Brunel 200 Legacy Avon Industrial Buildings Trust.
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Bristol Arts Projects Overview > Avon Industrial Buildings Trust

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Brunel Through the Lens

Avon Industrial Buildings Trust was set up in 1982 with the twin objectives of assisting to preserve the industrial heritage of the area and also to act as a focus for interest in industrial archaeology. A charity, AIBT has completed major projects such as Saltford Brassworks, restoring the Midford Aqueduct on the Somersetshire Coal canal and currently Brandy Bottom Colliery near Emersons Green.

AIBT had run a very successful photo project on the Coal canal and considered that the Brunel celebrations would be a good way of introducing a wider range of people to our industrial heritage.

The AIBT website is at

Brunel Through the Lens

This project was an exploration of the impact of Brunel on the city of Bristol that encouraged a wide cross section of people, groups and communities from the area to celebrate, learn and interpret the legacy of Brunel through photographic images.

Project events

Workshop: 23 February at Bristol Zoo Education Centre. This attracted around 30 people for a talk about Brunel combined with a practical workshop on photographic methods.

Guided photo walk: 5 March. This comprised a guided walk around Cumberland Basin and a separate boat trip around Floating Harbour and to Hanham Lock. Both events were well attended and the blend of interesting Brunel information and photographic aid was enthusiastically welcomed. Over 1,000 images were taken and submitted for projection and criticism.

Exhibition: 18-20 April at L-Shed. This exhibition of photos was displayed during performances of acta’s Castles in the Air community play. With 555 people visiting the play over four nights, it was a good opportunity for a completely different audience to see the exhibition.

Photo competition: 80 photos selected. There was a good but not overwhelming number of entries (approx 120) to this competition. The images were of a high standard and mostly digital in format. There were no entries in the Junior class, reflecting AIBT’s lack of success in reaching the younger generation.

Main exhibition: 8-19 May, Council House, College Green, Bristol. The original AIBT exhibition was enhanced by the winners of the photo competition and was displayed in the foyer of Bristol Council House for two weeks. The desk staff told AIBT that many people had viewed the exhibition which was open not only in office hours but also in the evenings when Council meetings took place.

Scout exhibition: 23-25 June, Wodehouse Down, Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire. It was agreed that this proposed exhibition would be shown at a Scouts and Guides weekend at Wodehouse Park. The organisers were very keen and the event would have reached 200+ youngsters. Unfortunately, ultimately the organisers declined, as they were concerned about transport and security. The exhibition is still mounted and AIBT hopes to exhibit it in local libraries.

Avon Industrial Buildings Trust .


Communication with schools and young people proved to be very difficult and AIBT never succeeded in involving any young people in spite of much effort by post and phone.

AIBT succeeded in obtaining press publicity via Bristol’s Evening Post and the BBC and this was mainly due to AIBT’s own efforts. The group felt that that it was on its own with regard to publicity. They were not surprised as they were only a small project, but they expected that this would be Brunel 200’s main benefit to the project.

Due to concerns about lack of publicity for the exhibition at the Council House AIBT members visited every shop in the area with posters.

Survey forms were distributed and proved useful after the walk and workshop. Attendees were largely satisfied and gave useful comments.


Overall, all of the goals of the project were attained. All of the events took place and were judged very successful and the project was within budget.

The failure to reach young people was disappointing particularly since a good deal of effort was expended on this.

Learning points

A good organisational framework is essential in order to share the workload and also as back up when people are unavailable.

Whilst AIBT knew publicity was vital, they believe even more effort/expense would have paid dividends. They learnt that publicity needs to be both eye-catching but also get over its message very quickly.

They concluded that they probably needed younger participants with experience in the field to reach young people so would include a cost for such assistance in any future project.

The co-operation between AIBT and NWBCC was mutually beneficial and enjoyable. It could well lead to further ventures in the future.


Photography: Mark Simmons.