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Archive for the ‘Local Issues’ Category

Change Creators: The XLR Collective – Communications Planning

On 20th March the XLR Collective focused on communications planning and how they might start to tell the story of their project. It was their final session before they jet to Barcelona to meet activists, campaigners and musicians working on the international stage. 

During the session the group worked with KWMC’s Communications Officer Rachel to practice ‘elevator pitches’: short introductions to the Change Creators programme and the issue they’re passionate about tackling. 

Some of the key questions included:

What are the key points we want to convey?
Do we use any ambiguous words or concepts that might need more explanation?
How can we keep things short avoid the temptation to ramble on?!
How can we make sure our conversations and dialogues are meaningful – not people talking at each other?

The group recently decided that they want to explore the issue of gender inequality; as part of their leadership training they will meet professionals working on gender equality initiatives in Barcelona before creating their own music in response to the experience.

The pitches will come in especially handy when the Collective visit an English-speaking radio show – follow the group on social media next week to see how they get on and look out for the Barcelona update coming next month!
@change_creators @xlrfest

We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part Two

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make…Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities.

Charlotte’s Blog: Part Two – “On becoming a resident, communal living and further developments in cyanotype”

I can’t believe I have been working in Knowle West over a month now, I actually feel a little bit at home already. I managed to find accommodation at the Lee Abbey house, a Christian missionary community in the heart of Filwood. I have to admit, being brought up a casual atheist all my life, with little experience of spirituality and god, I was a bit unsure of how I would find it. Would the household judge me? Convert me? Annoy me? I’m afraid to let you all down, as I don’t live in a sitcom or a bad horror film, the group were pleasant, warm and welcoming and we all got on like a house on fire.

[The house] was once an ex-convent, inhabited by a community of nuns in its previous life. The house is a beautiful, winding, redbrick maze of creaking cisterns, deckled 70’s wallpaper and soft green carpet. It is home to three different family groups, consisting of five adults and twi children. It was amazing to see how this group integrates together and shares living spaces. Staying in communal living has broken down many assumptions about shared spaces.

I was able to interview the group and discover why they chose to live communally, how sharing space works economically and socially. What boundaries exist in communal living[…]? My favourite question, and one which demonstrates human nature and our interactions, was which room is your favourite room to share with others and which is your least favourite?

It was obviously the Kitchen as the favourite shared space. People love sharing food and cooking. It is a source of heat, a place to talk, catch up, and talk about the day.  And what was the least favourite? The Bathroom.

The Lee Abbey house is part of a wider Christian community and you can find out more they do in Knowle West here.

Building the Cyanotypomatic

The second stage of development [of] my work in taking the cyanotype process further was to make it bigger, by encouraging neighbours to make a large cyanotype piece. Now this was a bit of a thorny experience. What appeared to be a straightforward, simple yet effective concept, as is ever the case, took two weeks of long labour and unforeseen circumstances.

The basic concept is two light-proof boxes which house a long reel of cyanotype wallpaper. This is fed through two slits in each boxed and rolled around a wooden dowel. Inside the trailer is a UV lamp which exposes the wallpaper as it passes between the boxes (imagine how an old film camera looked from inside, when you fed the spool of film from one reel to another).

I had been using a bike trailer previously for portable printmaking workshops – the trailer itself was essentially a big black box on wheels, so perfect for a mobile exposure unit. I won’t go into the details of labour and process of the whole endeavour, but it is now in the existence and ready to take on the real world.

Saturday 4th March – We Can Make…Homes event

Thanks to our wonderful English weather the week leading up to the event appeared to be a little hit or miss, (torrential). But we were fortunate on the morning and the morning could actually be described as sunny. Knowle West Media Centre took over the corner of St Whytes Road for a day, exploring what community-led housing could mean for Knowle West and just how citizens could take part in this. It was a chance to spend time together discussing different ways citizen-led housing could take place. The team arrived early and put the giant gazebo up at a rapid pace, which was to house the PhysiCAD group. A fantastic team who are working with a Lego-inspired interface for virtual and rapid prototyping, they wanted to explore what St Whytes could look like with further developments and look at any potential issues such as parking with the residents. We also had representatives from Wikihouse, the MA Architecture lot [from the University of the West of England] and of course tea and cakes, as provided by the local community centre and the baking group!

