The St. George street coming together to help end homelessness

Clouds Hill Collective Mark the National Day of Reflection

Caring in Bristol’s vision is creating a city empowered to solve homelessness and we do that by collaborating with our community to create permanent change, in Bristol and beyond. As a local charity we are inspired by joined-up creative community action, as we truly believe that it is the most effective way to create change. 

The lockdowns that have punctuated the last year have been a challenging experience. Their intermittent nature compounded the uncertainty of the pandemic, aggravating separation, and loneliness through what was often a scary and bewildering time. Amongst the difficulty though, there have been rays of hope – many of us have connected with neighbours on a level previously unthinkable – and no more so than on Clouds Hill Avenue in St. George.

There are so many artists living on our street – actors, writers, musicians, illustrators, filmmakers – and for many of them lockdown meant they were suddenly out of work. The arts are such a crucial part of all our lives. We saw this as a chance to do something creative collectively; an opportunity for our small community to process a surreal moment in history that we were all living through.

During the Spring of 2020, as the nation received the historic instruction to “stay at home”, a group of artists in St George, Bristol came together to collaborate on a film about life in their community under lockdown. The film called A Window in Time, is part journal and part collective therapy; drawing on the true stories and artistic talents – writers, dancers, musicians, visual artists – of over 50 neighbours, all living on the same street.

What began as a conversation between a few of us on Zoom (sitting in our homes only a few houses apart) expanded to involve over 50 people living on the street. We started by interviewing our neighbours to understand their experiences of lockdown. This lead onto conversations about the complicated and often conflicting emotions of lockdown –anxiety/peace, fear/gratitude, frustration/reflection. We decided to create a lyrical film it should be set to a soundtrack composed and performed by musicians living on the street.

Told over the course of a day that spans several weeks, the film navigates the complex and sometimes conflicting emotions of the first UK lockdown. Shot under the restrictions of social distancing, it offers intimate glimpses (though windows and garden gates) of the lives of others, united by strange circumstances, experienced alone and together. Launching the film to coincide with the anniversary of the first lockdown on Tuesday 23rd March, the neighbours hope to raise money to support people for whom ‘staying at home’ did not mean safety and sanctuary. 

Everything in the film – the music, the dance, the animations – were created and performed by the neighbours. We spoke with people about their creative passions and tried to incorporate as much as possible. For many people the first lockdown was a chance to rediscover old talents, like Hilary who had not played her accordion for years.

To mark the National Day of Reflection and anniversary of the first lockdown on Tuesday 23rd March the Clouds Hill Collective are officially launching their film with the hope of raising money for two charities, us and our friends – Shelter. The subject of the film is the experience of ‘staying home’, but the pandemic has highlighted that for many home is not a safe place.

This was a very local community project and we wanted to raise money for a cause that weighs heavily in our city.

15% of Bristol residents live in the 10% most deprived areas in England, the most visible of these being people sleeping rough on our streets. The number of people sleeping rough in Bristol jumped 1000% between 2012 and 2018 and continued to rise until the pandemic struck. However, 95% of  those experiencing homelessness in Bristol are not sleeping rough – they are trapped in untenable emergency accommodation across the city. Today there are currently more than 1,000 people placed in temporary accommodation in the city, a figure that is growing every week.

They knew they had to do something, so they are asking that those who have enjoyed their film consider donating towards homelessness and housing insecurity. 

You can watch their film, and donate to the fundraiser by clicking here.

Caring in Bristol would like to humbly thank the Clouds Hill Collective Creative Team:

Victoria Bromley (Director)
Thom Heald (Director of Photography)
Cara Lavan (Editor)
Sam Stirling (Assistant Producer)
Jenni Ventura (Composer)
Ricardo Ventura (Performance Director)

You can read more about them on the Clouds Hill Collective website and Facebook page.

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