and culture. The next 25 years will see more huge change. The world is urbanising rapidly and this means that getting cities right is essential. Nearly two decades into the twenty-first century we’re on the cusp of the massive transformation that will be the fourth industrial revolution. This, together with Brexit and climate change, promises to bring the most radical and fundamental changes to Bristol, this country, Europe and the world that we will have seen since the world wars. We can all be justified in feeling more uncertain than we have for a long time, and perhaps rightly more fearful of the future. But there are also opportunities. The Bristol economy remains robust. Bristol is a leader in green technology. The arts are in many cases thriving: existing plans mean that within a few years we’ll have a new arena, a new Colston Hall, a major new university campus at Temple Meads. All this on top of the transformation of many arts organisations in the city. What is a given is that funding will remain an issue. For a while, at least, during the past 25 years it seemed there was more public support for the arts – certainly in terms of lottery funding. Money is now tighter than ever, public funding is in decline (not even increases for inflation) and is spread more widely and thinner. A huge question facing the arts is how to support existing organisations and artists at the same time as supporting new ones. BCDP has a more diversified funding base than most – and is good at fundraising – but it would be wrong to say that no public support 76

Signage in Watershed at the 2017 Festival of the Future City (@JonCraig_Photos).


is needed. In fact, it is the public support that will often lead to others giving their support – in addition to securing the team working to get that support.

of Ideas events in that time as well as many more projects and initiatives – some of which we don’t know anything about yet. We haven’t got the answers; but at least we’re asking the right questions.

Is there still a role for BCDP? Is the job done? There is certainly demand: BCDP gets more requests to develop projects than it has ever done; it is now a core partner in research applications; it has a national leadership role in things like Festival of the Future City; it continues to bring together projects about Bristol. There’s a need, as the world becomes more complex and split, and when the grand challenges and opportunities are beyond the ability of many people and organisations to comprehend, let alone solve and take advantage of. BCDP can continue to provide that long-term cultural planning, a meeting place for debate, the opportunity for reflection on the past and the advocacy of hope for the future.

The current plans culminate in 2023, a significant year for Bristol. It’s the 650th anniversary of Bristol being made a city and county; the 200th anniversary of Business West and Bristol museums; and the 50th anniversary of the Bristol bus boycott. A major celebration of the city is possible – one which looks back over 650 years and forward to the next period of a remarkable city’s development. And this could be our contribution to the European Capital of Culture that year.

Currently, projects are planned to 2023: Festivals of the Future City every two years; a programme on the fourth industrial revolution and culture in 2019; work on young talent, as well as celebrating ‘the marvellous Boy and The sleepless Soul’ (as Wordsworth called him) for the 250th anniversary of Chatterton’s death in 2020. We’ll also run at least another 600 Festival

Whatever the future holds, BCDP will try and reflect, encourage debate about, help the city plan and more. We’ll continue to work with others as moving forwards together means more ideas, greater strength, wider participation and stronger impact. We’ll remain optimistic: it’s how we’ve worked for 25 years. As our mentor Brunel said, ‘En Avant’: forward. Andrew Kelly Director, Bristol Cultural Development Partnership

Speakers and audience members at one of the sessions in Watershed during the 2017 Festival of the Future City (@JonCraig_Photos).



Afterword/ Business people – and the business sector in Bristol – have always been committed to a healthy cultural life for city living and prosperity. Business West Chambers of Commerce & Initiative was one of the founding partners of BCDP and we continue to support the unique opportunity it provides for moving the city forward in cultural planning, policy and delivery. Our commitment to enhancing the social and cultural life of the city, fostering a shared sense of belonging across our communities and inspiring the next generation, is unwavering. BCDP’s innovative programmes and its commitment to the longer-term development of strategic, citywide cultural projects, are an excellent and effective means of bringing together business, the arts, the voluntary sector and the local authority. Long may it continue. James Durie Chief Executive, Business West Chambers of Commerce & Initiative

Detail from the winning design by Willem Hampson for the competition for Illustration students at the University of the West of England to create a poster for the exhibition Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter at the Royal West of England Academy, part of Bristol800, 2016.


In 2018 Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) celebrates its 25th anniversary. This book provides an overview of the BCDP approach and philosophy, and highlights from some of the many projects it has initiated and led since 1993. BCDP culture | ideas | arts and sciences

Profile for Bristol Cultural Development Partnership

Bristol Cultural Development Partnership 25th Anniversary  

A book celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, providing an overview of the organisation's approach an...

Bristol Cultural Development Partnership 25th Anniversary  

A book celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, providing an overview of the organisation's approach an...