‘Leave No Trace’: the art of wasted space – the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft

Karantonis, P (2008) '‘Leave No Trace’: the art of wasted space – the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.' Performance Paradigm, 4. ISSN 1832-5580

Official URL: http://www.performanceparadigm.net/


The city of Bristol in England, the home of one of the oldest theatres in the UK - the historic Bristol Old Vic Theatre - is losing its live performance venues. This is largely due to government arts funding cuts, linked to a shortage of funds in the lead-up to the London Olympic Games of 2012. The Old Vic itself, remains closed, with an uncertain future. Meanwhile the performing life of the city is being redistributed, to a number of fringe venues, with only minor public funding. For the moment the hopes of long-term regeneration are resting with community groups like The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, a group of artists and activists who aim to transform the urban space of Stokes Croft for its inhabitants, for motorists who wait out traffic jams and for the pedestrians who drift (used in the Situationist sense) through its territory. In this article, I will argue that the act of drifting or walking through Stokes Croft is an immersive experience and enactment of performance. Like a walk through Stokes Croft this article also combines a variety of narratives in the form of theoretical writings on community performance, visual orders and urban environments. The relationship of these texts to twenty-first century Stokes Croft, is quite explicit, in the heady mix of the bodily experience of the place with its largely drug and alcohol-related recreational activities and the creative application of theory in the politicisation of its status as an eyesore or a spectacle.

Item Type: Article

This online journal was established by Australian scholars for an international readership. My article focussed upon the artistic, political and sociological meanings of a Bristol-based collective known as The People's Republic of Stokes Croft. The article addressed the ways that performative gestures such as street art and collectively-authored manifestos urging all members of the public to participate in street art and performance can help to address issues of urban environmental decay (Stokes Croft being relegated to 'the sewer of the city' in Bristol for many years) and experiences of social exclusion. The People's Republic have an ironic way of branding their own position in relation to the local community. They produce car bumper stickers and maintain a vibrant website, though are also very active in championing the creative voices of Bristol's homeless population, many of whom live in the shelter on Jamaica St. This artists' collective even took the step of 'restoring' a vandalised artwork by Bansky, given his works' internationally recognised status. The editors of this volume saw this chapter's investigation as relevant to an online journal issue dealing with global experiences of 'crisis' - including a dystopian post-capitalist city. It is of particular relevance to the United Kingdom (in a global context) that this article (published in 2008) opens with a mention about budgetary concerns surrounding the funding of London 2012 as impacting on the health of regional arts subsidies.According to the editorial introduction: “Contributions to this edition address these debates [regarding global crises] centrally in their contents and analysis but, as noted, avoid dwelling on an overall dystopian aesthetics. Instead, there is a strong sense of the present or tangible potential for change in many of the works discussed here even if that sense is decidedly performative and parodic.” (Professor Edward Scheer, University of New South Wales, Sydney).

Divisions: Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
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Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2013 15:53
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2022 10:53
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/1347
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