Bristol, this is Bristol
In order for a city to enjoy a well-founded reputation as a dynamic centre of contemporary visual arts activity, that city must, in my view, have a sustainable infrastructure that utilises and benefits a wide range of artists living and working in it. In this respect, the development of Spike Island is obviously a significant boost to Bristol’s visual arts profile and its aspirations to be a major centre for the arts. Likewise, initiatives such as Station are similarly important. But without further substantial and sustained investment, it is unlikely that we can make any confident assumptions about the long-term health of the visual arts in Bristol. The recent opening of a bigger shinier and even more prestigious Arnolfini complicates the situation. It is not yet clear that any of the brightest and best of Bristol’s artists will figure in the Arnolfini’s forthcoming curatorial programme. Arnolfini represents fabulous levels of visual arts expenditure, both in its capital development and in its ongoing running costs, though as mentioned, it’s not yet clear f any of this expenditure will directly benefit any of the city’s artists…
… Further questions flow from these questions. As Lizi Sanchez states “Art practice in Bristol, like in many other small cities, relies more on artist-led initiatives than on the market…” She goes on to ask, pointedly, “But where does all this potential go when landmark institutions have no special interest in engaging with artists working in the locality; when artists within reach are understood by local government as little more than instruments of city regeneration; and when public funding is mainly given to encourage ‘educational or socially engaged’ artistic practice?” Such questions reflect concerns that exercise not only the writers whose texts appear in the following pages, but also exercise wider c0onstituencies of Bristol’s practitioners.
“Bristol, this is Bristol” Introduction to Avon Calling: the Bristol Compilation, a publication resulting from Eddie Chambers' tenure as Writer-in-Residence, Spike Island, Bristol, July 2006: 5-7