Chief Operating Officer, Robert Kerse on the opening of the Staff Lounge in Royal Fort House

Opening the reception rooms in Royal Fort House as a staff lounge is a way to say thank you to each member of staff for their contribution to making our university a world class institution. Our hope is that it will be a welcoming, new space at the heart of the campus, for you to enjoy and feel is your own. A space to relax, read a book, grab a coffee and have informal meetings with colleagues and visitors.

I wanted to provide an update now to let you know how the project is progressing and give you a feel for what to expect when it opens.

In the consultation meetings about the Staff Lounge, the staff who took part told us they wanted a modern, not stuffy, feel and this has been challenging in a Grade 1 listed building! Our aim has been to get the right balance between looking after the building and being sympathetic to the heritage, whilst making it a valuable space for staff. So, we’ve refreshed the existing decorative scheme and put in comfy furniture.

We hope that the Staff Lounge will be a quiet space without mobile phones and laptops and so it won’t be a place for New Ways of Working. It will be open to everyone, all day, so it isn’t for meetings either but can be booked for evening events.

To enable us to open the space to staff as soon as possible, we’ve carried out a rapid refresh and it isn’t yet perfect – so please bear with us on a couple of things;

  • As a Grade 1 listed building we’re having to make a Listed Building Application for a ramp and Ucard access at the front. So, when we open, access will be via the rear garden door where there is an existing ramp. The accessibility provision currently isn’t up to the standard we would like, and we are working hard to resolve this.
  • When we open on 30 October the catering won’t be the full service we plan to offer from mid-November onwards, but we promise there will be tea, coffee and light refreshments available.

I see this first phase in the Staff Lounge as an opportunity to find out more about what staff want in the space and your feedback will inform what we do next. So please share your ideas on Yammer, or in the feedback boxes in Royal Fort House and we’ll also have a formal review in four months’ time. Your feedback is hugely important to us because it will inform the Listed Building consent application we make for future changes.

Our university is our people and so it is right that our staff are at its heart, with access to the best space that hasn’t been fully utilised in recent years. The Staff Lounge in Royal Fort House is just the start of the positive changes in the heart of the campus and I hope that it becomes somewhere we can be proud of, a new space that’s away from the day to day pressures of university life and a place for us to rest and recharge.

Does using your body make you happy?

Join a workshop at the heart of the campus on World Mental Health day to explore how moving your body can affect your happiness. It’s World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10 October and we’ve got lots of great events planned at the Indoor Sports Centre. As well as lots of free exercise classes, you can join in a workshop with a print artist Annie Nicholson, aka The Fandangoe Kid:

Annie, swathed in colourful, vibrant clothing, with a shock of blonde hair crowning a tall frame, has a story of loss so devastating it sounds almost too heavy to carry. It’s a story she has used to help others explore big topics like love, life and grief, through shared artistic experiences. 

In 2011, the artist lost her mother and sister in a car crash. “Nothing has been the same since,” she said. “For years I was completely derailed – it was sharing my thoughts in a public space that got me through.”

The artist says her public art is also designed to help remove the stigma that still exists around loss, mental health, and happiness.
“I’ve done a lot of movement and dance,” she said. “It’s not about telling people to spend ‘x’ amount of hours at the gym. “I want to explore how movement, any kind of movement or sport, can help you shed layers and work through something. I didn’t run before my family died, not even down the street. For me it’s what happens while you’re running.
“Running a marathon could be seen as a ritual – kind of like a meditation. Something as simple as having a dance every morning has helped me survive.”
The workshop can host 20 people and will begin with exploring the different concepts of narrative art, and how art can be used to express yourself. “I’d like to create a bit of a survival toolkit, and ask people to think about this, incorporating movement.”

The event is 10.00am – 12.00am in Studio 3 at the Indoor Sports Centre on Tyndall Avenue and is open to staff or students. The art we create will go on display throughout the campus. As places are limited, it’s important to book in advance.


