Inside Cargo Loft: Stokes Croft’s free, 24-hour art studio is a mainstay of Bristol’s Afro-Caribbean community

Bristol is a haven for artists and creatives, with big names such as Banksy known across the country; put the city on the map as a creative leader. The city is home to many multi-talented artists who express their artistic abilities in different ways.

And it would seem necessary that a city that is home to so many brilliant budding artists have plenty of spaces where they can develop their art. This is therefore exactly the mission that the Cargo Loft has set itself the task of fulfilling.

Describing itself as “a working studio in central Bristol, provided free of charge to emerging creatives of African descent and the African Diaspora”. They pride themselves on providing a “creative work environment for emerging creatives in the city and being able to offer them the freedom to come and go independently.”

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The Cargo Loft is part of the Cargo Movement; the brainchild of Chaz Golding and Lawrence Hoo – who have worked to create meaningful and lasting change in the city of Bristol through a range of means, of which the free 24-hour studio is just one. The studio space exists not only to give young people the tools to create, but also as a hub for members of the African diaspora to come together.

And Cargo Loft residents find a safe space in the City Center studio; it served them all in different ways that no other place did. Residents say it serves its purpose and more with Prince Taylor, the Loft’s project manager, saying one of the main benefits is that the space is “flexible”.

“You can come and say ‘I’m going to be super focused today’ or, you can just relax, watch the library and tick in the background and do some editing,” he told Bristol Live. “There are no restrictions on what we can do,” added Khali Ackford, a photographer who uses the space; “the space allows me to focus on work without any pressure and without any money involved.

“There’s freedom to come here and continue your work. This space is different, we can come here and talk to each other openly. We’re all people of color, we’ve all been through different things – but similar things so get together and talk about it.

“We all leave here empowered and strengthened and for me that’s what it’s all about. We can work on what we want to do and work on things that we are connected by.

“A space like this allows us to continue working on passion projects. Without this space, most of them could not continue.”

The space offers young people a place to work, connect and learn

The studio space is equipped with everything a creator or artist would need and has no restrictions on who can use it and when. The tools needed to navigate a career in the creative industry can be expensive and often get in the way of many, but the Cargo Loft aims to break down those barriers.

“It was very useful for me to have this space here. I used this space to edit things that I now make money from. Before that I had no space and could not not afford a studio that I could now,” added Keyane Allman, a videographer who uses the Cargo Loft.

“It gave me a good start, it was a blessing when I didn’t have my own setup or my own editing software. Now it’s pushed me to be able to edit for music videos, or documentaries or short films.

“It’s nice that it’s local too. I feel at home here, I can use the space here and connect with other creatives,” Keyane said.

“Freight sees the potential in people, and they give you the opportunity and the space to grow,” Khali said. Residents also shared how the lack of strict regulation of spaces allows them to work at whatever suits them at any time, being open 24 hours a day, giving them the freedom to cultivate their craft.

“We all knew Cargo before working with Cargo. Their core mission resonates with everyone who works here – we do it for young people. the same view.”

“And in addition to doing our job, we get to work with Cargo on whatever they’re working on,” Khali said, explaining how those who use the studio to develop their work also use their skills to help the wider community.

“There are monetary opportunities and above all we can contribute to this mission.” “It’s work but it’s not work because we’re so passionate about it.”

A picture Khali took is on his desk
Khali’s photograph is proudly displayed in the Cargo Loft

A photograph that Khali proudly took as part of the Cargo team is in the Loft and shows a young girl sitting where the statue of Jen Reid temporarily replaces the statue of Edward Colston in the city center; as the Cargo team spent time talking with a group of children, teaching them different things and seeking to inspire them.

“The great thing about Cargo is that in addition to doing the other great work they do, they let other people do what they do without any connection and then you can naturally get involved,” said added Keyane.

And Cargo’s work doesn’t just benefit those who directly use the space – as they strive for wider influence; which will even reach the brand new Moxy Hotel in Bristol.

The new hotspot, which sits just off the M32, will host a creative piece that aims to celebrate St Pauls. And the Cargo Loft has contributed its talents to Art which will feature founder Lawrence Hoo’s poetry as well as some Kahli imagery and aims to inspire the local community; something that Cargo sees as the driving mission.

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