Jamboree #1: Laurie Lax, Laura Phillips & lewdjaw – On being an artist in Bristol

Originally published: 7 January 2016 – https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/jamboree/post/52436315/

Place Making: Spike Associates Laurie Lax, Laura Phillips and lewdjaw reflect on what it’s like to be an artist in Bristol

In terms of art spaces, there are only a handful of public art galleries, and LOTS of transitory pop-up spaces and events, giving it a constantly fresh atmosphere. This is reliant on the general public being actively engaged in the arts – it’s quite a fun-loving party city (not surprising given its proximity to Glastonbury, like San Francisco to Burning Man). The downside of that is Bristol lacks spaces that are in-between and spaces for emerging artists that have longevity. Hyper-gentrification is happening, sometimes Bristol is referred to as ‘West West London’ – lot’s of Londoners are moving over. The neighbourhoods are all very distinct from each other, so there is something for everyone. In fact we unanimously agreed on one-word summaries of all the areas (Clifton=posh, Bedminster=yummy mummy, Stokes Croft=crusty…)! Quite an alternative politically aware city (Bus boycotts, Tesco Riot, Counterfire, Museum of Palestine, Tony Benn was local MP…)

Main Galleries:
– Spike Island (divisive)
– Arnolfini (hit and miss)
– Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (classic museum but a really good art programme)
– Royal West of England Academy (mainly traditional but sometimes contemporary!)
– The graveyard of pop-up spaces (in last 6 years only):
Motorcyle Showrooms, The Looking Glass Art Space, Parlour Showrooms, Vericonian Palace, Motorcade Flashparade, Detroit, Bristol Diving School, Central Reservation, Madescapes, Lot, Plan 9… leaving room for new shoots!!!

Regular art festivals:
– Bristol & Bath Art Weekender
– International Performance Association (various events)
– Spike Open Studios
– Bristol Biennial
– Mayfest (theatre and performance art)
– In Between Time Festival…

Healthy pattern of cross-disciplinary collaboration i.e. with music, film and science:
– Qu Junktions (booking agents and event organisers who often work with visual artists)
– Howling Owl Record Company – label who also put on events and operate in art settings
– Young Echo – exciting music collective that put on arty performances
– Strong graphitti scene (Banksy!) with the events ‘See No Evil’ and ‘Upfest’ annual graphitti festivals on Nelson Street and North Street respectively, and the outside gallery curated by ‘The People’s republic of Stokes Croft’ born out of the ‘Tesco riots’
– Aardman (Wallace & Gromit) and BB Natural History Unit are based in Bristol… so lot’s of media people and facilities around.
– Strong circus scene because of the school and venue Circomedia.
– Bristol University and UWE means a lot of students of all disciplines.
– Local legends: Richard Long, Massive Attack, Portishead…


Art related but still regarded a hidden gem:
The Cube Microplex (radical cinema, stage, hub, co-op, managed and owned by volunteers)

Non-art related:
– St. Peter & St. Pauls Catholic Cathedral near Clifton
– Narrowways Hill (The Mound) in St. Werburghs – a rare untilled piece of land
– Cycle paths – Sustrans (national cycle network) is a Bristol based charity
– Bristol Rovers – women’s football team
– St Paul’s Carnival – not that hidden but a more manageable party compared to Notting Hill carnival
– Greenbank Cemetery
– A child curated gallery on Vicarage road, inside the missing brick in a wall

Touristy stuff that’s actually worth checking out:
SS Great Britain
The Suspension Bridge
The docks
The shot tower
The zoo is ‘well kept’ and involved in international environmental activism


Laurie Lax, Laura Phillips & lewdjaw – 2016