Tweet: Wonderful to welcome the @diversecity1 team to KWMC this morning & show you around our #CommonsSense exhibition exp…


Archive for November, 2016

Jay’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I first came to Knowle West Media Centre in February 2016 for my Change Creators interview.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

Since knowing KWMC, I have noticed a massive increase in tech! Your film kit cupboard is a filmmaker’s heaven.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

KWMC has made a massive difference to me through their support in lending me camera equipment for my film projects and letting me use their editing suite.

What other difference has KWMC made?

While on the Change Creators Programme at KWMC my confidence regarding talking to large groups of people greatly increased.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

When I was given the opportunity to film young people building and racing their own soapboxes!

Jay Carter Coles, Change Creator

Emily’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I met [KWMC Director] Carolyn at the project in 2006 when it was based at the old William Budd Centre. I was offered an amazing opportunity to come and work on the Environmental Programme with the team. I worked on lots of different projects with the community including the Knowle West Green Map, The Carbon Makeover Project, Knowle West’s first Food Festival and many others. I was lucky enough to be there when the new centre opened in 2008 and helped to design the outside space with locals.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

I don’t think the central vision for KWMC has fundamentally changed but it has evolved, expanded and impacted more and more people. The physical space at the centre has enabled a wonderful, creative and stable environment that everyone has benefited from.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

It constantly inspires me. Ten years on from ‘first contact’ memories come to me often of the people I met, the incredible sense of community I was part of and the high quality and cutting edge community media work that was produced.

What other difference has KWMC made?

It has shown that community media can be an important part of the fabric of a place and its people. The way that KWMC approaches each project and initiative means that it is used to educate, communicate, celebrate and proliferate – stories, issues and ideas.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

I have many…….working with everyone to put on the Knowle West Food Fest. Walking into the produce tent and seeing the vegetables, especially veggie monsters, that people had entered.

Sitting at the new conference table with the view of Dundry after we had celebrated its creation on the hill with a bonfire, with me wearing a boiler suit!

Sitting in a meeting room in London with a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral talking about KWMC and its work to a group of people, who were all looking to learn from what was being carried out in Knowle West. I had the feeling that our work being recognised and regarded at a national level – and what an impact we were having on other communities and people in the UK.

Great to know that it’s still going strong after 20 years. What an incredible achievement.

Emily Stokes, former Environmental Media Worker

Dom’s KWMC20 Story

I’ve been involved in, I think, three or four projects now with the Media Centre, over the last three years and I was approached in the first place to get involved with some community consultation, [an] arts programme, called Lost & Found, where I was among a group of artists who were invited to try and think about way-finding.

We’ve done quite a lot of work in the past about the role that technology can play in communities to help people to get to know their area in exciting and interesting and different sorts of ways.  It was a really exciting opportunity because we’d heard rumour-mills around this place – Knowle West Media Centre – from colleagues and friends down in Bristol but had never visited and didn’t really know what to expect, I guess.

So we worked on Lost & Found for nearly a year, producing a whole lot of different prototypes and interventions and events and workshops, and then off the back of that we were then invited to get involved in a couple of other projects – and then we also worked with Knowle West Media Centre to bid as partners for a project for [Bristol’s year as] European Green Capital, which we called the Forgotten Toys Compendium, which was about how you can make better use of e-waste and other play-related things that would normally be thrown away.

Like everything else with Knowle West [Media Centre] it was progress-driven and really about story and place – and so although you start a project going, ‘Let’s go! Let’s ride around on a bike and gather loads of toys!’ actually it was this really enlightening, creative, inspiring kind of process – of gathering tales and trying to pinpoint something about a sense of identity that comes associated with these sort of social history or social culture projects.

…I’ve been working with community partners in arts and creative settings for fifteen, sixteen years and I’ve worked in probably more than 100 schools and I wouldn’t like to count how many community centres and community arts venues and those sorts of things. There’s a certain set of expectations that you bring with you when you’re working in community arts organisations and I think the thing that stood out the most – and has always stood out the most – and is one of the reasons I like spending time working, and not working, with Knowle West Media Centre is it doesn’t feel like a community arts centre – the quality, the expectation, the standard, the, sort of, vision, the strategy, is of such an unbelievably high standard it’s completely unlike any other venue or host or partner that I’ve ever worked with in participatory arts or community arts settings.

