A creative programme uncovering, understanding and telling the story of a community’s hidden heritage.
Having been based in the Knowle West community for over twenty years, we know that the area is full of stories and characters that can sometimes be overlooked by the wider city. We also know there’s plenty more to be uncovered…
When Knowle West was first conceived it was seen by many as the future of housing. Dubbed “the five thousand island forest” by the workers who built it, the estate is sited on a hill surrounded by wild green space, and comprises one hundred streets, five thousand homes, and twelve thousand people.
From April to November 2019 we worked with local people, artists and archivists to explore, share and celebrate Knowle West’s heritage. We explored what Knowle Westers think is iconic, special and unique about their area – whether they’ve lived here all their lives or have recently made the community home. Asking what does it mean to make, build, dress, speak, or do things ‘Knowle West style’?
Places: which buildings or public spaces have become iconic in the neighbourhood?
Spaces: how have home interiors, which were traditionally focused around the ‘Parlour Room’, been reinvented through decades of changing fashions and functions?
Style: from the first settlers displaced by slum clearance to newer neighbours, who and what are Knowle West’s distinctive style icons? From the well-known images – boxing, horses, trip-hop – to the things that are harder to see but are there if you know where to look…
From November 2019 to March 2020 we hosted an exhibition of the stories and memories gathered, from bingo cards used at the Broadway Bingo Club to film footage of nights at The Venture Inn. The exhibition featured new commissioned work by artists Holly Beasley-Garrigan, George Lovesmith and Lukus Robbins, made in collaboration with local people.
You can view the online version of the exhibition by clicking here or on the See It Live button.
Knowle West Icons
The physical exhibition also included space to nominate local icons. What – or who – are your top icons?
people – remember Stan the Man?
places – did you love the old swimming pool?
objects – did you grab a Clarks pie on the Broadway?
symbols of culture or traditions – do boxing gloves make you think of Knowle West?
• Two resident-led walking tours of Knowle West during the Bristol Open Doors weekend in September 2019.
• The ‘Homecoming’ music event in September 2019, programmed in collaboration with Gary Thompson of Cables + Cameras, which explored the impact of South Bristol and Knowle West artists on British music, and featured well-known artists DJ Krust and DJ Bunjy alongside emerging Knowle West talent.
• Regular drop-in sessions at KWMC where residents could share photos, memories and stories.
“100 Years of Knowle West Style” forms part of “Homes for Heroes 100” – city-wide projects marking a century of council housing coordinated by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. Homes For Heroes 100 is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol City Council.