Heritage, Identity and Belonging

Jamie Gill smiling, with a brick building in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Jamie Gill, Partnership Director at 1625 Independent People.

Every year, here at 1625 Independent People (1625ip), we support over 1,500 young people with experience of homelessness and care. As well as providing safe homes, we support young people to access good quality education, training, and jobs, helping them develop healthy relationships.

We are now embarking on ambitious plans to transform our charity’s base at Kingsley Hall, a Grade II* listed building in Bristol’s Old Market conservation area for sustainable, long-term use. We plan to create a safe and welcoming space where young homeless people can overcome isolation, develop skills, and rebuild their lives.

The Kingsley Hall project will bring people together to create new learning facilities, a youth-led social enterprise and new homes for young homeless people in partnership with Bristol City Council and the construction industry charity LandAid.

It is vital that young people feel part of the city, believe in themselves and are able to make positive choices about their future. Through participation in the project, young homeless people will build their sense of ownership, establish a positive connection with where they live and develop new skills and capabilities. Critically, they will be able to develop a sense of identity, connection, and belonging in the city – something they have often lacked in their early lives.

The project will broaden young people’s horizons and open up new opportunities through their interaction with universities, colleges, businesses, community groups and heritage organisations. The project will empower young people to build new healthy relationships and participate in every part of the project – from building design to developing the business plan and undertaking the construction works.

The History of Kingsley Hall

Kingsley Hall, with its medieval cellar and walls, has a history going back centuries. Following a period as a Conservative Club in the 19th century, it was opened in 1911 as the headquarters of the Independent Labour Party by the party’s founder, Keir Hardie.

The Hall has played a significant role in the history of social change in Bristol – from meetings of the Suffragettes to debating wars, workers’ pay and conditions, gentrification, and housing. The Hall’s link to social change continues today as home to the South West’s largest youth homelessness charity.

Working across generations

Consultations have shown that the social issues linked to Kingsley Hall are highly important to the young people 1625ip support. These issues range from campaigns for equality, anti-racism, and good-quality housing, to the history of slavery and migration in Bristol. 

We plan to use Kingsley Hall’s strong historical links as a platform for young people to sense of identity, share their views on Bristol’s history, and participate in new projects that tackle the social issues they face today. These challenges include access to housing; suitable, quality employment; and mental health. Young people will work with us to transform Kingsley Hall into a place they can be proud to pass on to future generations of young people.

Bristol’s History Commission’s Report on The Colston Statue found that age made the biggest difference in how people felt about the statue being pulled down. The Kingsley Hall project will bring younger and older people together. They will be able to share experiences and their views on the city’s past, present and future and hopefully build greater empathy and understanding across generations.

What young people say

You can see some of the young people’s views about the Heritage Project:

We can’t do it on our own – how you can get involved!

The project has come this far thanks to the tenacity and talents of the young people at 1625ip, and support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bristol City Council, the Mayor’s Office, LandAid, Every Youth, We are Bristol History Commission, University of Bristol, Historic England, and City of Bristol College. We are looking forward to working with many community partners including Off the Record, ACH Refugee Integration and Brunel Care.

If you would like to know more about how you can support the project, please get in touch with our Partnerships Manager, Hannah Camm, at Hannah.camm@1625ip.co.uk.

Are you a 1625ip Alumni?

1625ip is currently working with a group of alumni – members of the charity that have been supported by us over the past 40 years. Our aim is for our alumni to inspire the young people currently supported by the charity.

If you have been supported by 1625ip, or any of the charities (below) that came together to create 1625ip, and you are interested in joining 1625ip’s Alumni or would like to hear more about our 40th birthday celebrations, please get in touch at comms@1625ip.co.uk.

  • Wayahead (previously East Bristol Youth Housing) and Priority Youth Housing. The two charities merged in 2009 to create 1625ip
  • Youth Education Service (who joined 1625ip this year)