There’s a rigour to what they do – but normally when you use that word, ‘rigour’, it suggests that it’s something that’s kind of stern or about rules and it’s not like that at all. There’s an unbelievable sort of vision for what they want to achieve and although it’s set within a community it doesn’t feel like any of those kind of community arts centres or community arts partners that you work [that are] with are difficult to convince or are stuck in their ways or have been doing the same thing for years and years and years. There’s this constant appreciation of challenging new ideas and exciting new things and it’s an absolutely amazing place to work.

As a community arts venue it feels like something that’s grown really organically and, from what I understand about the history of the Knowle West Media Project and how that grew into the Media Centre, it’s had the community at the heart of it and you see that as soon as you walk in the door.  The…familiar faces and the passion and the local expertise that you encounter from the second you walk in the door is just really exciting…it doesn’t feel like something that’s been parachuted in.

Although architecturally it doesn’t fit at all – it’s this sort of modern, contemporary behemoth in the community – on the street, I don’t know, it feels like something that’s always been there and people talk about it. It doesn’t matter where you are around the local area, you know ‘Go down the Media’ seems to be like a landmark that everyone’s familiar with and everyone has had some sort of encounter or dealing with.

One of the things that stood out to me the most when I first started working with the Media Centre was how much…how willing the people who work there are to just knock on doors and engage themselves with the community. I’ve never worked with a venue that takes themselves to people so much and the Kitchen Circus was a perfect example of that – you know an idea that ‘we want to take performance to people, rather than expecting people to come to the performance’. It sounds like a great idea in theory but how do you achieve that?  Well, you achieve that by putting in the hours, by, you know, stomping the pavements and knocking on doors and collaring people in the streets and smiling, so much smiling, the entire time!

I’ve worked with other places in Bristol and now, through working with Knowle West [Media Centre], stayed quite a lot in Bristol and Knowle West has a sort of odd reputation that I think is mostly historic and I’ve spent days, weeks, walking, cycling, plodding around the area with camera and gadgets and gizmos and stuff. I’ve worked in people’s houses and gardens and bits of wasteland and, you know, rummaged through skips and spent an awful lot of time on the ground and I’ve never once felt at risk or under threat or, I guess, out of place.  I’ve just constantly been made to feel welcome and there’s something to do with the fact that as soon as you say ‘I’m working with the Media [Centre],’ there’s this acceptance that comes with this and this appreciation that comes with it.

I just think that is such a disconnect with the reputation that people talk about with the area of Knowle West and I guess from an outsider coming in’s perspective, it really feels like the Media [Centre] plays an important role in that changing perception of the local area and getting people from other areas of Bristol to come into South Bristol and work and play and experience stuff together.

In the schemes of things I haven’t spent that much time working in Knowle West, you know. If you sandwiched it all together it’s probably a few months at the most and yet I feel a real kind of connection to the place. I feel like I know my way around and there’s familiar faces and I know the shops and the back alleys and the little cut-through paths here and there. I’ve got a real connection to the place and that doesn’t happen often when you’re working as an artist in community settings – I don’t necessarily feel a lasting connection to places. A lot of it is where you drift in and you drift out – that kind of intervention-based practice.

It’s really not like that at Knowle West, I feel really embedded to the area, even though I live a couple of hours away. The other thing about it is I just constantly want other people to go there … it feels like people just haven’t experienced participatory arts and technology until they’ve been to Knowle West. Not just visited and, sort of, seen the building, because the building is such a tiny part of it really, but really got stuck in and got involved in a project there. It’s so hard to describe, that’s why parts of this interview are really kind of hard to talk about because it’s…such an inspirational place and it works in such an interesting way that I’ve build a real connection to the area in a way that I don’t think I ever expected that I would.

I think the nature of the work that you’re doing when you’re working with the Media [Centre] is you’re not behind closed doors, you’re out and about, you’re visible, you’ve probably got some … weird gadget or you’re riding on a strange trike thing with a mutilated electronic toy gaffer-taped to the handlebars – it’s something of a conversation starter I guess, when you bump into people in the street.

And so you have all of these, some quite fleeting and some quite detailed, experiences with people and often some of the times when you’ve really felt like you’ve engaged with people the most are the times that started as nothing. You bump into someone when they’re taking the bins out and then, you know, an hour later you’re still in their back garden taking pictures of them and going through their prized possessions or recalling memories of heartache or, you know, happy family past – kind of gathering those experiences.

