Press release: HLF Funding success for City of Threads

We are delighted to announce that PECo Theatre has received a project grant of up to £43,600 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund towards ‘City of Threads – 7 decades of VI oral history ’.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, with additional ongoing support from Arnolfini, University of Bristol and Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio, the project will work with oral history content recorded by visually impaired [VI] people as they embarked on journeys of their own choosing through the city of Bristol with a sighted travelling companion, as part of PECo’s City Fellowship with Arnolfini.

Taking a participatory, collaborative approach where a core group of VI and sighted artists, collaborators and participants work together, this new funding will bring in additional support from writers, podcast makers and sound professionals, to help shape, edit and present the audio content into a series of twelve immersive podcasts for public broadcast.

The content will also feed into the next stage of developing PECo’s multi-sensory VI theatre piece ‘City of Threads’.

Between January and July 2020 PECo theatre will:

  • Support a group of core participants gaining editing, sound design, broadcast and recording skills through regular sessions.
  • Engage the wider VI community through 2 community workshops during the podcast creation process.
  • Host an end of project celebration and podcast launch.
  • Professionally transcribe and submit the new VI oral history collected to the Arnolfini and City Council’s archives to be lodged in perpetuity.

PECo’s artistic director Rachel Aspinwall had this to say; ‘We are incredibly pleased to have received this National Lottery grant. It will enable us to augment and deepen the work we have begun in the City Fellowship as well as creating brand new content that would not otherwise have been possible, all of which will allow us to further raise awareness of VIP’s stories and experiences, placing them at the forefront of city life, as vital, equal and relevant as any other’.

VI dance artist Holly Thomas, who along with Rachel is co-project lead for City of Threads and an Arnolfini City Fellow agrees; ‘One of the things that’s going to be really interesting is exploring sound design in the podcasts that immerses the listener more deeply. We’re excited to see how we might create immersive audio environments that give a multi-sensory embodied experience of our stories so that listeners gain a deeper understanding not just of the challenges people with a visual impairment face but also of the full richness, variety and vibrancy of our lives’.

Kieran Swann – Arnolfini head of programme; ‘We’re thrilled that The National Lottery Heritage Fund are joining us to support PECo theatre to make brilliant work – and support the transformation of Bristol and beyond. Arnolfini began working with PECo Theatre in 2019 through our City Fellow programme, with the generous support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation.  Across the year, we’ve not only been fortunate enough to see a new body of work develop – but to benefit from the insight and generosity of PECo and their collaborators, learning more about how we can make Arnolfini welcoming and accessible for the visually impaired community’.

The project will further benefit from strategic partnerships with Vision West of England and The Sight Loss Council and be a test bed for trialling and developing VI inclusive and accessible approaches and outputs across all project areas.

An evaluator will lead on designing ways to report on and share learning as the project progresses and then share that learning at project end with project partners and the wider arts and culture sector as a whole.

Marc Gulwell, Vision West of England, senior sight loss advisor; ‘Vision West of England is honoured to support this innovative project which brings unique opportunities to people living with a visual impairment and fully embraces Vision West of England’s ethos to support individuals with visual impairments in living full and independent lives.

Alun Davies, Sight Loss Council, Engagement manager [west]; ‘The Bristol Sight Loss Council warmly welcomes and fully endorses and supports PECo’s City of threads project. We believe the City of Threads Project is unique. It is a genuinely co-produced, collaborative project that we believe will have a significant impact’.

In addition, the findings and learning from the work will all be fed into University of Bristol’s scientific research as part of a UK wide ‘collaboratory’ into inclusive cities (UKCRIC).

Professor Ute Leonards, University of Bristol; ‘I am very excited about the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the ‘City of Threads’ project. This project is a truly interdisciplinary and participatory collaboration between communities, arts and science with the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about city design. Bringing the stories and experiences of people living with visual impairment to life, the project raises awareness of some of the daily challenges community members living in our midst face when trying to navigate our city. At the same time, listeners will become aware of facets in their environment impacting their lives they never noted before, enriching and changing their experiences. This will help the team to understand what it is that makes a city more inclusive and sustainable; a city in which everybody can flourish’.

Further info:

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Arnolfini City Fellowship.

In June 2019 PECo’s Rachel Aspinwall and Holly Thomas were appointed City Fellows by Arnolfini as a sighted and visually impaired [VI] artist duo, to run ‘Could this be the place?’ a participatory co-creative r&d, working with visually impaired people in Bristol

The Fellows project involved VIP’s journeying into the city, with a sighted partner of their choosing, to record memories, stories and experiences inspired by the physical spaces and places they travelled through as well as discussing ideas for a future city where VI inclusion has been considered and incorporated across the board.

All this material was audio recorded and is currently being analysed by the group for what it tells us about how the city is experienced by VIP’s and the creative ways in which this material can be shared experientially with the wider public in order to change perspectives and increase understanding and awareness.


Woven into the fabric of Bristol since 1961, Arnolfini is a pioneer of interdisciplinary contemporary arts, presenting an ambitious programme of visual art, performance, dance, film and music. Housed in a Grade II listed, fully-accessible building at the heart of the harbourside, Arnolfini is an inspiring public space for contemporary arts and learning, welcoming half a million visitors each year and offering an innovative, inclusive and engaging experience for all.

An internationally-renowned institution, Arnolfini supports and develops work by living artists, investigating their influences and aspirations, and celebrates the heritage and wide-reaching impact of the organisation by sharing a 55 year archive of exhibition slides, publications and artist book collection with the public and artists, inspiring new commissions.

2019 was a year of new beginnings for Arnolfini as they re-opened their spaces. Collaboration will be at the centre of their approach as they explore again their role as Bristol’s Centre for Contemporary Arts.  Arnolfini is supported by the University of West of England and Arts Council England. Find out more about Arnolfini’s current programme visit

University of Bristol and the UKCRIC Bristol Infrastructure Collaboratory

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Vision West of England

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Bristol Sight Loss Council:

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Below are the logos of; the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arnolfini, Paul Hamlyn and Pervasive Media Studio