Report on Information & Discussion Event about Jacobs Wells Baths

Notes from Tuesday 28 February 2017 (City Hall – Bristol) – Jacobs Wells Baths (edited 8-3-17)

List of speakers


Introduction (Simon Birch, Bristol Civic Society)

  • Simon welcomed the audience. He recognised the evidence of strong support for Jacobs Well Baths.  He stressed the opportunity for a positive approach to the challenge of finding a sustainable future for the building.  He described himself as a neutral chair with very relevant experience at Trinity Community Arts, a successful, community based example of the reuse of a historic building.

Estella Tincknell, Deputy Mayor:

  • New Cultural Strategy mentioned
  • Key words used were: inclusive / cultural space
  • The need to an Arts and Cultural Facility recognised
  • Dance and Circus mentioned
  • Arts and Health promotion mentioned
  • Mixed community use
  • Lack of community space locally
  • Council are supportive of the process but unable to fund it

Melissa Inman (Arts & Culture):

  • Melissa stressed that Bristol City Council values the arts.

Steve Matthews & John Bos (Property & CAT):

  • Under a Community Asset Transfer, the council would retain the freehold and grant a lease of up to 35 years. (This is the Council’s maximum length lease, but John said later that there is always room for negotiation).
  • There would be a peppercorn rent.
  • Contact details of all speakers and CAT selection criteria would be published on the Council’s website in early March, after which 3 months given for applicants to submit their proposal.

Peter Insole (Heritage):

  • Working on Bristol Heritage Framework
  • Building is high in the list / is loved
  • Looking for opportunities to make sure the building is preserved

Councillor Paula O’Rourke (Clifton & Harbourside NP)

  • Paula stressed the importance of neighbourhoods.
  • She thanked Jacobs Wells Community Hub for attending every single meeting and lobbying for the baths at every possible opportunity. (She drew applause from the audience )

Helen Bone (Initial Feasibility Study, Vivid Regeneration):

  • Mention of “Doing things in a different way”
  • “People want to make it happen”
  • Helen praised the work of Alan Roberts
  • “Doing the right thing”
  • The city has no strategy for a new building for dance in the city
  • There is no specific space for dance in Bristol
  • Funding to enable a Conditions Survey has now been secured.
  • Ideally the council might give a capital sum to help renovate the building
  • It is critical that we keep the building open in the short term

Dina Ntziora (Artspace Lifespace):

  • Dina emphasised the need to keep the building safe and clean
  • Valued community engagement
  • There has been a programme of events over 6 months from September 2016
  • A series of Open Days
  • Repairs undertaken – included unexpected repairs
  • Total of 42 events in the space
  • Included 3 residencies (for three weeks each)
  • Cold temperatures in the building throughout the winter
  • The project was not self-financing
  • Overall aim is to increase the quality of life for everyone
  • It was emphasised that the building is “more than a building” (Unesco)
  • ASLS have signed a new 6 month lease until September and have many potential bookings
  • Baths expected to reopen on Monday 13 March 2017 following essential repairs.

Sally Silverman (Jacobs Wells Community Hub):

  • Sally outlined some of the needs of the local community. These included feelings of loss at previous facilities now gone.  She stressed the disadvantages of not having Linkage and the areas of loneliness and deprivation that are not recognised.  The voices of local residents are anxious to be heard.  She said that we have established a regular craft activities session and there is a local children’s chess club that is now using the Baths.

Helen Bone of Vivid Regeneration replying to a question:


  1. Question from Mayfest
    • Question about funding and social investors?
  1. Question from member of Equity (Lesley Saltman)
    • 35 years is not enough time to work through a project successfully
    • Example given of a Corporate Sponsor
    • Answer included reference to a clause in the service agreement
  1. Victoria (Studio Seven, Performing Arts)
    • They are an agency for training young people – they have a major sponsor
    • They work with under-privileged children
    • Radio station also interested to use the building
  1. Alan Roberts (Bristol Community Dance Centre)
    • Stressed that we are the only major city without a dance facility
    • Mentioned alternatives to the Community Asset Transfer process – e.g. Localism Act – Town Hall in Hebden Bridge – Community Share Issue
  1. Derek Pickup
    • Question “How do we develop a major facility for dance”?
    • Bristol is a ‘wealthy city’, community regeneration, there are at least 2 billionaires living in Bristol
    • Mention of building a resource across the city
    • Mentioned Partnership working (Estella T)
    • Social Investors want a return (Helen B)
  1. Sasha Lions (Co-Exist in Hamilton House)
  1. Dance Co-ordinator (?)
    • Set-up with funding from Quartet
    • Question One organisation versus a joint venture
    • Helen gave a response
  1. Sian Redmond
    • CAT Process time of three months / preparation time is very short – Council said that this could be extended if necessary, but aimed to get new tenant in before winter to avoid further damage to the building.
    • Mention of panel structure for evaluation and decision making
    • Temporary license to occupy could be granted pre signing of lease
  1. Chris Milman
    • Wanted to know more about the water supply (and quality of supply) to the baths
    • Alan R explained that one of the four tanks contained water
    • Three springs sources on the Downs
    • Previous analysis showed that the spring water purer than some well-known brand (Evian)
  1. Keith (?)
    • Asked about the proposed timeline – limited for collaborative planning
    • Helen stressed the need to get a tenant in before winter 2017
    • Dina again mentioned wanting a space that is kept open to everyone
  1. Kirsten (Raised in Bristol)
    • Profit share model worked well – children’s day care facility
  1. Claire (Social Investors, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital)
    • Triodos and Resonance mentioned
    • Supporting communities for take on assets by helping to access funding
  1. Doug (Artspace Lifespace)
    • Question – “How does the council decide which assets to sell?”
  1. Question
    • How does a dancer engage with the process / opportunity?
    • Helen B – Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths / sign-up sheets
  1. Question
    • Using local skills
    • Dina explained about the staff that deal with repairs at The Island
    • Helen B suggested that this was a conversation for the city / future.