As the council cuts diminish non-essential services, Bristol communities are considering initiatives such as the Clean Streets Campaign. The Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association have been thinking that there are elements of cleaning that locals probably already do, like clearing leaves in Autumn, snow in winter and making sure our streets are tidy, but other things we can’t do, such as large waste removal, power cleaning and non residential streets.
The Cumberland Piazza is an interesting example of where this kind of approach has been working since 2010, when locals started to make plans for the site. As the Community Association put on consultation events, we needed to risk assess the site, and so we needed to explore how it was managed and build a relationship with Bristol City Council. Here’s what we discovered:
- BCC Highways is responsible for the management and maintenance of the site, as it no longer has ‘park’ status; their priority is 24hr access to the roads above
- They commission BCC Parks to maintain the verges, shrubbery and cut the grass areas and tend to the older trees.
- Waste Services were responsible for the removal of graffiti and ensuring the site was litter-free which they did on a fairly regular basis, but there was frequent vandalism and bins and benches were repeatedly stolen.
Following several community events and surveys, HCCA established that the priorities for the community were to ‘green’ the Piazza and provide more facilities for young people, particularly for sheltered skateboarding. Community volunteers, worked behind the scenes to create plans and designs, develop communications with council departments, fundraise, seek permissions, assess safety and clean out the disused toilets to use as storage (yuk!). We thank the Neighbourhood Partnership for all their support.
We struggled to raise the funds to cover the whole site plan for creating a beautiful, green community space for all ages. HCCA so nearly achieved £120,000 in a Grow Wild bid in partnership with Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place and BCC Conservation Department- we came second! So we decided to change things incrementally, in a community-led, DIY fashion.
Physical developments began in 2014 with the planting of 8 Acer trees, with money raised by the community association through section 106 and private donations, followed in 2015 by our Bristol Wood Recycling Project Planters, the painting of the pillars and our small tarmac’d ‘skatespot’. In 2016 we built a pocket park, consisting of concrete play sculptures designed to form a MUGA and created many more planters.
All this is great, but now the community are responsible for maintaining all the work we have done, without access to water and electricity. This is what we do with the help of our amazing volunteers:
- We have installed a rain water harvesting system
- We hold seasonal gardening days and have several community members weeding, planting and watering as needed throughout the year- our next one is Sunday 5th march 2-4pm. Put on some scruffy clothes and come on down!
- We keep plenty of coloured paints to manage graffiti as soon as possible after it happens- we will soon be coating accessible areas with anti-graffiti paint.
- We arranged for the council to give us some bins, some of which we keep locked up, and we make sure they are emptied regularly
We always welcome more help and ideas, so if you’re not on our Piazza mailing list and want to be kept informed about gardening days, have ideas for improvements, or are able to litter pick or weed please sign up by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We put environmental sustainability and community-led practise at the heart of our work on the Cumberland Piazza and we know sometimes ‘green’ doesn’t always mean tidy, and it’s difficult to always keep things clean when we’re relying on volunteers and we’re certainly not suggesting that volunteers take over services the council ought to be providing.
The Piazza isn’t perfect, but it’s so much greener and more cheery than it was before the community got involved!
We have been thinking a lot about art and climate change and how to adapt urban spaces into ‘climate ready’ community resources. After consulting with the Hotwells & Cliftonwood community in 2010 & 2011 we commissioned a ‘masterplan’ to ‘green’ large areas of the Cumberland Piazza. We used this plan to communicate with the council about what the community would like to achieve, but to dig up the tarmac proved prohibitively expensive, and we have been unable to raise the kind of money we need to do this.
So, we began to take an incremental approach. Local people generously donated funds to match some council Neighbourhood Partnership Well-Being funding for us to plant 8 new trees. Then, we commissioned the Bristol Wood Recycling Project to build us some scaffold planters, which was paid for by money from developers’ contributions. Luckily we have a big pool of volunteers via Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association who helped with assembling and planting.
Volunteers gathered again when it came to painting the the pillars, with Anna designing the colour scheme and organising tests, consultation and painting days. Dave Bain and his team responded amazingly to the spirit of the place and produced a ‘hidden forest’ of murals.
The impact of the painting helped us get a bit more funding from the DCLG Pocket Park scheme, HCCA & Bristol City Council’s Neighbourhood Partnership Wellbeing fund and we have built some sculptures of recycled concrete cast into re-used pallet boxes. Those pallets got turned into more planters and so did the paint pots.
But, there’s still a lot of tarmac left and more plants are needed to combat emissions in a busy in a road system of flyovers. It is becoming harder to access public funding so we’re constantly searching for imaginative solutions. We have developed a new ‘masterplan’ that embraces the DIY approach and puts re-use at the centre of our approach. Please come and have a look at this and all our interventions.
You can help us plant unusable hard hats and draw a ‘living wall’ on 15th & 16th October. We will also be running a ‘green gym’ which is another way of saying, please help us with some gardening and in turn you will get some exercise! Anna Haydock-Wilson, Luise Holder and Amy Hutchings are around at times over the weekend to show and sell prints and sculptures and talk about their work with re-use and regenerating spaces. If you have ideas for more art projects or about stealthily greening cities, come and share and let’s get some collaborations happening!
Details of times and activities:
- 12-5pm Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th: talk to us about plans for the site
- 12-5pm Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th: ‘Green Gym’ help us clear the weeds and prepare the planters for the winter months
- 12-4pm Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th a chance to meet Amy & Luise and buy beautiful prints and ‘ready mades’
- 2-4pm Saturday 15th: Paint and draw plants on our future ‘living wall’
- 2-4pm Sunday 16th: Plant some re-use objects, including hard hats- bring your own old bike helmets!
‘growing more plants might do more to improve our environment than making art about climate change‘
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.