You may have seen those green fronted shops on college green bustling with activity recently. This is The Parlour Showrooms which has just been taken under the wing of new company The Shop Floor run by Bristol based performers and producers Martha King, Hannah Sullivan and Alice Tatton Brown.
To get us in the know on these spruced up empty shops Hannah Sullivan interviewed fellow colleagues and friends Martha King and Alice Tatton-Brown.
Hannah - How did the empty shops underneath the Parlour come into our hands?
Alice - We were very lucky, a case of being in the right place at the right time.
Martha - The shops used to be managed by Ruth Essex, who used to work as part of the Bristol City Council arts team. She ran them as community arts spaces and festival hubs under the Capacity Bristol scheme. After Ruth left the council she needed some keen beans to ensure the shops continued to be used as exciting, accessible, active and affordable spaces for arts activities. Alice, Hannah and I are all members of Interval, a collective of performance makers who share rehearsal space Upstairs at the Parlour and so it was a natural step for some people already working inside the building to start managing the spaces downstairs. We were all keen to develop as producers and feel passionate about using empty spaces for arts activities so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. We also really wanted to do all we could to ensure Ruth's project lived on.
Hannah - What are our ambitions behind the Parlour Showrooms?
Alice – Well, I'd like it to be a place that people trust to provide them with something that feels worth their time. I am just increasingly aware as I get older, that time is a really precious thing, and if people walk in off the street and give you 5/10mins, you have to give them something worthwhile back - even if it is as simple as a comfy bench and a good view and space to ponder things... anything.
Martha - We felt that giving the spaces a professional public face was really important so we have invested in a shinny new website and rebrand and still have lots of plans to keep refurb-ing the spaces.
We would love to see theParlour Showrooms acting as a central hub for the existing arts activities in Bristol. It would be great if the spaces become known as places to meet. We are also looking into forming partnerships with a wide variety of arts organisations/curating groups across the city which we feel is particularly important in order ensure that we are connected to and supporting the existing arts ecology. We also want to connect up with the Universities and encourage graduates to use our spaces as a stepping stone in their professional development. Supporting and inviting new community arts and health groups to use the galleries is also an ambition ... so, not much then!!
Hannah - We are called The Shop Floor, what the devil is that?
Martha - For us The Shop Floor, as a company name, suggests that we are very hands on, working on the 'floor' and invested in having face to face conversations.
Hannah - What would be your dream event?
Martha - Something interactive that encouraged collaboration between artists from a range of disciplines and engaged the community. I would love to see a group of people completely transform the spaces over a week or so culminating in a live event including performance and food and probably wine.
Alice - At the minute I want to build a bird watching hide in the small room, aside from that - I have always enjoyed a maze, perhaps with performative parenthesis thrown in- to boost morale!
Hannah - What do you think we, as a team, we personally bring to The Parlour Showrooms?
Martha - We are all really enthusiastic individuals, passionate about the arts in Bristol and all have lots of drive and ambition. We all have really different skills and so we make a great team. Some of us prefer the marketing side of things, others really enjoy outreach and we even have a team member that really likes doing the hard business side of things!
Hannah - Where will we be in a year’s time?
Martha - Well fingers crossed no one will have bought the shops and we hopefully we will be recognized as an exciting active central creative hub.
Alice - we will all be exhausted, wondering why the hell we do it to ourselves, having just programed, co-created, and managed a 'this is not a festival ' fortnight of events, talks, record fair, bookshop come bird hide. Plus commissioning more work.
Hannah - What do the passing public usually do when they walk past?
Alice - Some look in - and if I am in there working, they are greeted by cheshire cat kind of grin- which alarms and delights in equal measure I think.
Martha - People love looking into windows and lots of people drop into the spaces just to see what’s going on.
Hannah - How can The Parlour Showrooms contribute to Bristol’s theatre network?
Martha - We have just decided to start offering the rooms as rehearsal space.
£25 a day in the big room and £20 a day in the small room. We are also keen to program live performances and will be having a live showcase of performance made by artists based at the Parlour Upstairs in Nov. Including Stand and Stare, Massive Owl and SBAB. Watch this space for more info. We also plan to host a series of developmental talks for
We look forward to seeing you all at The Parlour Showrooms.
This September The Big Room is occupied by the North Bristol Artists with a turning exhibition and a series of workshops.
In the Small Room BrisFest have brought us an exhibition on the Ashton Court Festival, to celebrate it’s rebirth. Later in the month, as part of Bristol Encounters Film Festival the small room will be transformed into a Cine-Sauna (yes – That’s part cinema part sauna). Squeezing in at the end of the month The Bristol Contemporary Makers will have a pop-up shop of high quality hand made goods.