I have been in Bristol since the start of 2018 and I am amazed at the cultural scene here. Bristol has such a range of exciting things happening every week.
There’s the Bristol Festival of Ideas – an all year programme of events featuring writers, artists, historians and social commentators in conversation about topical debates. There’s Bristol Old Vic, a thriving legendary theatre which continues to put on high-calibre productions, most recently The Cherry Orchard and Natasha Marshall’s Half Breed.
Even dance and circus performances find unusual homes. In this case, The Trinity Centre and Circomedia, churches which have been repurposed for the growing arts scene in the local community.
It’s clear that a lot of investment has been put towards Bristol’s arts and culture programming, from cinema and digital creativity venues, like Watershed in the city centre, to smaller, community-led spaces, which focus on African and Caribbean arts and education, such as the Kuumba Centre in St Paul’s.
Despite not being in Bristol for long, I’ve had the chance to see the phenomenal Black Men Walking by Testament at the Arnolfini, The Cherry Orchard and Half Breed at Bristol Old Vic, and enjoyed consistent programming of films featuring queer, trans and diasporic stories at Watershed, such as Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman and John Trengrove’s The Wound.
There is an exhilarating programme of events to wrap up May as well as lots to look forward to in June: Frederick Douglass – An Abolitionist Returns to Bristol closes the month with an all-day celebration of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ 200th birthday, featuring Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees. June opens with the stage premiere of A Monster Calls, the international bestselling novel by Patrick Ness, at Bristol Old Vic, and Bristol’s poetry scene is going to be a-buzz with BlahBlahBlah’s Big Weekend, featuring Salena Godden, and Raise the Bar, which will be headlined by legendary rapper and activist Lowkey.
Bristol may not be London – renowned for so much happening on both sides of the river it can seem like you’re seriously missing out – but that’s a good thing. This city has its own pace and plenty to engage with and in, across the arts.
I’ve been fortunate to meet with many creatives who I can’t wait to feature on Words of Colour’s upcoming podcast series. It’s still early days, but we’ve already connected with Bristol Old Vic, England’s oldest-standing theatre, and Burning Eye Books, an ambitious publisher of performance poetry with acclaimed poets Deanna Rodger, Salena Godden and Malaika Kegode on their roster.
It’s been enjoyable getting to know Bristol these past few months, and while it’s been good to see what’s on, I’m confident of filling a much-needed space for Words of Colour to curate events to bring artists and audiences of colour together – whether they are based in Bristol or not.