Something we’re proud to live in Bristol for is its cultural significance. Bristol Ideas – which describes itself as “a leading organisation for public debate and learning, bringing together arts and sciences to explore the key issues of our time” – has been vital to this. It played a huge role in founding We The Curious, as well as many other city-wide projects and festivals.
Sadly, Bristol Ideas will close in May 2024, ending its 30-year influence in the city. Originally called Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, until its 2021 rebrand, it was also responsible for creating Encounters Film Festival and Festivals of Ideas. As well as commissioning hundreds of organisations, writers, artists, poets, engineers, and scientists. Its loss will leave a huge hole.
Having launched in 1993, Bristol Ideas has invested over £130m in Bristol since then.
Other initiatives it has led include heritage projects like Brunel 200 (2006), Bristol Aeroplane Company 100 and Bristol 2014 (on the city and the First World War). Bristol Ideas was also central to many other initiatives, including Bristol Legible City and European Green Capital 2015.
But having missed out on Arts Council funding at the end of last year, Bristol Ideas has called it a day. A large part of the issues have been placed on pandemic lockdowns affecting programming and fundraising significantly, losing core funding (like Arts Council) and the difficulty in securing sponsorship. It’s not quite the end yet, however, with the Festival of the Future City and Festival of Economics still going ahead this year.
“We have achieved much in 30 years and are proud of what Bristol Ideas has done,” said Suzanne Rolt, Bristol Ideas chair 2020-23, and Simon Cook MBE, chair 2023-24, in a statement. “We might be closing, but the work goes on. We are grateful for the support we have received from many partners, funders, and sponsors; for the partnership working with all the organisations and people in and outside the city; and most of all to our board and small staff team – past and present – who led our many achievements and worked hard to make them happen.”
Before closing, a final festival will run in early 2024. It will bring together the best speakers from the city and around the world; see the publication of a book on the history and impact of the organisation; and commission new work. Further details won’t be announced in January 2024, but we’re sure it will be an amazing send-off. To learn more about what Bristol Ideas has coming up as we near the end head here.