Everyone living in Bristol who’s been to Stokes Croft at least once will know about Hamilton House (hosts The Canteen amongst others) but not everyone knows about all the wonderful things that happen inside this big old building and how this community business has massively impacted and transformed one of the hearts of this city in the past 10 years. I myself am still an outsider.
This is what I’ve learned: for many years Hamilton House was a vacant and neglected block of offices, in 2008 the owners Connolly and Callaghan (C&C) invited a group of friends to create a centre for the community. Ever since, Coexist has been working hard to create a space in which the community can grow, share, collaborate, and learn what it is to live in coexistence with each other.
To date Hamilton House is an inclusive, diverse, vibrant and exciting community including creatives, activists, charities, social enterprises, alternative therapists, teachers, start-ups, festival organisers and much more. To name a few famous ones: Boomtown, Shambala, Bristol City College, Tribe of Doris, Bristol Drugs Project, Tokyo World, CoResist, Second Step, Bristol Bike Project, Imayla, the Misfits, Love Saves The Day.
Over a year of tense discussions between Coexist and C&C (during which C&C have increased the building’s rent by 400%, evicted one third of it to develop into flats, and rejected renewed business proposals from Coexist) has culminated into Coexist being told their lease would not be renewed beyond September 2018.
This comes as a devastating blow to the hundreds of groups who rely on Hamilton House as an affordable space to work, organise, collaborate and socialise. The impact of losing this community space will be felt throughout Bristol and beyond, as many consider it the very heart of Bristol’s unique vibe and identity, this is why the network of community groups that use Hamilton House are calling on C&C to come back to the negotiating table.
Two days ago, on Wednesday 26th September 2018, people from across the city marched from Hamilton House to Bristol City Hall to demand a council intervention and the re-opening of negotiations.
The sense of community, optimism and solidarity that I was able to witness and feel at this demonstration was truly touching: from the people rallied together, each with their arms over each other’s shoulders at the end of the march, to the volunteers who took turns in holding the loudspeakers on their heads to allow everyone to hear the speeches.
The display of creativity and talent, the comedy and the laughter, the underlying joy uniting everyone despite it being a day of protest, all of these things, as a spectator, gave me hope.
The hope I will have the chance to see Hamilton House live for many more years and the hope I will have the opportunity and the privilege to become an active member of this community.
Writing is not my strong suit but maybe the photos will convey at least a little bit of what I felt joining this demonstration.
Save Hamilton House.
To learn more about Hamilton House: https://www.hamiltonhouse.org/