By Marine Saint, Features Columnist and Subeditor
The Cube is one of Bristol’s hidden treasures: an independent arts venue showcasing local exhibitions, musicians and films located in Stokes Croft. Ahead of their exciting summer re-opening season, Epigram caught up with one of the microplex’s organisers to discuss the upcoming cinema programme, volunteering opportunities and diversity initiatives.
Established in 1998, the Cube has become a key part of Bristol’s contemporary art scene. One of its most distinctive features is that it is run solely by volunteers - a scheme which is constantly looking for new members to benefit from the free event tickets, discounted drinks, and varied job roles.
Part of Bristol since 1998, we were keen to ask the Cube how they have been operating and developing through lockdown to maintain a connection with their audiences. Edens Half, one of the cinema’s main organisers, explained how when Covid struck, they realised that without people going in and attending the building, the Cube was struggling to continue to be a centre-point for local events. Edens emphasised that the Cube worked on their events nonetheless: ‘It’s important to acknowledge that we have created an online presence through lockdown, but we’ve noticed this has to be supported by physically looking after the place that looks after us.’
In terms of public events, there have been online talks, and more recently in person workshops, gigs, and some children’s performances hosted by the cinema. Edens added that the recent increase of in person events has been a great benefit to volunteers, who normally come together to organise and run them, especially because they had to adjust to months of online social and operational meetings.
Grab your tickets for a screening and Q+A of This Aint Living on 27th July. Sparked by a friend becoming homeless, film-maker Patch de Salis sets out to share stories from some of society's most vulnerable, in his self-produced debut film, shot in Bristol. https://t.co/5l42Kqhl82 pic.twitter.com/YwkrrXsnqF— The Cube Microplex (@CUBECINEMA) July 5, 2021
The Cube’s plans for re-opening and onwards with lockdown restrictions easing is something the microplex is well equipped for, having had years of practise in responding quickly to hosting new events. Edens described how during Covid restrictions, ‘it’s been really amazing, but also incredibly difficult and sometimes testing to see events being put on under these conditions.’ As the cinema looks three to four months ahead at a time, they are taking the changes to normality in their stride. Regarding the centre’s approach, he explained how ‘like all artists, we’ve been able to react to the situation locally and globally and pitched events that might be of interest or worth to people.’
The development of the Cube has evidently been facilitated by the volunteers who work there and the Bristol audience, allowing the content and experience to vary from day to day. Edens elaborated how this has been a part of the Cube’s identity: ‘Thousands have volunteered since the Cube opened, with varied benefits from the chance work in a cinema, to cheap drinks and meeting new people. Our volunteers all work in different capacities as the centre’s lifeblood and fuel.’
Volunteering as part of the Cube’s programme has previously been popular with Bristol’s students - something the cinema is keen to continue with the aim of attracting new energy to work there. Edens admitted that the Cube ‘needs that input and stimulation and as a predominantly night-time venue it needs younger minds and bodies to function and evolve.’
Whilst the Cube has proven to be a diverse venue, regarding the artists who work there and the art that is shown, this is something that they wish to progress. Accessibility is a key part of the Cube’s diversity initiative, providing access to a greater variety of people from different backgrounds, such as audiences that may not be catered for and those underrepresented in the arts who do not have platforms to show their work.
Edens expressed how ‘issues that people find pertinent make their way quickly into the Cube and through the programme to the audience. The Cube has always had that in mind, but we have to revisit this all the time to allow opportunities for people to come in. Rather than us trying to speak for the people, it’s a space to allow people to communicate what they want with our support.’
An example of the Cube’s versatile work and progress towards integrating greater diversity into their programme is undoubtedly the upcoming world premiere of Patch de Salis’ Bristol-based film on homelessness, named ‘This Aint Living’. Edens discussed how they hope to use the film to raise awareness of Bristol’s homeless population. De Salis’ first major film was shot in Bristol over several years around the Cube’s location in Stokes Croft and draws attention to the shockingly apparent disparity of Bristol’s living conditions.
‘This Aint Living’ is debuting at The Cube on 27 July ahead of its YouTube release via Patch de Salis’ channel on 6 August.
Featured Image: Epigram / The Cube