We loved welcoming our students. Now let’s stay connected

We absolutely loved meeting you during Welcome Week, and talking to you about the Campus Heart, the University’s development programme to transform the spaces and services on Tyndall Avenue, creating opportunities for staff and students to come together to learn, get support and just relax.

We had a fantastic team of students who helped us on the stand opposite the new Indoor Sports Centre – and more than 300 students signed up already during Welcome Week to help us shape our plans.

Here are some of our favourite moments!

At the Welcome Fair, renowned print artist Annie Nicholson, aka The Fandangoe Kid, ran workshops at the SU tent to explore belonging at Bristol University. The art created during the workshop will be displayed on campus. Get involved to help shape your campus Welcome Week may be over, but we’d love you to get involved in shaping the campus and the next opportunity to take part is when Indoor Sports Centre officially re-opens on World Mental Health Day, Wednesday 10 October.

Take part in a free 90-minute exercise class (10.30-12.00pm) or print artist the Fandangoe Kid will be back to run a workshop to explore how movement can support positive mental wellbeing (10.00am – 12.00pm) – make sure to sign up for that.

As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any other, thoughts or comments, so sign up to get involved in the Campus Heart programme.


Celebrate the opening of the refurbished Indoor Sports Centre

Director of Sport, Exercise and Health, Matt Birch, celebrates the opening of the refurbished Indoor Sports Centre on World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2018.

For some time now, I’ve been aware that our Indoor Sports Centre on Tyndall Avenue has been in desperate need of refurbishment. Staff and students alike have told us they want a bigger and better gym, increased class capacity, improved changing facilities and faster access.

Two years ago, as part of the development of our new University Strategy, we decided to invest in our facilities and services on Tyndall Avenue to help create a new “heart” to our Clifton campus. Since then, we’ve invested £4.9m in upgrading the Indoor Sports Centre, improving it considerably and making it more appealing to a broader range of people. We’ve put in state-of-the art equipment, increased gym capacity by a third and our timetable now has over 100 classes every week. I am really proud to be at the forefront of the positive changes in Campus Heart and building our community of students and staff right in the centre of our university.

The newly refurbished Indoor Sports Centre officially opens on World Mental Health Day (WMHD), 10 October 2018 and this was an important choice for us. The theme for WMHD this year is young people and mental health in a changing world, which seems timely as our students return. We know that physical activity in any form is a great way for our staff and students to stay healthy as well as improving mental wellbeing. For first year students in particular, taking part in sport and physical exercise can be a great way to develop a social and friendship network and manage the transition from home to university life.

The strategic priority for the Sport, Exercise and Health division is to drive participation in physical activity, but what really drives me, and my team, is developing an inclusive sporting community that supports long term engagement. In fact, the design of our new sports centre is centred around inclusivity – there are big glass panes because we want to be visible, reach out and invite people in. Our message is ‘We Are Bristol’ and if you are interested in getting fitter and looking after your mental health, sign up to a new class, join a club or take out a membership and we’re sure that you’ll meet like-minded people and have fun.

One observation I hear from staff is that you don’t want to exercise with your students; ‘Fair point’! But there are quieter times in the gym which can be accessed via an off-peak membership and there’s a range of daily fitness classes and several staff social groups, in a variety of sports, most lunchtimes. We are confident that whoever you are, whatever you’re into, there will be something here for you – and as an added incentive we’ve waived our joining fees on 10 October to coincide with our opening.

Another light we’ve hidden under a bushel is our Sports Medicine Clinic, with a team of highly qualified physiotherapists, osteopaths and masseurs offering a high-quality service for our community at very reasonable prices. So, if you need to see a physio, just book in a session and come and see us.

To celebrate our official opening on 10 October our doors will be wide open to everyone from 10am-12.00pm. Sign up to a free 90 minute mass participation exercise class in the Sports Hall from 10.30am – 12.00pm; or take part in a workshop with print artist Fandangoe Kid to explore how belonging and physical activity can support better mental health. Wellbeing advisors will be on hand with advice and information about where to get support. My team and I look forward to showing you around.

Director of Sport, Exercise and Health, Matt Birch