Local people gathered in Bedminster Down to meet with Metro Mayor Dan Norris, explaining to him how saving a much-loved community cafe and arts space would see it go from strength and strength, as they look to raise enough money to buy the building.
Zion Community Art Space has provided a lifeline for thousands of residents in the local area for the past 11 years, running over 200 activities and events each year as well providing a daytime café, facilities for families and acting as a focal point for meetings, parties, workshops and more.
Occupying a former Methodist Chapel, the building has been a fixture for the people in and around BS13 for over a century, first opening its doors in 1902.
Locals are in a race against time to raise enough money to save the centre after the current owners decided to sell up. Mr Norris met over 20 locals who have used and continue to use the community space as well as the Zion team, including founder Jess Wright.
They explained how ensuring the centre remains a community asset for future generations would see it open even more spaces for local groups to meet by incorporating the residential space behind the building.
Mr Norris also learnt of plans for the building to become a ‘Cost of Living Crisis Community Hub’, offering a space for people to stay warm and get advice as locals continue facing pressure when it comes to fuel, energy and food, with energy bills forecast to hit £3,200 come October.
Dan Norris says: “Zion is a much-loved community space for so many in and around BS13. From quiz nights to movie nights, from creative writing to preschool learning and help for young mothers, the support it provides is invaluable. I am hearing a lot of disquiet from locals about how we could lose this important community asset but importantly there are some innovative ideas, with community ownership in particular seemingly offering real opportunities for the future”.
Speaking about the meeting, Zion Community Art Space founder and General Manager Jess Wright said: “Venues and spaces like Zion make a community, without these places we face a more isolated future. Local hubs like Zion enable residents to access information on transport, health and local issues, we are able to help small start-up businesses flourish and can provide support for the community to grow and have a voice. We are seeing the cost-of-living crisis impact on so many, on top of the wellbeing issues that have just started to take their toll after the years of Covid restrictions, If we lose yet another safe space in South Bristol then this will have serious consequences for many”.
Jess and the Zion team have raised over £180,000 and are at 79% of their £230,000 target but are desperately looking to raise the final £48,000 to stop the former church being sold to someone else. The deadline for locals to purchase the building is 5 August, with the final push now on.