Celebrating one year at Sparks Bristol

No Small Thing is the not-for-profit community arm of Materials in Mind. Conceived back in 2021 as an illustrated guide to all things circular (with a focus on the West of England), it evolved quickly into a community hub thanks to the birth of Sparks Bristol. For those unfamilar with Sparks – it is so named after the 4-storey ex Marks and Spencer it occupies in Bristol’s city centre. Sparks is a sustainable department store, arts and cultural hub and a melting pot of collaborative action toward a more equitable and resilient society. No Small Thing got involved back in late 2022 as lead organisation in the department of Reuse and Resources. On the 11th/12th May we celebrated 1 year since Sparks opened it’s doors.

While No Small Thing has stepped back to focus on supporting the Repairium workshop and weekly Repair Cafe sessions, the department has continued to grow and flourish. There are plans for more collaborative, creative workshops embracing circular principles, following the success of the Culture Cycles showcase from Revive Innovations (RE:CD) and fellow Precious Plastics creators, EcoTribo and Relic Plastics. Our ground floor repair workshop space continues to develop courtesy of our repair leads Matt Dommett and Tim Barton and dedicated volunteers. The UWE MAKERS programme have been providing additional support toward kit and the development of a Repair Index! More to come on that soon..

Sparks 1st birthday in numbers

3,500 visitors were welcomed by giant butterflies to enjoy the creative party activities on offer. The first floor event spaces thrummed with the sound of live musicians and DJ’s while downstairs people enjoyed workshops and talks.

The Sparks team celebrated by gathering outside the main doors holding pledges for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that underpin the values of Sparks Bristol. The sun shone as rose petal confetti was thrown into the air and a cheer rang out from the crowd.

Children made birthday flags and badges from waste fabrics, old books and magazines were transformed into collages and over 100 people took part in family-friendly life drawing lessons! It was thanks to funding from Arts Council England that the workshops were free for everyone to attend.

A tea party celebrated sustainable food and fair pay to farmers, with talks and tastings from Brew Planet and Tasha’s Kitchen while 1 giant cake sculpture by artist Marcie K Designs invited people to write what they like about Sparks. Messages included ‘freedom to create and explore’, ‘chances for indie sustainable businesses’ and ‘my kids love it here!’. 

Sparks Bristol is run by charities Artspace Lifespace and Global Goals Centre who joined together to create this unique sustainable shopping, creative and education hub in the former Marks and Spencer building. Following a successful year of partnership in which they welcomed over 518,000 visitors, saved over 12,000 items from landfill and supported 246 local independent traders, artists and charities they now aim to increase their positive environmental impact by holding more awareness raising events and workshops and increasing their wellbeing space. Sparks traders have made sustainable pledges including using public transport to travel to work, only using waste material to create gifts and not buying pre-packaged food for lunches. The Ethical Gift Shop has planted 1,000 trees in sub-saharan Africa to celebrate one year in Sparks and pledges to plant a tree for every purchase!

Though the party and our arts council funded programmes are over, there’s still more to explore in store and events to look forward to; performances, regular workshops, a repair cafe, exhibitions, author talks and independent shops. See more at https://sparksbristol.co.uk/whatson/events/