Start Date: 1973

End Date: Ongoing


In 1973 local residents and community workers formed the St. Paul’s Area Community Enterprise Ltd [S.P.A.C.E] Also known as Inkworks due to the location.  The Original Aim was to “provide recreational and educational facilities for those persons who, by reason of youth, age, infirmity, disablement, poverty or social and economic circumstances within the area known as St. Paul’s and Montpelier, but in particular, for children of school age or under who are in need of such facilities”

The First Funding received was from Bristol City Council, Churches Race Relations Unit to fund a Library and to help fund a nursery and to employ the First Worker employed was Carlton Forbes.

Further Funding was received from the Government Urban Aid scheme to assist the whole community but in particular African Caribbean Youth.

Sheila Yeager obtained considerable funding from the Arts Council and Manpower Services Commission.   Errol Nelson took over her co-ordinator role.  1973 – 1978 the project was about cultural art and education.

1979 Kwame Benin was appointed as Co-ordinator.

1981 Inkworks was providing employment for 20 people.

During the mid eighties Inkworks increased their training schemes and offered the following:-


Carpentry Workshop

Arts and Cultural Programme of events

Photography studio

Library specialising in Black books and black history and culture

Extra-curricular classes for school children

Sports activities



Media Resources Dept

During the mid-eighties ‘suspicion’ turned into respect from the funders and authorities for the work that was being done it gained recognition from policy makers as a voice for African Caribbean Arts in the Region.  Garfield Allen was appointed as Community Arts Work in 1986 and as advocate for Black arts.

During this time the ‘Black Arts Forum’ was formed and later established as the African Caribbean Arts Forum [ACAF].  By 1988 Arts and Cultural initiatives were going from strength to strength.  Film and Video training schemes were being offered allowing trainees a voice for their experiences and a foundation for employment in media.

In 1993 building works and workspace units were complete with a purpose built main hall, meeting room and café/bar area as well as units ‘to Let’.

In 1995 the project was re-named KUUMBA [1 of the 7 principles of Kwanza, which means creativity] Names were also given to the other areas of the building:-  Library – SANKORE, Hall – SANGA, Meeting Room – RAS KWESTENGE SOKONI, Café Bar – MATSIMELA, Nursery – JUMOKE all to reflect the project’s African Caribbean focus.

The building was a regular meeting space for a number of groups including: –

Universal Rastafarian Improvement Association [URIA]

Imani Holiday Play Scheme

John Lynch Education Programme

Access Support Group

Black Writers Group

Other projects developed as a result of KUUMBA’s success such as:-

Salongo African Caribbean Music and Dance Resource Project

Black Pyramid Film and Video Project

Margins to Mainstream Project

BWERANI Play and Educational Resource project

Inner City Riots, funding squeezes and the change of Council boundaries presented many challenges in the 90’s.  The shooting of Evon “Bangy” Berry, a key working in the furniture workshop sent shockwaves through the community but out of this came an explosion of creativeness through the Arts such as the production ‘Inna Sense’ in 1996, performed at the St Paul’s Carnival and at Kuumba. This was a result of collective energy by people who were seeking to unite the community.  Roots of the Future was a photographic exhibition including over 400 images both historical and contemporary with support text, showing how Britain benefited from immigration and ethnic diversity throughout history.

This was followed by the expansion of the Arts Programme with Jazz Warriors, International Women’s Day celebrations,  Karen Alexander on Black female identify entitled “Black Women our Bodies Ourselves”.  Established Black British film makers had their work shown as part of ‘Black by Popular Demand’ and ‘Smile Orange’ by Trevor Rhone also proved a success.  Bad Boyz Comedy and dance performances in partnership with Salongo – Sis Agbe Aye – by Badejo Arts were all part of the success.

In 1997 premises at 23 Hepburn Road were purchased.

In the early 2000’s it all looked so promising for Kuumba, with exciting plans to develop the listed Old Carriage Works building in Stokes Croft into an arts centre that would reflect the city’s cultural diversity. But the £2.1 million development grant has since been withdrawn and in 2008 the Arts Council stopped their £110,000 annual gran, despite still receiving £38,000 a year from Bristol City Council and generating income through hiring hall space.  In 2009 Bristol City Council also withdrew its funding stating “it is no longer viable as an arts organisation and has very few activities for communities”  and “Although a symbolic organisation in the city, it has lost focus and its connections to local communities and would need to change focus and direction if it is to attract funding to rebuild the organisation.”


Kuumba Annual Report 2003-2004

Websites: BBC / This is Bristol /


3 Responses to Kuumba

  1. David Harris says:

    “In 1997 premises at 23 Hepburn Road were purchased.” So, when it was Inkworks, where was this actually located?

  2. poo head nasri says:

    22 Hepburn Rd, now 22-23 Hepburn Rd

  3. patrick anslow says:

    Can anyone remember or is anyone still with Kuumba from it’s conception.

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