I'm a big fan of the festival. From humble beginnings in a room above a market in 2007, this year's spectacle stretched to 30 venues across Bristol. Not bad for an initiative which is run entirely by volunteers.
Flicking through the programme, one venue in particular caught my eye - the Jamaica Street Studios. Situated in Stokes Croft, an area of the city with a reputation for being far from salubrious, my visit confirmed you should never judge a book by its cover!
It turns out that the studios have been based on Jamaica Street for an impressive 20 years and currently house 43 artists. Over the past two decades, the resident have developed a collective which serves as a mentoring group to encourage and nurture new talent. As I spent time wandering around the building, it was hard not to be inspired by the creativity and energy oozing out of every nook and cranky of the cast iron and wood beam architecture that is the studios.
Next door to the building is the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, a not-for-profit social enterprise. As well as its fabulous name, PRSC has a laudable aim; to prevent what it calls the gentrification of the area and promote it as Bristol's cultural quarter. In this video, founder Chris Chalkley explains how street art is being used to provoke social change:
The People's Republic of Stokes Croft and the Jamaica Street Studios are perfect examples of how social enterprise can bring real change to an area. Building yet more luxury apartments won't deal with the social problems faced by the local residents but empowering them will.
Unfortunately, the studios are threatened with closure. Once the 10 year lease is up in 2010, the landlords intend to put the property on the market. The 43 artists are attempting to raise the money required to buy the building but with between £800,000 and £1m needed, it's going to be tough.
However, I'm one blogger who supports their cause as I hope those other social enterprise fans reading this post do too. We need more organisations of the likes of the Jamaica Street Studios and its social enterprise neighbour. They represent the social change that the UK and other nations desperately need.