I arrived at 11am with my bike trailer, ready to knock on people’s doors and demand they bring out some object for printing with. The event went smoothly – admittedly I only managed to make my way around a few houses – but I had the greatest response, with people coming out to talk and bringing some of their most prized possessions. My favourite was a Betty Boop statue and an Alien ornament.

Then we all had a natter as one of the neighbours was getting ready for their wedding anniversary. We all gathered round to look at the cake she just had made for it. It felt lovely for a minute – standing in the sunshine surrounded by community spirit. And then, as in true Bristol fashion, we all ducked for cover from the torrential down-pour.


Change Creators: The XLR Collective – Music is Power

This week the Change Creators: XLR Collective’s session was entitled #musicispower.

The session was all about the power that music has to influence, inform and spark change on a personal, national and international level. This session was less about the classic activism songs like Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” or Edwin Star “War” and more based around independent artists who are striving to make a difference within their local communities.

The session began with a series of music videos covering a wide range of topics from Benin City (Club closures), Soundsci (Black Lives Matter), The “Fracking Song” – “My Water Is On Fire”, and also a poignant song from London based MC, promoter and youth worker Shay D entitled “Set Her Free” addressing domestic abuse (below):

The XLR Collective discussed songs and musical experiences that had created a long lasting impression on them. They introduced each other to new music, discussed the impact of the songs and events and reflected on how music has the power to change moods, attitudes and communities. A key question arose from the discussions:

“how can we use this information to create better music events in the future?”

Further exploring the topic with music and events that had an adverse impact, and looking into the reasons why they were ineffective, the session ended with some core values to instil when creating events, and some core aims as a collective in order to create a long lasting impact through their event(s) later in the year.

Keep in touch with the XLR Collective:
@change_creators @xlrfest


We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part One

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make…Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities.

Charlotte’s Blog: Part One

The KWMC home-made commission has been an eventful one so far. It is a project which seems so relevant to so many critical debates and issues in Bristol today. Affordable housing, homelessness, the lack of government services. It has been the first project I have been involved in which has given me more than an artistic inspiration.

Being a born Bristolian, I have to admit the shameful truth: prior to this residency I had hardly travelled up into the hills of Knowle West, so for me it really did mean a chance to explore a new location and a new community.

In order to do this residency justice, it seemed important not just to come in and install another outside exhibition but to fully explore the people and community of Knowle West, and get their input into the work. Letting the citizens lead the housing project and not to make any assumptions.

So how do you get to know people when you join a new place? You go to classes, take up an interest and make friends. Wow, does Knowle West have a lot going on in this way. So far I have been to a gardening group, a sequence dance group, the Retired Gentleman’s Woodworking group, the Filwood Chase Historical Society, the baking group, and my two favourites: the knitting group and Hodge Health Bootcamp. My brain and body aches, but I finally recognise people in the street.

What makes a home?

The next interest for me has been the home: what makes a home to the residents of Knowle West? How to explore what makes a home a personal space – is it the objects you have? The layout of the space? The neighbours? How do you represent this visually?

Knowle West has a unique landscape, the 1930s style housing, semi-detached red-brick islands are unlike the tight terrace housing seen in the rest of the city. The houses feel very separated, and it has been hard to find ways into people’s homes. A successful mission door-knocking and surveying has opened up the resident’s opinions on what new housing could mean for residents. It has also allowed me to experience many fascinating stories so far and I will be sharing some of their stories through work and documentation.

Print making

I have also been using the residency to occupy various locations around Knowle West, specific points of interest in the community – such as the re:work shop and the Filwood Library.

Cyanotype has become my weapon of choice, using it to capture objects and drawings from the project. The antique form of non-silver photography was used originally to make blueprints – it seems a fitting way to explore the home. As a printmaker originally I have had little [opportunity to] explore photography, but working with the Media Centre and the discovery of the Filwood Darkroom it seems only fitting.

I have been using it as a way of capturing object from the homes, in the forms of silhouette photograms. Running drawing and print workshops in Filwood Library using this technique has allowed me to open up conversations and further explore the residents’ experiences in a comfortable setting. I often find that people are more open to relaxed conversation when participating in creative activities.

So eventful so far. I am really looking forward to the test day on 4th March, when St Whytes Road will be taken over by the Media Centre. The We Can Make team will be trying out their ideas for the project, getting the residents engaged with Lego fabrication, interactive activities and cake.


