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The five-year Bristol Housing Festival is imagining a new city

NewStart recently travelled to Bristol to see if the city’s reputation for creativity and innovation can help tackle some of its infamous inequalities. In the first of a four-part series, Thomas Barrett met Jez Sweetland, director of the Bristol Housing Festival.

As a first-time visitor to Bristol, it’s easy to see why the city regularly tops ‘best places to live‘ lists.

Good-looking people buzz around on bicycles and unpretentious cafes and pubs adorn either side of the River Avon — it’s not as uptight as London, as rainy as Manchester or as congested as York.

However, Bristol’s unique pull has come at a cost in the form of an increasingly lopsided housing market. Developers have moved in and prices have soared, leaving many young people and families left out of the conversation altogether.

To help incubate new ideas that address the city’s housing crisis and rebalance some of those inequalities, the five-year Bristol Housing Festival was born in 2018.

It’s hoped that by 2023, the festival will help drive through several modular housing communities in the city.

‘Innovation is always time hungry,’ says festival director Jez Sweetland.

‘If we always do what we’ve always done, it’s safe,’ he says.

‘That process to ascertain risk and discover new pathways takes time, effort and energy.’


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