My Top Recommendations for the 2023 South Bristol Art Trail

When I moved to South Bristol in 1998, as a student, the area was run down, cheap to live in, and the only places to go out were small, scary, ‘old man’ pubs.

The area’s changed beyond comprehension now. Some might call it gentrification, but there’s certainly a lot to be grateful for in the new Bedminster and Southville.

I recall when things started to turn around. George Ferguson (owner of the iconic Tobacco Factory, RIBA president, later to be Mayor of Bristol) opened the Tobacco Factory theatre and, later, cafe bar. A deli opened on North Street (unheard of luxury!). And a small group of artists and creatives met in the community centre to start an arts trail. I was there and took part that first time in 2002. I later went on to co-ordinate the trail for 2 years and help transition it to the more sustainable administration we have now.

21 years later the trail is still going strong- this year it’s happening on 23rd and 24th of September. I’m still here and love my area and community more than ever. I’ll be opening my house (just a dream in 2002!) and showcasing the large mixed media work I’ve been working on this year, as well as hosting Jess Bartlett (aka The Corbeau Press) and her beautiful engraved glass. All venues are open 11am- 5pm, info and maps are available here.

Here are my top tips for this years trail:

Inky fingers– Some excellent printmakers are taking part this year. Just down the road from me at 46 Foxcote Road (venue 5) are Emma Studd and Anna Marrow– both well renowned in their field and successful artists, this will be a great chance to catch their latest editions. New this year is Frankenstein Press at 29-31 North Street, where Cristian Zuzanaga and Anna Ruiz will be exhibiting. Looks like a great new venture- they’ve transformed a small shop front into a new print studio and workshop space.

Also new to the trail is Riverside Garden Centre (venue 7)- a little outside the hub of the trail, but well worth the walk, the centre is hosting 7 artists in their lovely venue nestled alongside the river with a great cafe (pop into Bristol Bound Bookbinding on the way- a fascinating peek into one of the few traditional bookbinders still open).

Bristol Reclamation (venue 16), right in the heart of Southville, is hosting trail favourites Melanie Wickham (fantastic, animal themed lino cuts), Mithi Makes (ceramics, collage and drawing) and Sky Siouki (beautiful, ethereal paintings). Plus you can rummage through the excellent reclaimed ‘junk’ as well.

The trail often features quirky one-offs- this year I’m definitely buying tickets for ‘Tintagel- The Rock Opera’, being performed ‘intimately and acoustically’ at 28 Exeter Road (venue 33). Performed at 8pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, tickets are from Headfirst.

There are loads of free workshops happening across the weekend too. I know that ‘Batik Batik Workshops’ will be a fab one- 3-5pm at Creative Space (venue 52) on North Street on the Sunday- having tried it myself last year. The teacher has loads of experience and patience, and you will make beautiful colourful textile art. There’s also lots going on at Silver and Steel (venue 44), the new jewellery workshop and store on East Street including silver recycling demonstrations and talks.

If you’re hanging around the area, then my favourite eating spots have to be Cor (81 North Street)for beautiful small plates, Souk Kitchen (277 North Street) for the best (and best value) Persian food in the South West, and Nook (24 North Street) for delicious Poke bowls and smoothies.

Come and enjoy the best South Bristol has to offer!