The Record comes to Bristol

We’re really excited to be supporting In Between Time with a new dance and theatre performance that will take place on the main stage of Bristol Old Vic.

They’re looking for 45 people from communities across the city to be part of ‘The Record’, a production by award winning New York theatre company 600 HIGHWAYMEN which will be performed at IBT17 Bristol International Festival.

Explore theatre and dance, meet new people, and take centre stage to represent your city: you don’t need any performance experience and anyone living in Bristol aged over 8 years can audition!

Find out more and sign up for auditions at

Audition sign up deadline  23 Sept 2016
Audition                                 30 Sept 2016
Call backs                               1/2 Oct 2016
5 x rehearsals                        16 Jan – 5 Feb 2017
4 x public performances      9 -11 Feb 2017

For more details contact or call the team at In Between Time on 07543 093 674.

Image credit: Maria Baranova


Save the date: KWMC’s 20th birthday

To mark our 20th year we’re throwing a party to celebrate Knowle West and Bristol as places where amazing things happen – and you’re all invited!

Join us on Tuesday 22 November to talk, eat, share and preview our winter exhibition 20/20 Visions, featuring new work by 20 Bristol photographers.

The event will include our Annual General Meeting for 2015-2016.

More details coming soon, but save the date!

Cary Comes Home film challenge now open

Are you up for a filmmaking challenge inspired by the Golden Age of cinema? The Cary Grant Comes Home For The Weekend festival is back for 2016 and they’re running a film challenge for micro movies inspired the classic 1938 film Bringing Up Baby. Movies must be under 90 seconds and include one of the following items:

evening dress
dinosaur bones
a net

Intrigued? Find out more here.  Our Director Carolyn Hassan is on the judging panel again this year and is looking forward to seeing your submissions!

Cary Comes Home is run by festival directors Charlotte Crofts and Anna Farthing, born out of their shared passion for Bristol’s vibrant cinema culture and film heritage. The festival’s aims are to celebrate Cary Grant’s Bristol roots, develop new audiences for his films and recreate the golden age of cinema-going.

Made in Knowle West

On a sunny May afternoon a group of adults and children made their way from Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) to the nearby Springfield Allotments. We were taking part in a Bristol Food Connections workshop to forage for local ingredients and learn how to turn these into summer drinks.

The gathering grew throughout the afternoon until there were more than 30 adults and children. Many joined us from nearby Knowle West Children’s Centre.

During the short walk to the allotments we started foraging, stopping to collect blossom from a cherry tree growing near the road.  Local residents in the group discussed how they use these public park areas – from grazing horses to watching the hot air balloons to collecting blackberries.  The area we walked through is known as ‘the Bommie’, apparently because of the bombs that were dropped in the war.

On arrival at the allotments, run by Knowle West Health Association, we were met by Steve Griffiths who gave us a tour, including poly-tunnels, beehives and a chicken coop. As the children looked for eggs and stroked the chickens, the rest of us turned our attention to Susanna Wallis from Company Drinks.

Company Drinks is an organisation based in Barking and Dagenham that aims to remember some of the old East End traditions including the hop picking season – six weeks a year when women and children would move out of the city to go picking on farms in the countryside. The organisation also wants to address issues around children losing the ability to name plants and flowers and engage people in a rural activity within an urban setting. Susanna was keen to connect with the work that we have been doing on the Who decides what’s in my fridge? project.

Susanna pointed out plants and fruits that we could use to turn into summery drinks. We split into three teams to collect rhubarb, a pretty pink flower called flowering currant, and dandelions. When our baskets were full we regrouped in the cool retreat of the allotment roundhouse to learn how to make the cordials.


We picked off the petals of the dandelions, flowering currant flowers and the cherry blossom, which would later be steeped in a hot sugar syrup to make the cordials. Susanna mentioned a variety of other cordials that they make and work well: Japanese knotweed, cola, blackcurrant and apple, fizzy crab apple and manor house pear. Susanna had brought some tasters for us to try – and the cooling cordials helped refresh us after our ramble to the allotments and foraging.

As we plucked the petals and chopped the rhubarb we chatted and shared experiences of using the green spaces of Knowle West and the beautiful nearby countryside. The area has a proud history of foraging and residents shared how people came to the park to catch rabbits, as well as sharing tips about which herbs and plants are good for eating and using as remedies. We now know that pink clover flowers are supposed to ease period pain!

