St Annes House

Amplified Publishing Category

Amping Up Our Neighbourhood Publishing

by Jack Gibbon

When people talk about the future of publishing and how to ‘amplify it’ it feels like we naturally move toward the digital, to the layered and the new. To amplify in this context is to adapt and change, reframe and re-platform, and reimagine.

Engaging with the themes of Amplified Publishing came at a strange time for us at Bricks Bristol. This time last year we were emerging from a year of lockdowns, re-scoping everything to be online, exploring podcasting, an online artist network, online talks/ recordings, and online codesign. In April 2021 we were gearing up to open our first physical venue - St Anne’s House. Our aspiration was for our programme here to manifest as a hybrid, both on and offline, to ensure anyone that wanted to access the programme could, whether or not they could/would want to engage ‘in person’ in the physical space.

The reality for us to make things happen ‘in person’ was a challenge in itself, and needed the total focus of our attention. As a result, the majority of our work so far has been in person, exploring the potential of the physical creative and community hub of St Anne’s House. A venture responding to local ambition, through regular check-ins with the St Anne’s community and growing from a collaborative co-design methodology. When asking the community about hybrid presentation, the feedback was that there was little ambition for more online events or hybrid content, so the focus has been on ways to bring people together through the physical space of the building, and to explore the re-engagement that this presents.

Although continuing to publish content online and engage through what to us are the natural digital routes, we have really doubled down on the analogue, to meet people where they are, finding ways to engage through quite traditional measures, the communities of St Annes.

Some steps toward this include:

  • Moving to riso printing due to its sustainability credentials, and scope for volume printing. Hand deliver flyers for key events to 3000 households in the local area - focusing on inviting design and engaging print quality (who doesn't love riso).

  • Rachael Clerke created and sourced a billboard for her Transactionland project.

  • Focusing on understanding how our community wants to be engaged via regular check-ins with the St Anne's Arts Action Group (leading to more engagement with schools, older peoples groups, mutual aid road/neighbourhood WhatsApp groups etc)

  • Commissioned SAH tenants and local residents, Studio Mothership, to create a visual identity for SAH and venue signage. This has been a key placemaking device for the organisation, to make clear our creative intent, and increase awareness among passers-by and local community members of the building’s new life. The physical form of our sign, CNC’d letters of the St Anne’s House typeface (inspired by the paper making machinery of the boards mill our building was built for), reminds me of a great piece of neighbourhood publishing/artwork The Word in Stroud, which has been present in my head throughout this project and through conversation with Studio Mothership partially informed the sign’s form.

For some, some of this might sit more within communications than publishing, but to me, it all sits within the way we publish content to engage people, that the work is both in the publishing and in the engagement.

Neighbourhood Publishing is very much where I am at with this right now. I am not sure how ‘Amplified’ it is, as it's certainly not innovative or anything new, but is instead a return to thinking about what kind of publishing is relevant to our organisation and the impact we want to make. How do our local communities engage with published material? How do they want to receive content? What content do they want?

We see our key communities for St Anne’s House as being ‘the hyperlocal community of St Annes and surrounding areas’ and the ‘creative communities of the West of England’.

Connecting to the communities of St Annes to learn how to make sure our work is of relevance to them has been an incredibly important and positive journey. We have had the opportunity to link and network with the community partners, finding shared values and ambitions, to work closely together in achieving these.

As our aim is to connect with people hyper-locally - we have had the most success with door to door flyering, billboards, posters, word of mouth, community Facebook groups, mutual aid WhatsApp groups etc.

Thinking about publishing on a local level and in the public realm. We have been inspired by:

  • The WORD in Stroud
  • Church fluorescent notices with thought quotes
  • Parish notice boards
  • Community Newsletters
  • Billboards
  • Poster sites
  • Electronic time/route update signs in bus stops
  • Stickering
  • Flyers and leaflets
  • Word of mouth and recommendations
  • Whatsapp Groups
  • Skywriting
  • Local shop tannoy systems and supermarkets house radio stations
  • Distribution through school rucksacks

Some of the ways this is influencing our current practice is:

  • Setting up a community newsletter for St Annes, which will be codesigned later this year with our community and community partners.

  • Designing and building a billboard for our forecourt, possibly with some form of artspace/ text space inspired by the religious fluorescent thought quotes.

  • Getting our building's 70s style tannoy system back into working order, and exploring creative uses for this, especially in connection with flash point events and festivals that use the building.

  • Amping up our door to door distribution of flyers and what's ons - as this seems to really work.

  • Looking for funding for artists to explore neighbourhood publishing further with us.

  • Working with local partners on a printed map for the area, codesigned with local communities.

  • For our podcasts that are connected to artworks that are related to places/communities of location, we are exploring how to engage with the public through those podcasts in those places. If the podcast is about football in St Anne’s Park, then let's make it findable in the park. If it's about food mapping and food systems in Stoke Gifford, let's make it available in Stoke Gifford, somewhere related to that content. Unlike the kind of digital marketing we can do for these, even if location-based, by putting access to the podcasts in the place that it relates to, we open up the podcast to people that are not looking for it - but can engage on a place level.


This thinking has been influenced by the team at Bricks/St Anne’s House, Studio Mothership, St Anne’s Arts Action Group and the artists and collaborators we have worked with this year.