“It has been a challenge to get people engaged but once you get people to come and see what they can do, people get comfortable around each other and start asking questions” – Karina de Castro
What is/was your project about?
The Holy Trinity Church was built between 1829-1832 and ceased to be a functioning church in the 1970’s when the Church of England gave it to the Bristol Caribbean Community Enterprise group (BCCE), with a covenant to ensure its continued use for youth, community and arts activities. BCCE went in to liquidation in 1984 and Bristol City Council bought the freehold of the building, making extensive repairs and renovation works until it reopened in 1991, leasing the building to the New Trinity Community Association (NTCA). Financial difficulties led to the dissolution of the NTCA in 2000 and the building was closed once again.
Trinity Community Arts Ltd (TCA) was officially constituted in 2002 and set out to develop plans for the former Trinity church as a creative hub for East Bristol, keeping the original covenant of use in place. TCA subsequent application for community asset transfer to Bristol City Council was successful and secured a short-term lease of Trinity Centre in 2003, re-opening the building in 2004 as a community arts centre.
TCA registered as a charity in November 2011 and recently secured a 35 year lease from Bristol City Council to safeguard the future of the Trinity Centre.
The Trinity Centre was given to Trinity Community Arts in 2002.
Before that it was owned by various other organizations. It was consecrated in the 70’s.
Trinity is in the middle of three diverse wards, Easton, Lawrence Hill and Ashley and we engage people from all of them. 40% of our project participants come from BME backgrounds. It has been a challenge to get people engaged but once you get people to come and see what they can do, people get comfortable around each other and start asking questions.
What issues do you or did you address?
Community cohesion, we have a very diverse community and focus on bringing the community together. Our wards are some of the most deprived and diverse in the city, with a high proportion of single parents, people who are unemployed and young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training).
Our projects try to target some of these issues to engage people. Through our garden projects we work with children and young people, people with mental health issues, people who are lonely, unemployed young mothers, diverse community groups and people who are referred from groups like Mind, Second Step and Rethink. All our activities are free to attend.
What moved you to take action?
I trained as an architect in Mexico, and moved to the UK 10 years ago. I worked in Cambridge first in community development and I think the green spaces really converted me to the UK. When we moved to Bristol I worked as an architect for a year but as the recession hit I lost my job. I looked for something I wanted to do as a job and in 2009 I stumbled upon Trinity Community Arts and got involved as a volunteer. After 9 months I started to work part time, and became full time in 2011.
As part of TCA I became really interested in the garden project and helped to secure their first grant from Awards for All in 2012.
I now volunteer some of my time with the Trinity Community Garden, proof reading funding applications and keeping an eye on income and expenditure of the group. At the moment I am working towards getting the project fully sustainable and independent.
I see the garden project as a place that can make a difference to people, even if its just 10 or 15 people it affects their lives in a positive way.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
Reductions to funding, there is a lot of competition
2013 was particularly difficult as we had no major funding for the garden
in 2014 we had 2 fires in the Garden. The first one, we believe was done by people who broke into the outdoor kitchen, burning a large part of the structure. It all caught fire and burned site. The second time it was extremely dry and we think a cigarette but or something similar was thrown into the garden, burning several trees and part of the compost bins.
Homeless people also sleep in the garden and in the poly tunnel – most of them are no problem but some leave mess and rubbish, damaging the plot.
What helped you keep going in hard times? Was there a time when you thought you would give up? (What did you think or say to inspire yourself to keep going?)
The people who come to the gardening sessions, and the people who have put so much love and care into the gardens. We work with lots of people who are very vulnerable and the gardens have made a huge impact on their lives
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
I’m originally from the countryside and my grandfather was a farmer so I always used to see what he was growing.
I went into architecture and sustainability so I think I always had the environment in mind.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?