For the PRSC AGM last week, the crew prepared some short reports about where our efforts went in 2020 and what results we got. It seemed a shame to keep this data to ourselves so we have summarised the updates here.
(This is quite a text heavy post. If you prefer a more visual approach check out our previous blog: 2020 in pictures)
Chairman’s Report – from Chris Chalkley
2020 was an extraordinary year. While all our plans for the School of Activism and the Stokes Croft Land Trust ground to a halt, we still managed to get lots done. The Stokes Croft Food Project came into being, our mural wall supported the NHS and the BLM movement, we ran a People’s Art Fair featuring over 200 artworks – and nobody got Covid!
The crew deserve a pat on the back for pushing on. Covid cancelled most of our revenue, but with the combined efforts of our staff, volunteers and customers, the cards have fallen OK for us during the enforced slowdown. We have been able to concentrate on longer term plans and on ensuring our systems and structures are in place behind the scenes to allow us to fulfill our ambitions.
One of the most exciting developments of the year was a partnership we have begun with architecture students at UWE under the title Stokes Croft Creatives. Under the guidance of Jo Kelly, they are helping us to plan the redevelopment of our site on Jamaica Street, with the ambition to create something striking and beautiful which increases access and functionality while reducing our environmental impact. Most of these plans are for the longer term, but we hope to be able to reveal some progress this spring.
Jo Kelly’s is not the only new face we welcomed this year, with Arnie King joining the office crew and Dan Hart filling the newly created role of Retail Manager.
What is most important is where we are going in the next year. We hope to build our arts manufactory, make sure we have the systems to sustain us, increase our membership, develop the PRSC media department, and continue to deliver our Street Survival sessions, Dope Magazine distribution, People’s Art Fair and School of Activism.
For the first time, I think we have the crew to realise our ambitions, and I’m looking forward to being made redundant as we move forward.
Chris gets his teeth into the ‘Great China Workshop Reorganisation’ of 2020.
China Shop Update from Dan
This has been my first year at the Peoples Republic starting half way through October. The vitally unique and creative work produced, mixed with the personalities that bring it to life is truly incredible.
Not to mention the huge efforts it does to actively improve the local area and lives of those less fortunate. I feel incredibly blessed to have been welcomed in so warmly and am entirely settled in my new position.
It has clearly been one of the most difficult times for retail as a whole this year in living memory. We have come up with strong strategies to ensure we stay ahead of the constantly changing rules around Covid and lockdowns. I have experienced two lockdowns to date in my short time here. So clearly with a forced to close shop for such a large part of the year, it has possibly been more of a year of survival than huge financial success.
The figures show our total sales in the year of 2019 were £117,457.26, whereas in 2020 our sales were £91,310.31, so we took roughly 20% less.
It is clear why this has occurred in the middle of a pandemic. The funding we have been given by the government is exactly for that reason. So if you took the funding as part of our overall takings we would actually be in a better position than the year before.
Since I began – and in no way is this me alone but the whole team working incredibly hard in difficult conditions – we have in fact made more money than the year before. Even though the shop has been closed for more days than it has been open.
From Oct 20th 2019 – 2nd Feb 2020 we took £46,627.80 in total sales.
From Oct 20th 2020 – 2nd Feb 2021 we took £47,362.25 in total sales.
This clearly shows that we are doing things better. It is also hugely exciting for when we are though the pandemic and have an open shop. Building on our success with internet sales and a very busy December are clear indications of growth.
We have a team of volunteers in the shop who are all actively involved in its improvement and upkeep. Each has different motivations and skills, from widely different backgrounds including work experience, career breaks, unemployment to studying at university.
We currently have four key volunteers each doing one day a week and in the future, after social distancing, we can increase this number. With supervision they have been a part of enabling a large number of on going improvements to the shop.
The thousands of people who have bought our products and the incredible work that is created within the People’s Republic needs to be celebrated. There are big plans ahead for 2021 so watch this space…
Dan and one of his new-look shop windows.
Arts & Community Update from Benoit & Lisa
Mural Wall – Benoit
Over this year the Outdoor Gallery has hosted loads of great groups & campaigns, including international solidarity and collaborations.
Just to skip through a few highlights:
The first piece was a solidarity piece with the Chilean uprising, painted by Chilean ex-pats in Bristol, and their friends.
We also continued our Medicine on the Walls project with the Medical Humanities department from Bristol University, and as well as bringing Covid and lockdown messages to Jamaica Street, Dr John Lee organised an international collaboration and simultaneous paint with Kenyan street-artist Msale. We swapped sketches, and then each interpreted the full wall, me in Bristol, him in Nairobi.
The Stay In pieces were featured in national press and were used all over, from posters all over the city to the banner heading for the Bristol Post website, and chosen by Historic England as one of their 100 images of Covid lockdown.
TDPF and Anyone’s Child wall as a part of a wider campaign naming people who had died as victims of the drug war. We got a lot of names added to the wall by the general public, and a massive tree from DNT.
The BLM piece painted by Lanie & crew got more attention than any other Outdoor Gallery piece I remember, and was the start of a series of pieces painted around the city under the name ‘as a black person in the uk.’
The Trans Health Crisis piece, from our very own CJ, got a lot of attention and massive national press.
More recently we had another international collaboration, where Palestinian artist Taqui Splateen sent over an initial sketch for the Bristol Palestine Film Festival mural, which I modified and edited, and then interpreted with a crew of volunteers.