We didn’t have time to the finish the drinks then so we took everything back to KWMC to finish overnight. Participants were invited to stay for an evening event of food, discussions and tasting drinks.

This event was one of three Cook ‘n Converse events held in May as part of the Bristol Food Connections festival. Knowle West Media Centre would like to thank all partner organisations involved in the event that made it such a success – Company Drinks, Food Connections, Knowle West Children’s Centre and Springfield Allotments.

A food project that’s close to home

Yasmin Thomas has just finished as a Junior Digital Producer at Knowle West Media Centre. Here she looks back at her time working on Who Decides What’s in My Fridge

“I have lived in Knowle West since the age of four, but I didn’t know that my first role in the media and arts sector would flourish here. I was one of eight Junior Digital Producers (JDP) recently working at Knowle West Media Centre on the Who Decides What’s in my Fridge? project. Being a JDP was a paid position for six months up until the end of April 2016. Our role was to collect data from the community to explore the barriers that communities face accessing food locally.

“From October 2015 we received a series of intense training sessions to provide us with the skills we would need to work on the project, including workshops on understanding key themes of data ethics and data visualisations. We also developed our multi-media skills such as photography, filming and coding.

“Our first step in terms of data collection was to research the priorities of local residents when they shop. We put together a simple activity using mason jars labelled as ‘cost’, ‘nutrition’, ‘taste’ and ‘appearance’ for participants to choose from. We worked hard to make the data collection process fun and also ensured that community participants had a say in guiding the project.

“Over time we progressed our data collection methods into building an interactive survey in the form of a life-size fridge filled with models of food and questions. This successfully aroused curiosity in the community to get involved in the project  The Fridge was taken on “tour” around Knowle West to collect the data. We went to many of the different clubs and community groups to try and reach a full cross-section of the community. You can see a video that one of my fellow Junior Digital Producers made about the ‘Fridge Tour’ here.

“After we had collected the survey data we analysed the results and visualised them as part of a new website that we created for people to explore what we have found.

“We launched the website and displayed the data collected from the Fridge by holding a pop-up interactive exhibition in an unused shop. It used to be a fruit and veg shop on Filwood Broadway but it closed down in recent years, along with many of the other nearby shops. We promoted the exhibition by inviting other community organisations and local growers to take part, organising an ‘Eat and Greet Food Marketfor a day. We had a successful turn-out and had an additional 40 participants take part in the Fridge survey on the day.

“What I have learnt is that community participation is successful when part of the project’s aim is to improve quality of living, whatever that might be. Knowle West is in the process of a regeneration plan, but the 20 year long wait is vastly aggravating the locals, which I found out during my experience of community engagement. The community has campaigned for a supermarket in Knowle West for more than 20 years, and are fed up of community consultations and viability studies that ultimately come to nothing.  

“With that in mind we started to look at alternatives to supermarkets that could improve food accessibility, for example a local food market. We don’t have a supermarket but we do have lots of nearby green space for growers and events!

“The experience of this project has developed my understanding of the community that I live in and how the locals do their utmost to keep it alive, whether through clubs or classes. While my time as a Junior Digital Producer has now come to an end, after living in Knowle West for 22 years I’m now playing the role as an activist for this project. It is a project that’s close to home  – literally! – and I’m going to stay involved.”

To find out more about the work that the Junior Digital Producers did on the project take a look at the website they built, with a live survey and interactive data visualisations at



What’s your KWMC story?

In 2016 we’re marking the first 20 years of Knowle West Media Centre.  Over the next few months we’ll be holding a number of special events and exhibitions to celebrate everyone who has been part of the journey, reflect on what we’ve achieved together, and look forward to the next 20 years…

We’d love to hear your thoughts, memories and experiences of working with us.  We’re pulling together a collection of reflections – ’20 Stories for 20 Years’ – and we’d love to include yours.

We’ve noted some short questions below if you’d like to use them, but feel free to write, sing, rap or respond in a different way entirely!

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

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

3. Has KWMC made a difference to you? (If so, how?)

4. What other difference has KWMC made?

5. What are your favourite KWMC memories?

If you’d like to get involved, please send your responses to Rachel or drop in to KWMC.  The collection will be available on our website and may also appear in print; responses may be edited slightly for length.

If you’d like more details about our plans for 2016 please get in touch. Keep an eye on this page for more details too.

Contact Us

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

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