It was just over a year ago that the statue of Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol during anti-racism protests. The conversation about Coslton’s legacy in Bristol has been alive for many more years prior, relating to the statue and the many streets and buildings given his name.
In Easton, local residents who live on Colston Road have been campaigning for the name to be changed since well before the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 that brought this issue to global attention, just like others in the City. These campaigns have been somewhat unsuccessful – what does this mean for those who live on the street? At community level, what effect has this had and what action can be taken now?
This is still a moment in history.
For the next few months, Play:Disrupt is supporting a community consultation engaging local residents with the opportunity to creatively respond to the existing ‘Colston Road’ name and co-create something that is meaningful, thought-provoking and visual. Supported by Bristol City Council’s Cultural Investment Programme – Originators Fund, and the We Are Bristol History Commission, we are working with residents, local artists and artists in Charlotte, North Carolina in our first collaboration with the USA based League of Creative Interventionists.
The consultation will work towards an artistic visual response on the street- this could be a mural, a plaque or something else and will be co-designed with residents. The work, and indeed the conversation itself will aim to encapsulate the residents’ diversity of thoughts and opinions, allowing them to take ownership and for everyone’s voice to be heard. It is important that we engage a diverse and representative mix of the community in this conversation – and so we are initially focusing on ensuring we hear from members of the black community and balance both residents who have lived here for generations, as well as more recent neighbours working in dialogue with local artists to create this piece of public art.
We’ll be talking to residents face to face on the doorstep and at very local events; online in meets, workshops and via social platforms. If you read this and know someone on Colston Road BS5 please let them know.
We hope that the learning from this local project will be useful to citywide and indeed national conversations about our country’s heritage and aims to alleviate that oppression in a creative, fair, empowered way.
Josephine Gyasi is Creative Producer at Knowle West Media Centre; freelance Director and Project Coordinator working with various local projects that aim to tackle issues like race inequality and advocating for social justice, inclusion and accessibility – such as Black Girl Convention and Sun Kissed Youth. Josephine is extremely passionate about raising the voices of under-represented people, creating spaces, strengthening and building community.
Josephine recently released an unapologetically direct visual poem entitled ‘What Are Your Plans?’ denouncing police brutality, triggered by the killing of George Floyd. The piece is “one of the most powerful poems in many years” as described by Adam Crowther on BBC Radio Bristol in a recent interview. Josephine strives to use her social platforms and professional roles to speak honestly about inequalities, demanding action and accountability with the aim to influence tangible change.
Tatiana Echols is a California native and multidisciplinary artist, newly rooted in Bristol. Freshly cut from the throws of Los Angeles’ production world of Film and Television, Tatiana is exploring her impetus as a filmmaker, writer and organiser. She has found her way to our sibling theatre company Swish Boing (formally Mufti Games) and looks forward to bringing the art of play into the world. http://tatianaechols.com/home
Irisol Gonzalez is a fine artist and muralist living and working in Charlotte, NC, as well as League of Creative Interventionists Fellow. Given her personal struggles defining her ‘home’ and cultural identity, she is invested in developing public art that allows people to have a sense of ownership and belonging in their communities. https://www.irisolgonzalez.com/
Play:Disrupt is an engagement consultancy working nationally and based in Easton. It’s aim is to widen engagement, especially with communities who’ve been overlooked. They seek out barriers to engagement and invent playful ways to overcome them, inviting people to play with different perspectives and make complicated issues easier to understand. https://playdisrupt.com/