Notes towards a deep mapping of Bristol


PLaCE has just engaged with the wonderful Parlour Showrooms on the Walking in the City programme – something very much driven by Mel Shearsmith’s engagement and enthusiasm. As part of the four day event Sue Maude (above) and Sarah Rhys (with myself providing some backup and support) spent some time working on preliminary notes for a deep mapping of Bristol, using the old city and issues of waterways as two key focal points. The public response was wonderful and between us we had a great many interesting conversations with the public. (That Bristol City Council has failed to extend the Showrooms’ tenancy of the building on College Green beyond December shows, in the light of reports like Jocelyn Cunningham’s ‘Knitting Together Arts and Social Change” (RSA), just how unbelievably insular, short-sightened and reductive local government officials can become. I do wonder who made that decision, on what kind of ‘informed’ basis, and how those involved in the council’s arts policy where involved, given the massive level of support for the Showrooms work. That we will never get open answers to those questions tells us a great deal about how cities are run).


For me our mapping process started with a simple reversal – from the usual ‘You are here’ to the question: ‘Are you here”? we have begun to identify some of the historical and contemporary resonances and tensions that help to “make up” Bristol (see my comments re Bristol City Council above).


Are you here?

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this work has been the engagement by members of the public – a mix of young and old, of local people, new arrivals, and tourists. Their responses have ranged from that of a New Zealand archaeologist who lectured me on the inequalities by which the arts “get all the funding”, and then “rip off” archaeology, which is condemned for “just” being about”heritage” through to the woman who wrote the following for our mapping:


More on this as I digest the rich brain and heart food that the last four days have provided, but one of the pleasures has been the way in which working simply and as a team in the context of the Showrooms, which enabled us to appropriate very interesting related material.