I think often it’s those incidental moments of working that seem to have the most impact and so I think… the way the Media Centre work[s], you’re constantly engaging people that, there’s no way that they would necessarily have that quality of experience if you were inviting them to come to a particular event or come to a particular workshop. There’s all sorts of interesting and weird and wonderful ways in which you’ve engaged new people.  We’ve done things with drones and GPS gadgets and we’ve done things with laser-cut stickers and GPS devices and cameras and hand-held devices and pedometers and these, sort of, bits of technology that often people can point at it and go, ‘oh yeah, I think I know what that is’ but they’ve never had the opportunity to actually play and create and make with it themselves and apply their own experiences to it. So there’s a great sense of ownership that comes out of building that relationship with these bits of tech that I guess are sometimes a bit alien.

I recently invited [KWMC Head of Arts] Melissa to come and speak at an event I was organising up in the Midlands, as I honestly think it’s such a bastion of best practice, and out of all of the people that talked or presented at the event I probably had more conversations about Knowle West Media Centre with delegates than [about] anyone else.  I think the thing that I’d really like to see is thinking about how we can champion these approaches and diversify those approaches so that nothing is lost in the impact of what they’re doing in Knowle West Media Cnetre but that experience and that kind of mindset can somehow mirror itself into other areas and other regions.

So things like the Night Walks with Teenagers project – I must’ve had a dozen people saying ‘I want to do a Night Walk with children!’ but I think there’s something about the way that’s facilitated and something about the way that that’s, kind of, dreamed up and approached by Knowle West, so what I’d really like to see is finding ways in which those methods, those approaches, that best practice can kind of funnel itself out, not just across the South West but across the country and probably internationally. How that is best done, I don’t know, but I think there’s lots that people can learn from the way that Knowle West Media Centre works so I’d like to see more of that in the future.

I have had loads [of memories] – there’s quite a few actually.  There was…we did an intervention on the steps, the absolutely bonkers and bizarre set of steps that lead up to the health centre. We were doing a little mini residency there as part of one of the projects and spent a few days chatting with people as they were coming up and down and installing these sort of weird playful artworks on the steps and I was taking a whole load of pictures while I was up there. It was absolutely blistering hot, it was the middle of the summer, and these three late-teens early-20s lads in baseball caps with their shirts off sort of came stomping up the steps in front of us and one of them turned round to me and said, ‘you taking pictures?’… and I went, ‘oh, we’re just making these things,’ and I went on the defensive immediately. He went, ‘go on mate, take our picture! Take our picture!’ and they all kind of posed and gave us a hug. It was one of those lightbulb moments, where my immediate perception and my immediate interpretation of that situation was these three lads had taken umbrage when actually they were just desperate to engage and they really wanted to, kind of, get involved and they really wanted their picture taken; they really wanted to talk.

And it was me that was the problem, it wasn’t them…it was one of those light switch moments when I went, ‘oh!’  The only person that came off badly out of that exchange was me and it’s such an important thing. I remember it really clearly and I talk about it quite a lot in terms of reflecting upon participatory arts practice. I think there’s lots of little things like that.

The Forgotten Toys Compendium was odd as well – cycling along on this big bike thing, going round asking people for their rubbish.  Most of the time you were picking up broken toys and someone would say, ‘yeah, you can have that but it’s got a dead mouse in it,’ or something like that.  But just occasionally you’d get these unbelievable stories…I remember bumping into this lady and talking about a blanket of her grandmother’s, that her grandmother had made. She trotted off home to go and get it and came back…she was so proud of this thing, this thing that could only be seen as important by her, and was talking so passionately about it.  Her family started gathering around and before I knew it there were ten of us all stood around talking. And so it’s those quite heartwarming moments of where it’s reflecting on me, I guess, more than on them.

There were other times that were fun and exciting and creative and annoying, like the time my drone smashed off the Knowle West Media Centre roof and I still haven’t fixed that…it’s those real personal moments that…that stick out really.

Dom Breadmore, artist

Davina’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I was 14 and involved in Archimedia from beginning to end.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

KWMC has changed in appearance, staff, grown in size and impact and all for the better. From beginning to end KWMC have achieved amazing things.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

YES!! Being involved in something so important and critical to the build of the Media Centre gave me a sense of purpose and belonging. It was a safe environment, free from judgement and I was able to grow physically and mentally. I strongly believe that KWMC helped to be come who I am now during those core years of my adolescence. It helped me mould my career, create opportunities and open doors. There has always been a helping hand from KWMC and I am eternally grateful for the time invested in me and my community.

What other difference has KWMC made?

