Press and stories

Bridging Histories is in the news! Check here for press releases and highlights from press coverage.

London launch!

October 2021 sees the launch Bridging Histories in London, where it is being led by the London Commission on Diversity in the Public Realm, and funded by the Mayor of London.

To inspire people of all ages and walks of life to participate, Bridging Histories is being kick-started in London by six groups leading community-based workshops, with funding by the Mayor of London.

Culture Tree are working with Yoruba language communities, doing intergenerational poems and recipe workshops to explore family histories.

Artist Juma Harding-Dimmock is delivering a project using recipes to explore personal reflections, family histories and the sensory experience of recipes in Joseph Clark School, a small school that specialises in working with students with Visual impairments, Autism and complex needs.

Nurull Islam and the Mile End Community Project are leading intergenerational oral history workshops exploring changes in food cultures over time in East London.

Curator Trisha McCauley is leading local residents in collage and photography workshops, exploring the history of Asian seafarers in Canning Town and Royal Docks areas in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Museum of Diversity are creating virtual, interactive storytelling of the street history of Croydon Murals with young people in the area.

Numbi Arts are working with artists and writers to tell stories around recipes of the Somali diaspora, as part of their ‘Global Munch’ project.

These projects will inspire people across both cities to get involved and share their own activities.

Bristol 24/7: Podcast

Listen to Director Joanna Burch-Brown talking about the idea behind Bridging Histories in this Bristol 24/7 podcast (starting at 9 minutes 45 seconds).

Press and stories - Bristol 24/7:  Podcast

Bristol 24/7 July 2021

Press and stories - Bristol 24/7 July 2021

Press release: 12th August, 2021

Bridging Histories

A project to encourage people in Bristol to explore the city’s past, present and future by sharing their own history has been launched.

Bridging Histories is open to everyone and its aim is to build a better understanding of the city by telling our own stories.

Dragana Smart came to Bristol from Sarajevo in the early 1990s after meeting her British husband-to-be. She moved to the UK before war broke out in the former Yugoslavia. When her parents were caught in the Bosnian conflict, she helped them to leave and they settled in Bristol as refugees.

“At first I didn’t realise my story was relevant but then I thought that all our family histories make up this city. I wanted to share the story of my mum and dad and how they came to live here,” Dragana said.

“I am from Sarajevo, which is a city of bridges. My dad, Dobrivoje Beljkasic, was a painter and they called him a painter of bridges, as he was fascinated by their physical presence, and as a metaphor for connecting people, places and time.

“It is fitting that he ended up in Bristol, the ‘place of the bridge’ (Brigstowe). He came here in the '90s during the Bosnian conflict, after his studio and the vast majority of his life’s work burned down in a vicious shelling attack.”

Dragana’s parents settled in Barton Hill and lived there for more than 20 years. She said they had a happy life and were accepted in the local community. Initially her father said he would not paint again but after making friends and joining an art club he overcame that and began to paint again. Dragana said being an artist enabled him to be accepted for who he was, rather than being defined by the label of refugee.

His paintings were exhibited in two exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy in 2020 and the MShed in 2014. His work is also held in the permanent collections of Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the City Museum of Sarajevo.

Dobrivoje Belikasic died in 2015 and her mother in 2017. Their ashes are buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery.

Dragana said her parents “became part of Bristol’s story” and because of the city’s “generosity” her mum and dad were able to have a normal and fulfilling life.

Bridging Histories director Dr Joanna Burch-Brown said: “What I love about Bridging Histories is that it really is for everyone. Every person has a story to tell, a recipe to share, a street they’ve lived on, a family they’ve known or missed, a change they’d like to see in themselves.

“When we hear each other’s stories, we connect on a different level, and we learn from each other. By joining in, you’re helping to tell the story of our city, and helping the whole city learn about ourselves.

“We have gone through a lot in the last year. Things like the Covid pandemic and the fall of the Colston statue have the potential to divide us but they can also get us connecting.

“That’s why Bridging Histories is so important right now. These watershed moments can bring us together if we do things right. The aim of this project is to connect people, get us learning about each other, and build confidence and inspire positive change.

“For this project to work, we need people joining in from every corner of our city. It is up to you to make that happen. So ask around your friends and family, schools and groups, to see if anybody is doing Bridging Histories yet. If not, why don’t you be the one to get it going?”

Bridging Histories is a We Are Bristol History Commission project, in partnership with University of Bristol and organisations in Bristol and London.

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