What is Sparks Bristol?

Sparks is a department store with a difference, co-created by Global Goals Centre and Artspace Lifespace. From fashion and food to nature and energy, each department is designed to support people in Bristol to take easy (and often money-saving!) actions on climate, equality and wellbeing. 

On the ground floor explore a huge range of shops, installations, events and more. And upstairs is a hub for local artists, offering affordable studios, rehearsal and performance space.

Why is Sparks needed?

Everything in Sparks is designed to help people take easy, money-saving actions on climate, equality and wellbeing – the themes of the Sustainable Development Goals – and help Bristol to reach city-wide targets.

We are also supporting Bristol’s creative community with much-needed affordable artist spaces, and educating young people on real-life issues such as the climate crisis and inequality.

What Do we hope to achieve?

Sparks Bristol will be open at least until December 2024, and hopefully much longer! The unique combination of artist spaces, sustainable retail, education and reuse is a world-first pilot project that we hope can be replicated in more empty buildings in high streets across the UK. Sparks is also contributing to the following city-wide improvement initatives:

Global Goals Centre and Artspace Lifespace created Sparks Bristol in collaboration with The Invisible Circus. This project is a partnership project and we would like to thank all our amazing partner organisations that are supporting the project with funding and pro-bono advice.

How was Sparks Bristol created?

Sparks was designed and built by legendary creatives, The Invisible Circus, who transformed this empty department store into a hub of creativity, imagination and sustainability. 

Hear more about the build from our Creative Lead, Doug Francisco:

Let’s start with the creativity. You could ask why do we need so much of that creative build, that artistic element? Could it not just be a more stripped back ethical shop and community space? Well it could, but I’ve always believed in the power of art to engage people and fire their imaginations, which has been proven right to me over and over again.

Let’s start with the creativity. You could ask why do we need so much of that creative build, that artistic element? Could it not just be a more stripped back ethical shop and community space? Well it could, but I’ve always believed in the power of art to engage people and fire their imaginations, which has been proven right to me over and over again.

All the wood used in the build was recycled from the TV and film industry. We didn’t purchase even one sheet of new plywood for the creative build, a fact which I’m very proud of! Though this is worthy of celebration, it is also worth noting that it’s merely a drop in the ocean compared to what goes into skips every day from that industry.

Recently I was Art Director at Wake the Tiger, hence any similarity. We wanted to bring the same creative magic to Sparks to engage people with curiosity and inspire them to explore and discover. It’s a pleasure to be putting the art back in department store and I would like to give my thanks and respect to all who have helped make sparks fly.


Still got a question that’s not been answered? Get in touch at info@sparksbristol.co.uk and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

The ground floor of the building is open to the public Mon-Sat 11-6 and Sun 11-5.

Access to the upstairs will only be possible for pre-booked events, exhibitions and for people who have studio and creative desk space. Please keep an eye on our what’s on page and socials for upcoming events.

We aim to create a safe space for dogs and people. We do allow dogs into this building but please be aware that some visitors are nervous around animals and that there are likely schools and young people in this building.

  • Please keep your dog on a non-extendable static lead at all times
  • Do not leave your dog unattended
  • Ensure your dog is house trained and clean up if necessary!
  • Keep your dog under control at all times
  • Respect public or staff concerns and please leave the building if requested to do so with your dog

Unfortunately we do not have toilet facilities available for retail shoppers. There are nearby toilets in the Galleries in Broadmead.

From 9th June onwards, there will be toilets available for studio holders.

Unfortunately we don’t have public bike parking facilities inside Sparks. However, there are many cycle racks in the Broadmead area surrounding Sparks.

Yes, the groundfloor of Sparks is fully accessible and we have lift access to the upper floors, located next to the Department of Discovery.

Our contract is for two years but our tenancy is only guaranteed until Christmas. We hope to renegotiate this – but ‘meanwhile use’ is just that – we get use of the building only until the Landlord decides what to do with it.

Sparks Bristol is a charity project. We rely on a fantastic group of sponsors to cover running costs such as project management, security, lifts, water tests, electrical work, transformation, cleaning and more.

Artspace Lifespace are using a loan to fund the project which will be repaid through traders and artists paying a licence fee (rather like rent) to be here and hireable income on the first floor.

We have also received a £7.5k grant from the Vacant Commercial Property Scheme through Bristol City Council.

Front of house retail on the Broadmead side costs £14 per sqm per month, Front of house retail on the Horsefair side costs £13.50 per sqm per month, and middle of the store costs £12.50 per sqm per month.

