How can a building make you smile?Reimagining and redeveloping The Courts Imagine a place where a young person’s background, race, beliefs, gender, physical ability and economic status had nothing to do with how good they could be, what they could achieve. A space where they could fully explore their creative potential, receive support and mentoring, and find meaningful work. That place is the Old Bristol Magistrates Courts (The Courts). An enterprise centre to help young people set up their own creative businesses and develop their opportunities. A place where there are no barriers to their future, where the only things that count are their abilities and talents. Thanks to the The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol City Council we are developing detailed business and architectural plans to reimagine and redevelop this historic city landmark as a place that will complement Bristol’s renowned and growing creative industries sector. To get involved and keep up to date with our progress, sign up to our newsletter. The Problem with Creativity The Creative Surplus UK creative industries are a true success story. They are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, while employment in the sector grows at four times the rate of the national workforce. Creative industries form a key sector of UK industry, generating around £92 billion per annum and contributing more than 5% of the UK economy (DCMS, 2017). Taken as a whole, the creative industries employ about 15,900 people in the Bristol and Bath area. The region’s creatives are estimated to be 50% more productive than the UK average and productivity in creative businesses across Bristol and Bath has increased by 106% since 1999. The Creative Deficit All those positive statistics mask stark reminders about how inequality and other disadvantages are stopping many very able young people from entering the creative industries. White people hold 88% of the jobs and only 11% are occupied by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people. Men dominate the sector holding 63% of the jobs. In the gaming industry, a creative field in which the UK excels, 86% of jobs are held by men, 96% by white people. It is also significantly difficult if a young person comes from state education. Since 2010, there has been a 28% drop in the number of students taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers. Our Solution The Courts will throw open the doors to creativity through an open, enabling and supportive environment for those talented but disadvantaged or marginalised young people seeking to enter the creative industries. Floor by floor plan Basement It is envisaged the basement level (the old cell block) will contain incubator space and enterprise workshops for young people. Our plan is to let this space on a short-term and quick-release basis for people looking to develop a business, or starting out as a young professional. Ground floor The ground floor currently has four courtrooms, one of which will be restored to its original condition and offered as a film, television and performance location. The remaining rooms will be developed into lettable spaces for multipurpose use. These will include space for Creative Youth Network services, for creative industries, youth participation work, performance, gallery exhibition and a bar/café.A public entry will ensure everyone, regardless of their physical ability, can use the same entrance. First, second & third floors The first, second and third floors will provide 1,115m² of high-quality office space let commercially and accommodating around 110 workers. These tenant organisations will share our organisational values and ethos for the building.A new lift will connect all four floors, again ensuring full access, while the old staircase will be retained as a heritage feature. We are also considering a green-roof across some of the open spaces covering the rooftop to complement the high-spec insulation, heating and cooling, and energy conservation measures planned to ensure The Courts has the lowest possible environmental impact. About us Blog More than horrible histories: exploring stories from Bristol’s Old Magistrates Courts As part of our bid to redevelop the old Magistrates Courts, social historians Rose Wallis and Laura Harrison, and UWE History students, have been working with the project’s youth steering group to explore the stories of the people who passed through the courts. The courts were opened in 1880. They replaced the old and apparently ill-equipped Justices’ Room at the Council House, described by one local paper as a ‘suffocating cock pit’. Until the 1970s, the magistrates courts dealt with a range of what were considered minor offences, from common assaults and petty theft, to truancy and driving violations. Like modern magistrates courts, decisions were made without a jury, leaving the more serious offences for trial at the jury courts: the Quarter Sessions and Assizes. A ‘warning to street footballers’ in a report on the proceedings of Bristol Police or Magistrates Court from the Bristol Mercury, 17 January 1895 UWE History students and members of the youth steering group used detailed newspaper accounts from the local press to explore the experience of Bristolians in the courts in the 1880s and 1890s. The research highlighted how the police frequently used the courts to regulate public behaviour, prosecuting begging, gambling and drunkenness. Fines were even issued for ‘loitering’ and playing football. But ordinary men and women also brought complaints before the magistrates. The courts provided access to the law offering, for example, security to victims of domestic abuse. Young people behind bars Many of the cases found concerned young people. After 1847, magistrates courts were used to try people under the age of 14 as a way of avoiding the more serious punishments handed down by the jury courts. As well as exposing some of the hardships experienced by Bristol’s youth, the research highlighted the early steps taken to keep young people out of the adult criminal justice system. A number of young defendants were sent to Reformatory Schools – institutions that operated somewhere between a prison and a school – including one of the very first reformatories, opened in Kingswood in 1852, whose site is now the centre of operations for Creative Youth Network. From difficult pasts to bright futures The research was used by Creative Youth Network alumni to produce ‘Locked Up!’, a showcase of new artworks and performances. Rather than just re-enacting these historic cases, the young artists created imaginative, evocative responses that connected past and present experiences. Many of the themes explored resonated with current social questions about crime and punishment, poverty, identity and prejudice. UWE history and the youth steering group have also held a series of interpretation workshops at The Station, exploring ways these histories might be shared with the public when the courts are redeveloped as a creative enterprise centre. Not only will the proposed redevelopment of the courts restore and preserve an historic site that played an important part in the lives of Bristol’s communities, but it will also provide a space for the sort of creative and collaborative partnership that Creative Youth Network and UWE history students have shared. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Creative Youth Network and the exciting prospect of this new creative enterprise hub. How can we help?