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Creative Spaces takes Bristol

During January, the Creative Spaces team took a trip to Bristol on their final ‘go-see’ trip of the year. The purpose of this trip was to meet with representatives from a variety of creative and cultural organisations in Bristol, particularly those that work with young and emerging creatives. The following article is a round up of their time in Bristol and reflections from the trip.


Meeting with Rising in Bristol – Watershed Venue

Rising is a Community Interest company and non-profit creative agency. They strive to cater/influence/support young creatives and artists under 30 within the city. With a fundamental goal to make creative facilities more accessible and lucrative for artists, Rising shares a lot of similarities with the Stove Network. The Creative Spaces team had a fun, light hearted conversation with members from the Rising team – Jess, Syd and Euella in their part time workspace – Watershed. We found ourselves relating to each being in a company whose focus is to bring young people in the community to a creative space to socialise, learn and interact.

Being from a smaller town I naturally assumed that Rising had a bigger issue on their hands since their operation was based in the big city. But their obstacles were more or less the same, especially concerning outreach and engagement. It was comforting to know that a city wide organisation doesn’t automatically guarantee anything in terms of the engagement numbers or the progress of development in the relative local creative sector. One thing we bonded on was the phenomena known to Rising as “The Returners”- young creatives who leave for university with the intention of staying away to then return with the desire to change or make a difference in their hometown. The Rising team we met were impressed and inquisitive about the Stove Network and Dumfries and Galloway’s creative output and compared their format with the Stove’s. Rising has what they like to call “Pollinators”, who are creative mentors/tutor/instructors who pollinate the city . The details of the Creative Spaces programme definitely left an impression on them as they were actively taking notes. To go to a meeting such as this was an eyeopener because I almost thought of us (being representatives for The Stove Network) were going to be asking all the questions and looking to them for advice but, instead it was a completely mutual experience where each team got an equal share of useful information and a compulsion to work together at some point.

One aspect of Risings’ format that sparked our interest was their membership system that recruits once a year. We took personal interest in their approach to engaging with their members – having one-to-one mentorship meetings with a member of the Rising staff, invites to exclusive events, and access to Risings own and partnered paid opportunities, most of which would be detailed in their weekly newsletter for members.

Then we wandered over to the Aardman studio building where Martha was scheduled to meet Peter Lord. The rest of us sat blissfully in the lobby where there was so much to look at and admire, such as a genuine Oscar award for Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, along with Baftas, Models and figures from Aardman films, and books filled with sketches and rough drafts of storyboards and character designs. The building was very inviting inside and looked like a brilliant place to punch in and out of each day. It was inspiring to think that real people were involved in these very real jobs inside this building and that it’s not in some distant Hollyweird land that appears to be a closed club.


Aardman Studios Tour

On our first morning, Mia gave me the very exciting news that Peter Lord of Aardman Studios may potentially be able to speak to me as I have an interest in working in Film & TV. I tried not to get my hopes up as he has an incredibly busy schedule… but after staring at my phone all day, I received a call!

We checked out nearby Spike Island as we patiently waited for 4pm to stroll over to Aardman Studio. The lobby was like a mini exhibition in and of itself, with a giant Shaun the Sheep model, a cabinet displaying an Oscar and Bafta trophies, and cartoon office props at the reception desk.

Having a personal tour of the game design office, the various animation studios and even some hot sets by Peter Lord himself was surreal. I was shocked to learn that animators are essentially actors who carefully manipulate the limbs of clay models in response to recordings by the voice actors. I was also shocked to see how many cameras are on set – something that is required to ensure each frame is shot from two positions for 3D productions.

Each location was bursting with memorabilia and original props from sets I grew up watching and confirmed how much I wanted to be part of this world. I had the chance to pick the brains of veteran animators and modellers and discuss everything from their typical day, to the way work processes were being affected by new technologies and AI.

It was particularly refreshing to see how hands on the work is at the studio despite how large scale the productions are. Learning that the analogue methods of stop-motion animation could not be replicated by CG work made me optimistic that the hands-on creative process that drew me to the industry will hopefully be protected.


Arnolfini Arts Centre

On the Friday, we went to check out Arnolfini, an international centre of contemporary arts located on the picturesque harbourside. We started off by looking around the exhibition they had on, ‘Eregata’ by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. There was a vast installation of ceramics and a lot of his art incorporated found objects, electrical parts and discarded wires woven into large tapestries and 3D sculptures.

Martha and I  then joined in with a weekly Women’s Craft Club held at Arnolfini in partnership with Bristol Refugee Festival. We enjoyed a chilled out time making jewellery with women from lots of different backgrounds, each absorbed in their own craft project.

The team then met with Keiko Higashi, Head of Engagement, in the cafe at Arnolfini and talked about what we get up to at The Stove. It was great to see the strengths of the Creative Spaces program through her eyes and be able to discuss different strategies on a level pegging with someone who had so much professional experience.

She shared a bit with us about what she does in her role and the history of the building. She talked about the challenge she is currently working on – diversifying their exhibitions. They have a huge amount of foot traffic in the building but their actual engagement is much less when you discount people coming in to use the cafe/toilets as not everyone is there to interact with the exhibition. It was really interesting to hear about challenges from her perspective of having a huge building in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city centre, and it made me reflect on the similarities and differences with our reality at home.

After our morning at the art centre, we went to the nearby Bristol Old Vic, which is the English speaking world’s oldest continuously working theatre. They had an fun interactive exhibition on sound design for theatre, Foley art, and the use of analog tools in theatre to create gunshots and other sound effects. I liked the way they designed the exhibition, with interactive displays, buttons on the wall you could press to hear audio recordings of actors doing vocal warm ups, and machines you could use to make rain and thunder sounds. It made it feel like we were backstage designing the sound effects for a show!

In our free time we walked around St Nicholas market, saw a bit of street art, and walked to Millennium Square for a Wallace & Gromit themed escape room, ‘The Great Escape’. We also got to visit a cool area of Bristol called Stokes Croft and sat in The Canteen, a venue that has free live music and locally sourced vegan food.

Last Day

We did a heritage walk around the streets of Bristol city centre, viewing some of the iconic street art, graffiti and murals, and stopping in to see the cathedral and the historic Bristol Central Library. We visited a board game cafe on the Christmas Steps for some inspiration for the Vennel, and finished off our trip by touring some charity shops and the Bristol Museum.

On reflection, visiting Bristol was inspiring and motivating as we were each left with a positive sense of envy. To bring what a place like Bristol has to Dumfries feels achievable. It was great to see positive spaces being held for young creatives to connect with each other. With a renewed motivation from our trip, we feel we can bring more vibrancy and youth-led creativity to our town.

By our 23/24 Creative Spaces Team Korey, Martha & Sahar.

The 2024 Creative Spaces Showcase is taking place on the 28th of March! Keep an eye on the CS socials for updates.

Learn more about Creative Spaces here.

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