Bristol Ideas Statement
The board of Bristol Ideas announced today that the organisation would close in May 2024.
Bristol Ideas has not been immune to the difficulties facing the cultural sector. The pandemic lockdowns affected programming and fundraising significantly; core funding – always a small, but critical part of Bristol Ideas – has been reduced; and sponsorship, which has supported many projects over 30 years, is more difficult to secure.
For 30 years Bristol Ideas – formerly Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (Bristol City Council, Business West, University of Bristol, and University of the West of England) – has been central to the cultural life of the city. It has led many city-wide projects and festivals and helped and commissioned hundreds of organisations, writers, artists, poets, engineers, and scientists to develop and deliver new work.
Bristol Ideas and its projects have seen over £130 million invested in the city. The immediate impact of this has been substantial and many of these projects have gone on to deliver much for the cultural life and work of the city.
Bristol Ideas founded We the Curious and launched Encounters Film Festival; it has led and directed major citywide heritage projects including Brunel 200 (2006), BAC 100 – on the 100th anniversary of the Bristol Aeroplane Company (2010), Bristol 2014 on the city and the First World War, Homes for Heroes 100 on the history and future of council housing (2019) and celebrations of Bristol as a city of film and of poetry; ran nine Great Reading Adventures – reaching tens of thousands of people; and helped many cultural organisations with advice, funding and support. The launch of The Festival of Ideas was the first of many similar festivals that have since sprung up around the country.
Bristol Ideas has also been central to many other initiatives, including Bristol Legible City, European Green Capital 2015, and work on governance in the city. Two major projects – The Harbourside Centre and Bristol 2008 European Capital of Culture bid – were not successful but inspired the creation of M Shed and the refurbishment of Bristol Beacon. The 2008 bid saw culture placed high on the city agenda and many of the projects promised were delivered in the years that followed.
The festivals Bristol Ideas runs are known locally, nationally, and internationally for promoting and leading debate about ideas, economics, and cities. The 2023 Festival of the Future City and Festival of Economics are continuing as planned.
Before closing, Bristol Ideas will run a final festival in early 2024. As with all Bristol Ideas’ work, the festival will bring together the best speakers from the city and around the world; see the publication of a book on the history and impact of the organisation; and commission new work. Further details of this programme will be announced in January 2024. We will also work with our outstanding team to help them move to new opportunities. And we will seek a future for our festivals with other organisations.
Naomi Miller will step down as Acting Director at the end of November. Andrew Kelly, the longest-serving member of the team, will lead the final farewell programme.
We have achieved much in 30 years and are proud of what Bristol Ideas has done. We might be closing, but the work goes on. We are grateful for the support we have received from many partners, funders, and sponsors; for the partnership working with all the organisations and people in and outside the city; and most of all to our board and small staff team – past and present – who led our many achievements and worked hard to make them happen.Suzanne Rolt, Bristol Ideas Chair 2020-23; Simon Cook MBE, Chair 2023-24 Bristol Ideas