Wider Bristol Arts Interventions – Benoit
We facilitated painting projects elsewhere, by lending scaff and other gear, including some big pieces at the M32 DIY Skate Spot, painted by Rico, and the Old Market walls organised by Jason, and of course the BLM Gatton Road piece amongst others. We helped some art students put on a popup show on the abandoned bit of land by 5102, and of course, many Turbo Island paintings too.
Screen Printing – Benoit
The People’s Print Shop has been started to be used more, with Ross printing Jamie’s Ursa prints for the shop, experiments with printing our cardboard boxes, and Scruff and I started working on We Make Our Own Future prints, and of course, the lovely Blessed print designed by CJ.
People’s Art Fair – Lisa
In Feb 2020 we launched the People’s Art Fair a collaborative weekend exhibition featuring 20 artists. Running through Valentines weekend, the exhibition had the theme of Modern Love and celebrated the incredible Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Number two ran in March just before lockdown. Number three (with the theme of Home) ran in the shop window, and featured art created by local homeless people during out outreach sessions. Number four ran in September, in that brief window of time when cultural spaces were allowed to open.
In Dec we ran People’s Art Fair #5 – the Winter Edition – which featured over 40 artists and over 230 works of art. This show sold over £2000 worth of art and nearly £200 of PRSC stock. This was also our first ever online exhibition with our crew demonstrating once again that no challenge is too big for this little team. Check out the virtual exhibition here »
SCFP – Lisa
In March 2020 we partnered with the chefs at Jamaica Street Stores to form the Stokes Croft Food Project. Originally producing meals to be distributed by other organisations (National Food Service, Bristol Outreach Service for the Homeless, and the Bristol Food Union) the SCFP grew and progressed over the year, and we now offer a Pay What You Can Community Cafe five days a week, alongside our Sunday Soup Run which has been ongoing since April.
This project is entirely volunteer run (though since October we have been able to fund a 4 hour p/w position of rota manager) and is funded by a combination of donations through the cafe, direct donations through our crowdfunder and a grant from the National Lottery.
In 2020 we estimate that 10,000 veggie meals left our kitchen and found their way into hungry bellies. It is our ambition – once things have settled down – for the cafe to become a community food hub where everyone can gather to eat good nutritious food together regardless of income.
Alongside the work of the SCFP our other work with the local homeless population became more urgent (especially during the first lockdown when job centres, libraries, public toilets and most homeless drop in services were all closed). Even when all other PRSC activity had shut down we kept our street survival sessions running giving out tea, coffee, charging points, wifi access, info about services, Dope magazine, tents, clean blankets & sleeping bags, and advice to anyone who came by.
To make our services as useful as possible we installed a soap dispenser above our street tap creating one of the city’s only 24 hour public hand washing points.
Although the tally is almost certainly incomplete, we gave out at least 90 sleeping bags & blankets, 30 tents, 21 Sleep Pods, 299 coats and misc hats, shoes, toiletries etc. We’ve also become the biggest distributor of DOPE magazine outside London, giving out at least 7600 issues, potentially putting £22,800 directly into the vendors hands.
Other PRSC events news – Lisa
We made the most of the lockdowns to paint social distancing markings on our venue floor, to repaint the cupboards (thank you Zam!) and to redesign our bar frontage.
We plan to run the second School of Activism this April and we are currently planning digital versions of every session so the whole programme can be run remotely if (as seems likely) there are still heavy restrictions in effect. We have been keeping regular contact with the People’s Comedy comedians and the couple of socially distanced comedy nights we were able to run sold out completely. The next one is penciled in for April, but very faintly.
2020 has taught us that in times of crisis, sometimes smaller more informal organisations can respond more quickly and effectively to local issues. And also that however unpredictable the future may be, the PRSC family have the resilience and flexibility to adapt and to produce something amazing.
Online Progress Report from Scruff & CJ
People’s Art Fair goes online – CJ
The virtual exhibition was a massive undertaking for a small crew to put together in just a few days. We photographed, and processed over 230 pieces of art for sale online as well as creating a fully accessible online experience that allowed users to get a feel of how the show looked in person. It wasn’t perfect and we learned a huge amount and got some amazing feedback so next time will be even bigger and better!
Over the course of December we had over 500 visitors to the online exhibition and sold almost £2000 of art.
Newsletter & Website – Scruff
The first lockdown in 2020 gave us an opportunity to develop and improve our weekly mailshot. This effort really paid off as we got some great feedback from readers, and saw over £5k worth of sales generated directly from the mailshot over the year! We did particularly well with unique ware, as many of our one-off pieces sold after being featured, such as the Boris Begging Bowl, and the Dominic Cummings inspired plate with Durham Castle on it.
We currently have 6,886 subscribers, with 101 people newly signed up in last 30 days and our emails were opened 51,261 times in the last year.
In November 2020 we gave the PRSC Shop website a bit of a makeover, with a new menu, easier ways of moving between products and a homepage offering more direct access to our popular lines. After learning a lot about the back end of the online shop, and spending some time in the physical shop during the Christmas rush, I’ve also been able to make some tweaks and improvements to help streamline order processing and packing.
An Update from Arnie
I was brought onto the team in November to help develop the PRSC’s membership offer, expand our volunteering opportunities, and to increase community participation and representation in PRSC activities. Unexpected restrictions have delayed this work, but we have managed to put together plans for a membership fair during the School of Activism this April.
I am also delighted to report that this AGM was attended by as many volunteers as staff members – a first for the PRSC!