KWMC has put media opportunities for our community on the map. It has challenged stereotypes and encouraged communities to work together. It’s been able to challenge and change perception[s] of the expectations of those in the community and encourage those to have aspirations to better themselves through such things [as] youth groups, IT sessions, music and film events, economical education such as growing your own vegetables and how to keep track on electricity. KWMC understands that Knowle West is a deprived area and they want to help in any way they can. The community need to support them instead of seeing a pretty building and feeling intimidated. I think KWMC should just keep on doing what they’re doing and eventually the whole community will have their backing.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

Archimedia from start to finish. Fashionate. Arts exhibitions. Media and music events. Also, my employment with KWMC meant that I worked with some of the most friendly and caring individuals who, although they don’t realise it, helped me to challenge my perception of others and be more open minded.

Davina Froom, Knowle West resident

Annie’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I was working at the [Knowle West] Health Park 2002 – 2005 and was involved with KWMC during that period mostly, but I’m still in touch now, even though I’m retired. My job was Project Manager for a community and public art project that was intended to use the arts to deliver messages about health and well-being to Knowle West residents.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

When I first came to KW the Media Centre was in the old Dr’s surgery.  I was a witness and sometime participant to the fundraising, architect research and selection and the beginning of the new build.  So it’s changed enormously!

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

KWMC has always had a strong influence on my practice as an artist because of the spirit of research and enquiry that underpins everything that happens there.  Also very important is the way the Media Centre strives to make everything they do accessible to the KW community, and giving young people a stake in the success of the project.

What other difference has KWMC made?

KWMC has been an innovator in the city for green neighbourhoods and sustainable buildings, and it has become a hub for creativity and innovation in Bristol.  If I want to know about new developments in the arts and media, or if I need inspiration, I go to a talk, workshop or exhibition at KWMC!

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

These are mostly to do with the people I have met there and the spirit of creativity that underpins everything that they do, but also watching the project grow from very humble beginnings to the thriving resource that it is today.

Annie Beardsley, artist

Knowle West shortlisted for Smart Communities Award

kw-smart21-logoKnowle West, Bristol, has been named as one of the Intelligent Community Forum’s (ICF) Smart21 Communities of 2017.  This select group of communities from around the world emerged from a group of nearly 400 – and are in contention to be named 2017’s Intelligent Community of the Year.

“The Smart21 list always has a few surprises,” said ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla.  “This one definitely does.”  He noted that the list rarely includes the biggest cities with global reputations: ‘it is a group of cities, counties and rural communities that decided to apply digital tools to building local economies and societies to prosper in an age of digital disruption.’

Knowle West is the only community in the UK to make the shortlist and is named alongside seven communities from Canada, five from Taiwan, four from Australia, and one each from Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.

“We find that it is the ones who collaborate with national or state governments, fly under the radar, and are ‘No Name’ communities to most of the world that are most innovative and aggressive,” said ICF co-founder John Jung.  “They are not afraid of new ideas and use strategies proven by Intelligent Communities around the world.   They are places that the rest of the world can learn from and offer hope to people who are fighting hard to launch a new future, and create early stage investment opportunities to the outside world.”

KWMC is delighted that Knowle West has been recognised as a place of innovation, creativity and action: where passionate people make, challenge and explore new technologies in order to shape and improve their lives and communities. You can find out more about some of the work we’re currently doing here.

About the ICF

The Intelligent Community Forum (, headquartered in New York, is a global movement of nearly 150 cities, metro regions and counties with a think tank at its heart. ICF studies and promotes the best practices of the world’s Intelligent Communities as they adapt to the new demands and seize the opportunities presented by information and communications technology (ICT). To help cities and regions build prosperous economies, solve social problems and enrich local cultures, the Intelligent Community Forum conducts research, hosts global events, publishes books, and produces its high-profile annual international awards program.


Dane’s KWMC20 Story

I started at KWMC as a volunteer on the summer school in 2009.

I have worked as a freelance artist for over 15 years and had the great fortune to work with KWMC on several occasions. It was very exciting working with KWMC because they are interested in the practical application of experimental art and design. In a gallery, artists can make work that questions the boundaries of a discipline, work that acts as a provocation and makes people think about aesthetic and/or social situations.

But a gallery is a designated zone of interest, it attracts a certain demographic who upon entering the space expect a certain amount of experimentation and are disappointed if the show doesn’t surprise. KWMC work within a community in South Bristol that do not fit the usual gallery demographic, or have access to the same cultural amenities. The Media Centre has a definite interest in social change, of empowering people to improve their situation either through knowledge or work or both. When there is such a worthy cause then experimentation can seem slight and less important. But KWMC pushed forward on both fronts there was the opportunity to experiment, to try new ideas and improve people’s lives through the practical application of art and design, which was incredible.

