The University of Local Knowledge

ULK, 'Leonard Brown'. Image courtesy of Knowle West Media Centre.


The University of Local Knowledge (ULK) explores different forms of knowledge and reciprocity in teaching and learning. The project aims to uncover and celebrate some of the skills, knowledge and talents that exist within the communities of Knowle West and surrounding areas in the South of Bristol.


Since June 2010, 900 short films have been made, each featuring a local resident presenting their expertise in a particular subject area. Playing on a traditional university structure, each film, or ‘class’, has been assembled into a course, department and faculty. The initial mass of films will be uploaded onto a purpose built website and re-presented to the community and the wider world as a virtual University of Local Knowledge.

The films explore issues that are of interest or relevance to people in the locality. From growing organic vegetables, to coping with the affects of drug abuse within a family, qualifying as a balloon artist or engaging with the council about regeneration plans. ULK values the knowledge that we acquire through life experience and generates a context for the sharing of skills that are often unrecognised or undervalued.

In June 2011 a series of site specific live discussions took place across Knowle West as part of ULK. Bristol based academics were paired in conversation with local experts to discuss a subject of mutual interest. Each ‘seminar’ was an intimate event designed for a small number of participants to exchange ideas and knowledge on an equal footing. A limited number of guests were invited to observe these discussions with the intention of generating writing, research and debate about hierarchical notions of knowledge and power. The subjects discussed during the seminars were: Horse Welfare, Education and Exclusion, Grandparent Guardians and Mechanical Engineering

Suzanne Lacy

Suzanne Lacy is an internationally known artist whose work includes installations, video, and large-scale performances on social themes and urban issues. One of her best-known works to date is The Crystal Quilt (Minneapolis, 1987) a performance with 430 older women, broadcast live on Public Television. During the nineties she worked with teams of artists and youth to create an ambitious series of performances, workshops, and installations on youth and public policy, documented by videos, local and national news broadcasts, and an NBC program. Her work has been funded through numerous local and national foundations, including the National Endowment for the Arts and The Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Surdna, and Nathan Cummings Foundations.

Also known for her writing, Lacy edited the influential Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, published in 1995 by Bay Press, a book that prefigures current writing on politically relevant performance art. She has published over 60 articles on public art.

Lacy is the Chair of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. From 1987-97 she was Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the California College of Arts, and in 1998 she became Founding Director of the Center for Art and Public Life. In 1996-7 she co-founded the Visual and Public Art Institute at California State University at Monterey Bay with artist Judith Baca.

Active in Oakland cultural politics, Lacy was a member of Mayor Jerry Brown’s education cabinet and an Arts Commissioner for the City of Oakland.

University of Local Knowledge Trailer 1 from Ben Mudge on Vimeo.



  • Commissioner

    Knowle West Media Centre

  • Produced by

    Knowle West Media Centre

  • Partners

    Knowle West Media Centre, Arnolfini, BCC, University of Bristol

  • Supported by

    Bristol City Council, Arnolfini, Knowle West Media Centre, BCC, University of Bristol