After entering the ginormous factory like building I was requested, in true British fashion to pull up a seat and given a cup of tea. Here’s how the interview went down…
For many readers who would not yet have had the pleasure of visiting this unique building put simply: "what is it?"
Mathew: The building itself is an Old Malt House dating back to the 19th Century. Originally a Malt House; it has had many uses over the decades, but received its last refurbishment some time during the seventies. Currently residing in the building are mostly creative enterprises, of all different types: from art collectives and music studios, to fabricators and workshops producing a variety of works. We also have a gym, a dance studio and light doctors; to add to the mix. Most of the enterprises or collectives are young people attempting to manifest their own reality.
On the topic of manifesting ones own reality I’ve been informed that you have created a political forum called 'The Bristol Party', what relationship does the Bristol party and The Old Malt house share?
Mathew: The Bristol Party started as my own project; 'Food for Thought'; a medium through which we could share ideas, exchange information and raise awareness over issues of importance. Little issues like allotments and parking that are important to us locally, to national and international issues that effect us personally, like the Trans Atlantic Trade Pact; or support of certain policies. I wanted to create a neutral forum through which we could as a community discuss and debate particular topics; especially those that are often confined to matters of left and right. I would like discussion to flout those conventions where possible, especially around topics such as media partiality, drug policy, education and justification of war. We'll be discussing those topics this winter in the venue. I will be helping the Old Malt House develop its community and educational prospects; so that it evolves into a space for workshops and learning; especially in relation to social responsibility. Aside from this; the Bristol Party hopes to achieve more synergy between agents acting for community and change.
From Malt House to Jam Jar my understanding of The Jam Jar collective is that its a collection of community based workshops and space to facilitate them. One of the most interesting of these workshops is the music production course. What’s the ethos behind this workshop (and others) and what demographic will benefit?
Joel: As opposed to focusing on commercial practices, this course aims to provide a basic understanding of all aspects regarding the independent music industry. From the cultural heritage of global music styles, to recording and production techniques, and the advantages of current social networking, mixed media and distribution services. Pupils are equipped to become sustainable practitioners in their own field. Bristol is known for its rich musical culture and I feel that the benefits of expressing oneself through this form are immeasurable. By providing Bristol's underprivileged youth with access to knowledge, space, and equipment, all via the creative outlet, we hope to create a valuable and lasting impression.
Q) With social enterprise in mind, what does The Old Malt House and Jam Jar offer artists that a conventional workspace doesn't?
We occupy a vibrant space, with sealed studios, a shared office and a music suite. With a cooperative attitude between all sectors, we house a collaborative space for creative individuals to prosper. Our collective is a growing network of not only artists in the presumed sense; but a whole host of creatives, from musicians and clothing designers, to multi-media story tellers and entrepreneurs, focused on the arts, community etc, of whom all benefit from access to the adjoining space; The Old Malt House. Here we have the space to collaborate, invite the public to workshops, activities, assemblies and most importantly; provide a performance platform; all with the underlying notion of working towards a sustainable future.
Q) It seems clear to me that there's very much a communitarian approach to all aspects of both these projects/ventures, on the note of performance platforms and assemblies is there any up up incoming events that should be hastily noted in peoples calendars?
On the 25th October we will be exploring the current paradigm of education; methods, practices; most importantly the relevance of creativity and the purpose of education within our modern society. When I say creativity I not only mean classically; ie art, dance, drama and design, but creative practices. Trying something new. Interdisciplinary learning, didactic learning; exploring what it is to be a citizen of both Bristol and planet earth. Also, 22nd November, we will be exploring with Dr. Ben Sessa and multiple organisations; the current policy in regards to drugs; not only illegal; but the place of pharmaceuticals, and the prevalence of alcohol advertisements and clinical research.
Sitting in the Jam Jar creative units now there is a whole load of building work going on around me, where do you both see this space in two years time?
Joel: We're working towards renovating our unit of The Old Malt House, in keeping with the heritage of its listed status. We're also installing bespoke platforms for multi-disciplinary performance. However, big jobs on our list include disabled access, increased natural light, and our own green area on the rooftop. Its early days as of yet, but ideally we would like this to be a centre for local people to access the arts, develop, learn and be intimately engaged with culture, either as a participant within an audience; or producing within our space. It would be great to see the multi-faceted nature of the project to reach its potential.
Matt: As Joel said, reaching its potential. The biggest impasse to people accessing commerce; is space, tools, equipment. Resources essentially. The means of production. If we can, through fostering collaboration, enhance access not only to the creative arts, but commerce full stop; we could be a critical component in projecting ideas into existence, and enabling productions, performances or businesses that may otherwise have not succeeded, to prosper and grow. Providing a space whereby people can be productive, network with like-minded people and expand their personal development; all whilst having fun, I would be extremely happy. If, on top of all of that, we can be an example for lifelong learning, progression, sustainability and so forth; then even better.
My time spent with Matt, Joel and the other members of both collectives left me feeling inspired, not only due to the energy surrounding the project but also because of the vigour with which such progressive ideas are being tackled.
Whether it be leading academics or under privileged youth, all are being encompassed into an over arching umbrella in this truly unique space. I recommend that anyone in the surrounding area or not to simply pop in and visit or attend one of their music/cultural nights billed below – which will now be heard through an impressive 25kw £30,000 purpose built live sound-system!