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  • Qi / Alex van Doon

Bristol 800 Festival of Ideas

Established in 2004, the Bristol Festival of Ideas emerged out of the city’s bid to be the 2008 Capital of Culture. Bristol800 is a partnership programme that will develop, deliver and promote activities in 2016 that celebrate significant Bristol anniversaries along with other commemorative and special events that will raise awareness and encourage debate about different aspects of the city.

For over 20 years, the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership has worked to mark the momentous history of the city and has used this to debate the present whilst also looking to the future. The programme will cover many different aspects of Bristol life.

Among the many anniversaries and new projects to be celebrated over the course of the year are: the 800th anniversary of Bristol’s first recorded mayor, Roger Cordewaner, at City Hall (it is in fact the inauguration of Cordewaner in 1216 that marks the starting point for the Bristol800 programme), the 800th anniversary of the Bristol revision of Magna Carta, 250 years of the Bristol Old Vic, the 40th anniversary of St George’s Bristol (The Music Trust) and 40 years since the Bristol-built Concorde first entered commercial service. As well as these, other celebrations of local interest include: the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, 400 years since the death of Shakespeare, the 225th anniversary of the first publication of the Observer (the media partner of the Bristol Festival of Ideas) and 200 years since Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein.

The core areas of this year’s work are as follows:

Firstly, a citywide learning exercise about Bristol will be initiated through small-scale projects linked to many of the historical anniversaries that will take place throughout the year. Alongside this, the free distribution of a specially commissioned book of walks will launch in the autumn, covering many of the different aspects of Bristol’s heritage and present-day life.

Secondly there is the Bristol Weekenders, an initiative that will take place at various venues around the city over a minimum of 14 weekends, celebrating arts events from a wide range of disciplines.

The weekend of the 20th – 22nd May 2016 will be dedicated to Utopias. These two days will focus on the concept of ‘utopia’ and utopian-thinking, and are linked to a wider project marking the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s book by the same name.

The programme for this includes:

  • The second series of the Coleridge Lectures with speakers discussing: “Utopian Thinking”, “Utopia and the Left”, “Utopia in everyday life”, “Utopia and the American Dream” and “The future of Utopia”.

  • An evening of new poetry, song and prose on the subject of Utopia with 15 poets and writers commissioned.

This weekend of debates will include sessions with the University of Bristol that will look at what a utopian Bristol might have been and what it might still be in the future.

The programme is led by Bristol Festival of Ideas in collaboration with the University of Bristol.

For further details about Bristol800 and the Festival of Ideas please view the website on the following link.

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