For example, I was involved in the 3e Houses project, a collaboration between KWMC, Toshiba Research Labs (TRL) and Bristol City Council. The project was investigating how IT could improve householders’ awareness of their energy consumption. What a fantastic opportunity to try some new ideas. Of course anywhere else it could have been quite dull, death by a thousand isotypes; the enthusiasm flattened by fear. Public art is often neutralised by commissioners who are worried about causing offence. As a result the work can be safe and unchallenging: the fear of offence outweighing the desire to question. [KWMC Director] Carolyn was great to work for and she fully supported experimentation, trying new things, new ways of expressing ideas, new ways of asking questions.

Toshiba Research Labs were great to work with, they were gracious and we, particularly [KWMC Web Projects Manager] Russell, were able to contribute to the technical development of the project. How often do you get a community centre contributing to the technical research of a laboratory like TRL?

We developed a really innovative interface and tested it in local households, that was an amazing achievement. I thought it was exciting at the time but now looking back it seems almost unbelievable.

Dane Watkins, artist

Bob’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

About five or six years ago I went to the University of Local Knowledge (ULK) event on Filwood green and did an interview for a film. Then I went to the AGM and was so impressed by everything that was going on.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

It’s come a long way since when it started as a photography project. They keep up with the modern living, how tech is changing the world. They help young people get involved with new technology and open up people’s eyes to things you can do using media and technology…it’s the place you come to learn about that. I’m always amazed when I come and visit and talk to the young people’s groups about what they are doing.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

I’m more involved in the community and more aware of what’s possible and I talk to more and different people.

What other difference has KWMC made?

Staff and [the other] trustees are very approachable and do a great job and the work’s changing people’s lives. There is so much going on and it’s pioneering – and you need that in Knowle West to make people aware of what’s happening in the world. There’s great people with great skills working there helping people learn abut the possibilities in the future. The fridge [made by] the Junior [Digital] Producers is a great example of that. And the film they showed at mShed made with the young people – it was so professional.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

George Gallop and his exhibition, Sporting Memories and SPHERE. There is always so much going on and the management are superb. I enjoy looking back at the past remembering all the celebrities in the area and their stories – and getting involved in SPHERE, about the future and improving health with technology.  I love to go here.

Bob Fisher, Knowle West resident & KWMC Trustee

Carol’s KWMC20 Story

How were you involved with KWMC?

[Knowle West Health Association] were involved because we set the project up many moons ago, from Filwood Community Centre, with a little small darkroom that [Carolyn Hassan] was actually based in.  At the time we didn’t think it was going to take off because it was around media.

Why didn’t you think it was going to take off?

Because years ago that wasn’t, for some people, an activity that they would normally have done. One: because they couldn’t afford a camera and two: even now when I look back on some old photographs of the family it was very rare…Some families haven’t got photographs because it wasn’t something that was a known thing within Knowle West.

How do you think KWMC changed?

It’s changed huge – absolutely huge.  The involvement it brings to the community, the amount of people that gets into photography and different activities now – and it’s of all ages, which is really good.  The cinema side of stuff – when the older ones come up and watch the cinema club.  It’s changed absolutely huge […] It’s developed hugely on the estate and has brought a lot of different technology to local people, which is great.

But it’s also good, the fact that there’s past stuff that the next generation probably wouldn’t have got to see … We’ve got the photographs of the old cinema, within, so there’s a lot of generations that would never have known that was a cinema.  So, it’s those types of things…that the Media Centre has brought to the local community.

What do you think the impact has been?

The impact for the community has been great.  I just think it has brought so much technology for the youngsters.  It’s given the youngsters of this estate skills, probably they would have never been able to do.

What’s your favourite memory?  Do you have a memory that stands out?

The old carnivals when you used to go round and take all the photographs of the carnival.  We’ve got some of those photographs. They’re really good.  You see some of those now: some of [the people] have passed on, some of them are now adults who have got children of their own.  It’s great looking back on some of those old photographs of the carnival and the estate: of how much the estate has actually changed over the years.

Carol Casey, Knowle West Health Association, collaborator in the 1996 photography project that developed into Knowle West Media Centre
Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

Share This Follow us
Join In
Sign up for our monthly e-bulletin and receive the latest news and events