‘Leave No Trace’: The Art of Wasted Space– The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft

Pamela Karantonis


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.

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