The artificial east island created between the slave labour built New Cut and the docks in Bristol England. The prison in which the slaves were kept has few reamins on the island. The main gate still stands on the south east corner (in front of Graham's -- a builder's merchants) of the island bearing the following sign:

The Bristol Riots Of 1831
This was the gate to the 'New Gaol', stormed by Bristolians protesting for democratic reform. This plaque commemorates those who fought for the Reform Acts, the 500 killed during the riots, the hundreds who were imprisoned, flogged or transported and the 5 rioters who were hanged from this gate.
The island hosts Bristol's dry dock for small vessel maintenance (see Avonmouth for larger local docks), several storage, launch and pontoon facilities for local boat owners and the dock holding the SS Great Britain that has and is undergoing restoration for many years.

The former Brooke Bond tea factory on this island also bears this 'Spike Island' name and is a studio space for approximately a hundred local artists.

Spike Island
133 Cumberland Road
+44 (0)117 929 2266

According to Anweb (, Spike Island Artspace started as a studio group in 1976, then through funding they purchased and renovated the former tea factory. The space is some eighty-thousand square feet with studios ranging from two-hundred and fifty to a thousand square feet. The larger studios/workshops are in the Sculpture Shed and the common spaces for the printers.

Top Floor Studios forms a significant group of paint/canvas artists ( and the whole artspace is managed as a collective of like-groups by subletting and contract.

Regular shows, both open-weekend public and single-artist private views, cover paint; print; sculpture; video and installation.

Personal favourites (obviously subjective and will change like the weather) include:

  • Kathryn Thomas ( reminds me of the warm sun-spot-on-the-sea views from my hall room in Swansea University.
  • Everyone in the Sculpture Shed. Always something fun, noisy and/or huge.
  • John(ny) De Mearns ( -- who would simply disown me if not included.

Art or it's interpretation and appreciation is wonderfully dynamic. Each and every person can and does form their own use or opinion as a product of absorption. Residents are very friendly and talkative.

Spike Island open exhibitions are reasonably major events in the Bristol Art scene. You will see a tide of local UWE art-students washing through on weekends. The central gallery space is considerably larger than that available to the Arnolfini. Previous shows included enormous tanks of icebergs and Caterpillar earth-movers covered in cow-hide. The Sculpture Shed space is similarly cavernous.