Reflection on the Heritage Project by Kiki
In celebration of the National Lottery Heritage Fund #HeritageTreasures Day, I am reflecting on what the last couple of months have been like as 1625 Independent People’s (1625) Heritage Project Trainee. No two days have looked the same whilst working on the development stage of this challenging and eclectic project. The Heritage Project is a bold inquiry into the past, present and future of Kingsley Hall. How was this space used 100 years ago and how it is used today? How can we envision Kingsley Hall being used in the future? I have had the opportunity to learn about the history of Kingsley Hall, how 1625 operates within the space and what it takes to get people interested in Heritage.
One of the most rewarding aspects has been diving into the rich history of Kingsley Hall. It’s almost hard to believe that in its prime, this slightly run-down, familiar building was once home to a wealthy aristocratic family. Earning an impressive Grade II* for its unique historic architecture and its significance in Bristol’s trading and political history. Kingsley Hall has seen the likes of Quakers, milliners, tradespeople, and maltsters over the centuries. The period of Kingsley Hall’s history which interests me the most is the early 1900s when it was occupied by the Independent Labour Party, which you can learn more about here. Kingsley Hall was a dynamic hub which hosted radical political activity during this time on topics such as suffrage (the woman’s vote) and trade unions (worker’s rights).
I have enjoyed sharing heritage stories with young people and encouraging them to think about them creatively. Echoing the words of local artist and expert in Old Market history Tom Marshman – who hosted a workshop with our heritage project participants in November – it is staggering to think of the metaphorical ‘ghosts’ which haunt this place. What stories would they tell? Working with student researchers who have been busy examining archival documents for evidence of past life at Kingsley Hall, we hope to be able to uncover and bring these stories to life.
Whilst the work that colleagues do at 1625 might seem like miles away from the world of a tradesperson or politician in 18th or 19th century Bristol, Kingsley Hall remains an iconic building on Old Market Street, buzzing with the important social purpose of providing resources for and empowering young people through advocacy. Here, I have seen people able to access support as well as participate in fun activities such as skills kitchens, games nights, youth boards and socials. Kingsley Hall acts as the point of contact between young people and those invested in supporting their futures.
It is also a space which harks back to its past at every corner you turn; from entering the building through the stately pillars that distinguish it from other buildings on the street to the ornamental cubbyholes in the corridor downstairs, which are a hangover from its ticket-hall days. Even that pesky bit of peeling wall paint or the occasional hole in the ceiling is evidence of its past and present as a well-loved space!
The Heritage Project allows us to look at the future of Kingsley Hall. With our knowledge of how it was and is used, how can the building be transformed in a way that honours both? What story do we want to tell about Kingsley Hall now? Through conversations with colleagues and young people, we are beginning to envision the future of Kingsley Hall as a multi-purpose community space with young people at the heart. Hang-out spaces, creative spaces and activity and training facilities are all part of the exciting plans. A particular highlight of my role was being able to research and develop a Pop-Up Café, where young people helped turn one of the meeting rooms into a mini café catering paninis, curry, brownies and drinks for colleagues and other young people. It gave us all a taste of exciting things to come!
The heart of the Kingsley Hall should beat to the tune of those who use it today, whilst keeping a watchful and critical eye on the past. 1625 Independent People are the makers of Kingsley Hall’s future heritage! I feel very lucky to have been a part of this exciting project and look forward to seeing what it brings in the future.