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Circus and Church – St Paul’s Church, Bristol

06 February 2012

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Circomedia at St Paul's Church, Bristol. Copyright © The Churches Conservation Trust.Circomedia at St Paul's Church, Bristol. Copyright © The Churches Conservation Trust.

It may not seem like the most likely combination, but at St Paul’s Church in Bristol the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) and Circomedia have managed to form a partnership that has benefited the church building and thousands of trainees into the esoteric arts of the circus. In 2000 this 18th-century neo-Gothic masterpiece was in dire straits, and we definitely do not mean Mark Knopfler here. The roof was caving in and the structural elements of the building were weak enough to warrant the building being mooted for demolition. But with an enormous effort from the CCT and extra money from the EU and the Heritage Lottery Fund we managed to save the church and form a partnership with Circomedia, who were looking for a new home.

Before the conservation work and transformation. Copyright © The Churches Conservation Trust.

Copyright © The Churches Conservation Trust.

Twelve years on and the church is transformed. Circomedia use it for circus training programmes, exhibitions and special dramatic-performance events. The church is a maelstrom of activity… vibrant and alive and proving that ‘redundant’ churches are very much able to contribute to local community life. It has also been a fundamentally important element in the regeneration of this part of Bristol – left to decay in the 80s and 90s but now being brought back to life by the efforts of the council and the local community. St Paul’s is a fabulous example of what can happen to a near-derelict building is supported by state and private funding, the local community and the dedicated efforts of conservation professionals… job done.


Post by Dr Neil Rushton, Conservation Manager (West), The Churches Conservation Trust.

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