Knowing our Bristol

How well do you know your neighbourhood? This has been the question at the heart of Know your Bristol as it aims to celebrate memories of Bristol as seen through the eyes of the community. In the past year, through seven road shows at locations throughout Bristol, we have managed to collect around 40 oral histories and capture over 750 digitised images – with photographs ranging from family outings to special occasions to snapshots of everyday life. The stories have been poignant, with tales of loved ones no longer with us. They have been entertaining – a highlight of mine being the tale of a zookeeper being knocked over by a dead giraffe (it’s surprisingly hard to conduct an interview when you’re trying not to burst into laughter). But above all, they have been an insight into a part of Bristol that hasn’t been documented before, and in some cases a Bristol that no longer exists.

ourbristol1 It’s clear from this project that Bristolians, past and present, have a wealth of information about this city and we have attempted to capture just some of this in a booklet summarising the series of events so far. Know your Bristol has shown the value of non-academic knowledge in thinking about our lives and our heritage. And for some of us who are new(ish) to Bristol it’s been a fabulous way to get out of the ivory tower and explore parts of the city we may have never come across otherwise.


But the project also has a longer legacy than that. The images and oral histories are steadily being uploaded onto the Know Your Place site, run by our partners at Bristol City Council. This site not only provides a rich and detailed history of Bristol through the ages but the material is also being used to inform decisions about planning at a neighbourhood scale and in schools as part of a locally relevant learning resource. So people’s memories aren’t trapped in their heads, or even hidden away in a dusty archive – they are readily available for people to use as they wish. And this is not the end for Know your Bristol. Thanks to additional support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund we will be working with more community groups to explore areas we didn’t manage to reach last year. So watch this space for more stories from our events and let’s see what more we can find out about this diverse and ascinating city we live in.