Meet the team behind the Create Centre – venue for the 2022 Friends’ Exhibition

We are delighted to announce the much-anticipated return of the Friends’ Exhibition this May. It will be held at the fantastic, spacious Create Centre in Bristol. We spoke to Create’s Michelle Scoplin about the venue and her expectations for the show…

Interview by Laurel Smart

The Create Centre, located in Spike Island, is part of the Culture & Creative Industries department of Bristol City Council. It is home to the Bristol Archives and has a spacious gallery. 

Michelle Scoplin and her small team of six host conferences and events and are the first point of contact for 30 environmental organisations. We have found them very welcoming and supportive, so we are really looking forward to working with them offer Friends the opportunity to show their art. Here’s our interview with Michelle…

What is the story behind the Create Centre? 

The Create Centre is an award winning Environment centre set up by Bristol City Council in conjunction with The Bristol Recycling Consortium (now Resource Futures) and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, in 1994. 

The aim was to establish a sustainable hub for local environmental organisations, enabling them to network and grow in our flexible office space.  It soon attracted a number of  other related organisations such as BTCV (now TCV), Schumacher Society, EcoTourism (now Travel Foundation) and Choices for Bristol. There are still several of the original organisations based at Create which have had the opportunity to expand and develop over the years. The Create vision included the provision of a Lecture Theatre and meeting rooms  which enable the hosting of conferences and exhibitions by internal and external  organisations in holding conferences around environmental and sustainable themes. 

You have a fabulous exhibition space. Tell us about how it is used and what shows you have put on. 

The team actively encourage exhibitions with environmental themes but are open to all themes and artists. 

Some of the exhibitions we have hosted include: 

 “Empty Your bags”, an art installation by Duncan Mckellar, comprising of items found on the Bristol streets. Many of the found objects originated from Bristol’s vibrant nightlife. Costume jewellery, bright feathers and black PVC lent a darker mood of underground activity to much of the work. Other pieces acted as diary entries for specific times, places and emotional periods in the artist’s life. 

Several exhibitions have been curated by the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) including “Soil Culture” a multimedia exhibition exploring the geography and history of soil and food including events hosted by The Blue Finger Alliance, incorporating lectures, workshops and meals. This ran at Create for several months and was part of an international tour ending in Berlin. 

“Making Waves” RAW Foundation was a dynamic exhibition and series of events that highlighted the damage plastics cause to our environment and promoted sustainable alternatives.   

Michelle, Phil and Rhona of the Create Centre


What is planned for the future of Create? 

After coming through the worst (hopefully) of the Covid pandemic, we are now looking forward to the plans for the Western Harbour regeneration project.  Public consultation has been taking place to help shape the future of the area and we hope to see The Create Centre’s future established within that, but time will tell.  What we can say is that the concerns about our environment which led to the foundation of the Centre in 1994 are even more to the fore than before and the principles by which we work – promoting environmental awareness, responsibility and education remain vital to the future of the city. 


What does the Royal West of England Academy mean to you? 

The RWA has such a long and fascinating history as a key centre for the arts in Bristol – it occupies a special place and long may it do so.  A thriving city is characterised by a vibrant cultural offer and the RWA is part of that cultural ecology provided by many institutions across Bristol.  

We are looking forward to mounting the Friends’ exhibition at Create in May ’22. Why are you keen to host the Friends Exhibition? 

Making links with other cultural organisations across the city is so important.  The cross-fertilisation of attracting new audiences from different parts of Bristol to get to know what is on offer elsewhere is rewarding.  Visitors and users of the RWA may not have visited The Create Centre before and vice versa.  

Do you see the Create Centre as part of the Art scene in Bristol? 

Most definitely, one with a great past and we trust a great future.

Friends’ Exhibition 2022

Friday 13 May to Wednesday 25 May 2022
Weekdays 11am – 5pm, Weekends 11am – 4pm. Free entry.

Preview: Thursday 12 May 5-8pm

The Create Centre, Smeaton Road, Spike Island, Bristol BS1 6XN

Entering the Friends’ Exhibition

Friends can enter up to four artworks. Entry is open from 8 March until 6 April 2022. Full details are here.

The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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