Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Banksy, Brook and a uniquely Bristolian Battle with the Bureaucrats

Brook in Bristol recently moved into new premises with a range of organisations including Bristol Youth. The Station was developed and created by a group of local organisations and young people discussing and deciding what they could do for all young people in Bristol. The group was committed to listening to young people’s voices and their opinions on the services that they wanted at The Station.

Young people wanted a safe space where they could meet, be themselves and not be judged, be creative and get help and support when they needed it. From the beginning young people said that they wanted a sexual health service and Brook being Brook had to respond. After three years of hard work and support from the local NHS Brook moved into its new clinic. Young people now have the clinic that they deserve in a place that belongs to them. 

The dedicated team in Bristol is blazing a trail - they have a vision that the clinic at The Station will be a centre for learning and excellence for young people’s sexual health services.

Here Christine Townsend, trustee of Brook, a Bristol resident and educator in the City went to the launch of the new clinic…..

Bristolians of a certain age can remember a time before hordes of tourists and students gathered on a bridge at the bottom of a hill in central Bristol and take photographs of a large Banksy painting on the old Brook building in Bristol.

I, like Banksy, fit into this ‘certain age’ category. The image that appeared overnight at the bottom of that hill marked the end of our Bristol City Council removing or covering over the urban art created by Banksy. The image tourists flock to see (along with all the other Banksy pieces) remain to this day as a result of a sustained campaign to retain and nurture our particularly Bristolian take on urban underground culture.

The ‘Bristolians’ Battle for Banksy’ as it became colloquially known, raged for over four years – it galvanised people, Barton Hill to Baydock Wood, Brislington to Bedminster, Bristolians lobbied their local councillors to retain, protect and promote our working-class hero and his individual form of urban street art.

As an educationalist, what Banksy had created was one of the best sign-posting tools I ever had when educating young people about sexual health services in the city. I have countless times relayed the Bristolian, Banksy, Brook ‘insider story’ to groups of young people who like me, relish the idea that some tourists will not fully realise Banksy’s decision to paint that particular piece on Brook.

Bristol and Brook have a long history; our young person’s clinic was the first to open outside London in 1965, before either Banksy or I were born. Brook has now moved to a new purpose designed and built clinic in a multi-million pound youth facility in the centre of the city. At the launch of the Brook clinic in its new home I was pleased to see that the Banksy-Bristol-Brook legacy lives on. This iconic image now welcomes young people in the clinic’s comfortable waiting room.

Situated on the third floor of The Station, the clinic offers a sexual health service to the young people of Bristol. The Station development has bought together the creative arts in the form of music studios, dance and performance areas, a young person run café and access to health and well-being services all under one roof.

Since opening the clinic has continued to provide the top-class confidential sexual health service that generations of young Bristolians have benefited from. Those who use it now are also able to enjoy a latte or two while they wait!

Professionals will also benefit from these facilitates; the new clinic offers an accessible bookable space for training or running educational workshops with young people and will, I hope, grow to become a centre of excellence for professional development in Bristol in the years to come. The opening of this new clinic within The Station marks a step change in the way young people can access sexual health services in Bristol. It remains a role for all of us working within the CYPS workforce to ensure we continually promote the many benefits to young people of spending an afternoon or two at The Station.

And so, how to sign-post this fabulous new clinic? With the council well and truly aware of the value placed on Banksy’s art, my new year wish will be to awake one morning in 2013 to his newest creation, celebrating the health and creativity of the young people of Bristol. I for one will welcome a new piece of urban street art that will add a further stop on the tourist trail for the thousands of tourists and be another chapter to the Banksy-Bristol-Brook legacy.

So my message to Banksy, when he reads this blog as I’m confident he will, is to create an even better sign-posting tool for educationalists that directs our young people to the even better Brook Clinic. After all it wasn’t THAT long ago both you and I were amongst their number and would be in a position to use this fantastic service!

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