Last year Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association and Art under the Flyover teamed up with some architecture MA students from UWE to try and imagine how we could increase play and ‘hang-out’ facilities on the Cumberland Piazza. Bristol City Council Highways Department need to use the under flyover space to maintain the roads above which presents quite a few challenges, such as not being able to fix any equipment to the ground or the pillars and we have struggled over the years to come up with a solution for local football loving kids. All they want is a cage, but we can’t provide that, so we applied for Pocket Park funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government to see what we could create.
In late January we heard that we got the funding and a couple of weeks later the council’s Neighbourhood Partnership agreed to support us to run design workshops with young people and incorporate their ideas into the ‘park’. The idea is that they also help us actually build it, in fact, the whole community can help too!
So, what are we planning to build? Inspired by creative ideas from around the globe, and by Canvas Spaces, round the corner in Dowry Square, and of course by the flyover itself, we have decided to make a series of concrete structures, each with their own ‘play’ functions, which will be arranged to form a ‘pitch’. To ensure balls don’t get kicked into the road we are exploring putting poles into each corner of the ‘concretes of joy’ and wrapping a mesh or net around. Can’t picture it? Here’s some early design sketches:
We have been doing some informal workshops with local teenagers, mostly football orientated, because the kids who’ve come along are really into football at the moment. They’ve been trying out different places under cover and telling us about the challenges for them. Our current design team, Anna, Luke, Luke, Tom, Rachel & Matt, are looking closely at how they’re playing and seeing how we can match their aspirations with the constraints we have from the council.
We worked in Puppet Place rehearsal space at the end of February to develop more ideas for the concrete structures using plasticine modelling. Crazy golf football and seats that look like space hoppers were the highlights. In the meantime, Tom, Luke, Luke & Matt have been creating ‘forms’ at UWE’s Frenchay Campus and are pouring concrete in to test out how to make it work when we do it for real.
We really want to make this work for the whole community, so if you fancy joining in, we have some large as life workshops planned, when we’ll be testing out ramps and using hay bales posing as the finished ‘concretes of joy’. Come down to the Cumberland Piazza on 13th March 1-5pm, or follow us on facebook to find out how we got on.
We will also be inviting everyone to come and help our teenagers to build some of the form work and ‘reveal’ the Pocket Park once it has ‘set’. We think concrete is beautiful (see pic above), but it can have a negative environmental impact, so we will be using ‘rubbish’ inside, recycled aggregates within the mix, re-used objects to create our forms and we’ll be making lots and lots of small new planters from pallets as part of our park.
2015 has been a year of colour under the flyover -so much of the work HCCA has done to secure funding and permissions finally came to fruition.
In March we began testing colours for the pillars, preparing a ‘canvas’ for a mural by Dave Bain. We had been keen to explore a tonal range and and Anna had been playing with ideas for a long while. When Dave refused to begin a mural design until the pillars were done a trip to Hartcliffe B & Q was the only solution. Armed with 21 tester pots, a few brushes and a 5 year old, Anna dotted squares on pillars and left them for locals to complain- no-one did!
Ray Smith worked with the Landmark Practice to design the planters. Bristol Wood Recycling Project cut the scaffold planks and they were built and filled by committed local gardening volunteers. Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place project was hoping to provide us with native plants from their seedlings, but it hadn’t been a great winter for growing, so they raided Blaise estate nursery for the council rejects and delivered a striking variety of flora, including a very non-native banana plant. The nasturtiums are still flowering!
The pillar painting began in earnest at the last weekend of April with about 30 volunteers turning up. It took until mid August to paint them all, well as far as Anna’s arms and a 5 metre pole could reach- but at least Dave was now happy and produced some beautiful designs and created a magical ‘hidden forest’, with his team, in less than a week. And he braved the heights to reach up to the carriageways!
In July Sharing Communities, the Bristol 2015 Neighbourhood Arts project for our area, collaborated with Young Bristol for an event called Your Place to Play for young people to share ideas about what they wanted to do. 60 people came and joined in the conversations and activities which included BMX demos and tutoring from the amazing Matti Hemmings, a design workshop for a skate park from Canvas Spaces, a newly local business keen to get involved and beautiful floor painting from the DO15 team. People sharing thoughts and ideas for the future of the flyover continued at our Community Celebration Day in September with 30 more people joining us for a walk and drink at the Rose of Denmark.
In October Sharing Communities worked with the Portway Sunday Park team and a group of UWE architecture MA students, Luke Copely-Wilkins, Luke Carnaby, Matthew Smith and Tom Sale, to create The Wayfarers, a moveable bandstand which travelled from the Piazza to the sheer rock face just beyond the old funicular railway. The journey down the car-free Portway was led by the shocking pink Ambling Band and the recycled structures hosted musicians and local poet, Bob Walton. The acoustics across the Avon Gorge were wonderful!
On the wettest windiest November day the UWE team organised a Cumberland Basin Bonanza, rigging up a temporary sports pitch, adding the pre-cut bench elements to the planters and making more from our growing stash of pallets. Riverside garden centre donated more plants and we discussed yet more ideas.
On December 16th Green Trees contractors tarmac’d our skatespot, designed by local skaters and drafted by Andrew Iles, completing all the works Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association had designed and funded. Without the enormous amount of volunteer hours from locals and Bristol-wide creatives it wouldn’t have been possible!
So, our colourful year has finished and we have new people involved and new ideas to explore for 2016.
- Blue/Green are some of the colours for next year as we aspire to look at flood risk and climate change adaptations to the flyover
- A games area is another priority, designed with and for teenagers. Funds are being applied for and ideas are being drawn up by our talented team of young architects
- We hope for more live arts, collaborations, performances and even a Hotwells Carnival!
Thanks to Trudy Feeney and her team at Bristol City Council Cleansing Dept & Mike Lawlor and Kurt James from BCC Neighbourhood Partnerships for all their support.