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Footage of Hartcliffe residents investigating the posters. Here we can see young children - a whole new generation - reading the inspirational statements from older resident of Hartcliffe. Will these kids leave the posters thinking about how they might eventual help build their community?
It didn’t take too long for my photographing of Hartcliffe’s litter spread across the pavement to gather attention; a nearby woman who was leaning over the fence of her front garden conversing with her neighbour called me over after finishing her chat.
"Don’t worry about it!" She called in a refreshingly thick Bristolian accent, "The council will pick that right up!"
I walked over and explained to her what I was doing, what the project was about, and asked her how she felt about the rubbish dumping. As she started I asked if I could record her on my mobile phone, to which she happily obliged for half an hour.
It was a fascinating talk. She had lived in the area for the entirety of her life - born, raised, married and divorced on this very same estate. Originally a care worker for the disabled and the elderly, she divorced her husband due to his alcoholism and chose to raise her three children as a single parent. Years later, she discovered her ex-husband had been diagnosed with cancer and asbestos poisoning that was slowly killing him. With her children all grown up and flying the nest, the woman spoke to the council, and offered to take her ex-husband into her care, believing that “What’s past is past. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Interestingly the woman was adamant that Hartcliffe had a very friendly community; all of the neighbours knew each other and were open to new people moving into the area. “You gotta give everybody a chance, like.” However there would reveal to be an apparent divide within the community: the woman stressed that there really wasn’t anything for the young people to do. With jobs so difficult to obtain at this point in time and community centres all closed down, kids have a tendency to ‘hang around’, intimate residents and potentially cause trouble. However she stressed to me that this wasn’t their fault, and that if “you treat ‘em good, they’ll be good back.” Despite the lack of a community centre and the litter scattered around, the woman couldn’t praise the local council more: “One phone call and this’d all be gone by tomorrow,” she explained, referring to the split rubbish bag on the pavement, its contents kicked across the floor. “They doos their best, you know, they doos their job proper.” However what I felt was truly heartwarming was that, despite the intimidation she feels when she tells the teenagers outside to keep it down or when her neighbour has her window smashed, she would never want to move from Hartcliffe.
"They offered me to move, but, like, I’d never leave here. I’ve done everything. I’ve seen children born, watched ‘em grow up and die. I know everybody… This could be a wonderful estate, wonderful… Everybody just has to do their part, like. And if one person could do it another could too, you know."
Unfortunately I was not able to retrieve the woman’s name, but I would like to thank her for the inspiration she provided me with, along side the fascinating insight to her life here in Hartcliffe. She made me realise that the area was not as hostile as it first appeared in my initial impression, and that perhaps, with a few minor aesthetic changes with a contribution from the community itself, this estate could be one of the warmest and welcoming of Bristol. This epiphany is what I decided my posters would aim to convey.
“Hartcliffe is the name of both a council ward and a district of the city of Bristol in the United Kingdom… Hartcliffe is a post-WWII suburban development, consisting largely of council houses. It is one of the poorer areas of Bristol, with significant social problems exacerbated by the decline of industrial employment in the city.”
I was completely unaware of this information when I stepped onto the Number 75 Bus, taken from the distant Cabot Circus shopping mall in Bristol city centre. I sat for forty minutes and waited anxiously for a destination which I knew only the name of. When I reached it however, I was shocked at how different the area was to what I had been used to. After living in the city centre for seven months and having everything on my doorstep, I found myself feeling completely lost - there was NOTHING nearby. I was in another world, consisting only of suburban housing,
The emptiness was oddly oppressive to such a city-boy, and what few individuals I passed gave me a glance which told me that I didn’t belong there. Needless to say I was intimidated. But this wasn’t about MY view as an outsider. This was about the community and THEIR views as the residents of Hartcliffe…
Photographs from that day can be viewed below.