• This City Mum

Review: Creative Workspace, Bristol

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

As soon as we pushed open the door to Creative Workspace, we were greeted with a big smile and a "hello' from Gill Simmons, one half of the team behind this friendly community arts centre in the heart of Withywood in South Bristol.

Gill is Artistic Director of the award-winning Brave Bold Drama, the host theatre company at Creative Workspace, and she is responsible for programming the after-school, evening and community events, working alongside Paul Lawless, the Creative Producer of Brave Bold Drama. Their main aim is to improve access to creative experiences for all members of the BS13 community, although activities are open to people from across Bristol, and everyone is made to feel very welcome.

We had booked to attend one of two Illustration & Animation Days, part of a diverse and imaginative summer programme for school-aged children, which also includes puppet making, music tech, and theatre workshops. Gill took us into the main room at the centre where there were already half a dozen other children enjoying drawing in the quiet and relaxed atmosphere.

After introducing us to the workshop staff, including an experienced illustrator and several students gaining work experience, my son and his friend settled down to draw their characters. Pens, paper and scissors were provided, and as they became totally immersed in creating their story, I took the opportunity to explore outside.

The good-sized outdoor space is a work in progress which Gill hopes will soon become a community garden. A lot of work has already been done, including cutting back brambles and clearing rubbish at the site. It is clear to see that this will eventually be a lovely extra space for outdoor drama performances and other creative activities.

Back inside, the kids had finished their drawings, but there was a bit of a queue building up for the second part of the workshop, as only one or two children could animate their characters at any one time. After a quick game of crazy golf whilst we waited (the junk model course had been created during a workshop the day before), we decided to have a break for lunch.

Luckily the menu at the adjacent cafe got a big thumbs up from both me and the kids. It's full of child-friendly options at very reasonable prices - just £1.50 for a kids beans on toast which was very quickly gobbled up!

Once the kids had satisfied their appetites (drawing is hungry work!) they were very excited to discover it was their turn to animate the characters they had drawn earlier. They sat down with the animator Dan, who was great at interacting with them, and a lot of fun and laughter ensued as they set about recording their short film.

Once they had finished, Dan confirmed that he would collate all of the short films into a longer version, which we would be able to download at home in a few days (you can watch the fantastic end result here).

We really enjoyed the time we spent at Creative Workspace, and I would definitely recommend a visit. Despite being open for only just over a year, the centre has flourished, and this is due to the passion and hard work of Gill and Paul.

They have successfully established a safe and inclusive space for all members of the community, especially those who might not otherwise have access to creative opportunities. As well as drop-in workshops they are also running a successful arts award programme for teenagers, and an intergenerational project to encourage wellbeing through creativity for elderly members of the community.

Check out the rest of the Creative Workspace summer programme and book tickets here.

Disclaimer: I was offered free tickets by Creative Workspace in return for an honest review. All thoughts and photos are my own.

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