Vanessa Kisuule

Brick Me (2019)

Former Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule wrote Brick Me, a poem to mark the occasion of the start of the demolition of the old Royal Mail Sorting Office. University of Bristol worked with Vanessa to create a filmed performance of the poem, that captures memories of the past as we looked forward to new beginnings.

I don’t want to be a vessel for glib evangelising for the campus, as brilliant as I think it has the potential to be. This residency, for me, is a chance to think deeply about the stories we tell ourselves about the cities we hope to inhabit. It’s nigh on impossible to disentangle truth from myth, hope from delusion, blue sky thinking from bottom line economics. With the help of my fellow Bristol citizens, I hope to make work that holds this dissonance with humour and care, that understands the trauma that comes with change and also the hopeful progression. Rather than forcing neat conclusions, I hope to make work as messy, provocative, angry, complex, beautiful and compelling as the site itself.

Vanessa Kisuule


Dear Bristol (2019)

As part of her residency Vanessa Kisuule also devised a letters project. Together with four collaborators she explored some of the key issues and opportunities in Bristol, including: accessibility, education and belonging. Each of the five creative letters received a written response from a member of staff at the University of Bristol with links to the topic.

The project was an opportunity for people to share views on themes close to their hearts and elaborate on related plans and hopes for the new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

Royal mail stamp booklet design labelled: Your skeleton is made of scaffolding, You're a magic trick in slow motion.

Dear Bristol: Vanessa

(PDF, 282kB)

Royal mail stamp booklet design labelled: "Isn't that just lush?!" A little Bristolian accent! I think. Here we belong.

Dear Bristol: Tara

(PDF, 281kB)

Royal Mail stamp booklet design labelled: Carabiner by carabiner I will conquer your urban peaks.

Dear Bristol: Stephen

(PDF, 281kB)

Royal Mail stamp booklet design labelled: Education is a gift, but leaves us derelict if our syllabus lacks compassion.

Dear Bristol: Malaika

(PDF, 280kB)

Royal Mail stamp booklet design labelled: Bristol, where a stranger can enter at ease, leave with a friend and no one is left behind.

Dear Bristol: Birdspeed

(PDF, 280kB)

Wellspring poetry workshops (2019)

In January 2019, Vanessa Kisuule also ran a series of after-school poetry workshops at Barton Hill Settlement ( now Wellspring Settlement) with a group of school students of Somali heritage. The aim was to discuss the hopes they had for their future and whether the education system supported them in those. A visual poetry chart, below, recorded some of the lessons learned during the process.

Vanessa Kisuule also wrote a series of three essays reflecting on ethical facilitation. These were published as blog posts during the residency:

About Vanessa Kisuule

Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol. She has won over ten slam titles including The Roundhouse Slam 2014, Hammer and Tongue National Slam 2014 and the Nuoryican Poetry Slam. She has been featured on BBC iPlayer, Radio 1, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Blue Peter, Don’t Flop and TEDx in Vienna. She has appeared at an array of literary and music festivals and was Glastonbury Festival’s Resident Poet in 2019.  She has been invited to perform all over the world from Belgium to Brazil to Bangladesh. Vanessa is also a workshop facilitator with years of experience working in schools, universities, corporate events, prisons and youth centres.