Exhibition Opens At Bristol Old Vic For Major Schools Project On The 'Statue Debate'

The exhibition on A Monumental Task will be on display, free to the public, in Bristol Old Vic's pit passageway from 28 March.

Exhibition Opens At Bristol Old Vic For Major Schools Project On The 'Statue Debate'

Since Dec 2022, Bristol Old Vic's Heritage department has been working with secondary schools to deliver a new workshop exploring the issues that have divided the country, connected to our monuments and how we come to terms with our colonial history.

Six Bristol schools (Bristol Brunel Academy, Bristol Metropolitan Academy, Cotham, Bristol Cathedral Choir, Bedminster Down and Oasis John Williams) participated in A Monumental Task, a Theatre in Education project that engages young people and their wider communities in discussion around our shared colonial history. The results of their work will be displayed in a new exhibition at Bristol Old Vic from Mon 27 Mar until the end of the year.

Each school group was tasked with creating their own town and devising characters to populate it. Two sessions in, they learn the uncomfortable truth that their town's founder made his money through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Not only that, but a statue of him has been present in their town the whole time and no one has acknowledged it. In the remaining sessions, it was up to the young people to decide what to do with the statue. And then they get to do it... The results of which are to be presented in the exhibition, which opens with a private showing to all the participating young people on Mon 27 Mar.

Lucy Hunt, Director of Engagement said: "Bristol's young people are witnessing their community's diverse reactions to monuments of colonial figures. A Monumental Task aims to put the debate in their hands, as they learn about the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the perspective of towns across the country grappling with the legacy of their colonial past".

She continued: "Bristol Old Vic is itself a monument to Bristol's colonial history and we are trying to recognise and understand the impact of our beginnings. Statistically, 31% of the 50 original investors directly benefitted from the enslavement and forced migration of Africans. We are continuing our research into Bristol Old Vic's link with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, reviewing the m,aterials in our archives and exploring how we engage with it today. We'll be sharing more news on that later this year."

A Monumental Task asks young people how Bristol Old Vic, the wider cultural and heritage sector, and Bristol itself, should continue to make space for conversations about this legacy and adapt accordingly. In the words of one student: 'decisions are always really hard, especially when you're part of a community. You've got to adapt all those ideas.'

When asked what they had learnt, one participant said, '...to respect and listen to other people's ideas.' Another said their highlight was 'taking part in democracy'.

The exhibition on A Monumental Task will be on display, free to the public, in Bristol Old Vic's pit passageway from 28 March.


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