Private artist studios are between £12.50 per sqm per month (no windows) to £18 per sqm per month (windows). Desk space costs between £70 to £120 per month. All costs are included in this license fee.

To enquire about hiring a space, please get in touch via our contact page.

Sparks Bristol and the Department of Fashion believe that Jess Grey Leather provides a point of difference to the offering we provide in the push for sustainability at Sparks. We do, however accept that some people will not approve of the use of leather and respect their decision not to buy leather products. There is no one route to sustainability and we value debate and discussion around it.  

Jess Grey Leather was selected to trade with us because of her excellent craftsmanship, providing long-lasting goods, made of sustainable, locally sourced materials that are a waste product of the meat and dairy industries. Jess explains more about her products and their sustainability below.


In contrast to the highly unsustainable ‘fast fashion’ industry, I use techniques and materials that allow me to produce items designed to last a lifetime and be passed to the next generation. My products are easily repairable and do not have elements that are likely to fail over time like zips or fabric linings. I use solid brass or stainless-steel fittings that are less likely to break than cheaper alternatives and hand saddle-stitch my bags using beeswax linen thread, which is far more durable than machine stitching. I also offer a lifetime repairs warranty on most products. 

Leather alternatives:

I don’t claim that leather is perfect, and I respect those who do not wish to use animal-based products. However, leather is hugely misunderstood by many consumers and the conversation around its sustainability is often shut down in favour of non-animal-based alternatives. While there are many materials being developed that could offer sustainable alternatives, most of these are not yet affordable or widely available and many of leather substitutes currently available are made of or contain plastics which make them very difficult or even impossible to recycle.

Materials and processing:

I use British vegetable tanned leather for all my products. All the hides (animal skins) used are a waste product from the UK dairy and meat industry and a cow is never raised and killed for its hide. At least half (UK stats vary from 40%-90%) of the hides produced by the dairy and meat industry in the UK go straight to landfill or bio incineration. I minimise the environmental impact of transporting my raw materials by sourcing my leather from Bristol’s two nearest tanneries, both of which have quality and sustainability at their core (Thomas Ware and Son: http://www.thomasware.co.uk and J&FJ Bakers: http://www.jfjbaker.co.uk). 

Vegetable tanned leather (as opposed to chrome or chemically tanned leather) is tanned with organic matter, often tree bark. This is a slow process that traditionally must be done for at least ‘a year and a day’ and results in leather that is incredibly durable and long-lasting but is ultimately biodegradable. I only use traditional hand tools, many of which are well over 100 years old, and use no electric or power tools.

If you have any queries around this, please email us at sparksfashionbristol@gmail.com.

We are proud to have used 100% recycled material to build Sparks! All the materials you see are recycled from Bristol film and TV sets. The doors of the education space are from the Crystal Maze and there are bits of Buckingham Palace and the Whitehouse!

All our staff, volunteers and partner organisations are committed to being sustainability champions, promoting recycling and reuse, avoiding single use plastics where possible, switching off lights and other equipment when not in use, minimising water consumption and travelling sustainably whenever possible. 

We want Sparks to be a welcoming, inclusive, engaging and supportive space for all. See our policy below for more information.


Safer spaces policy

We have created this policy to help ensure that this is a positive and inspiring environment for people of every background, circumstance and ability. Anyone who does not respect our safer spaces policy will be asked to moderate their behaviour or leave the building. This commitment is for the benefit of everyone. We ask for your support in championing these values and ensuring Sparks is a safe space. 


Our values

We are open and welcoming and will actively support and encourage everyone who engages with us. We value the individual knowledge of everyone in this building and encourage skill sharing and volunteer support.


Our commitment 

We will not tolerate any form of discrimination or any behaviour which makes other people feel excluded, vulnerable or threatened. Aggressive language or behaviour will not be permitted. Anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave. 


Your committment

We ask all Sparks visitors to make the following commitments:

  • Be aware of those around us
  • Listen to each other
  • Respect each other’s physical & emotional boundaries
  • Don’t make assumptions about another person’s gender, preferred pronouns, sexuality, disability, ethnic identity or life experiences
  • Communicate respectfully, even when challenged on behaviour
  • Be aware of language and behaviour and to think about whether it might be harmful or hurtful to others
  • If you witness or experience anything that you feel contradicts this commitment, please speak up and challenge the behaviour if you are able to and this won’t place you at risk.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable challenging certain behaviour please ask a member of staff or volunteer to help. 


Supporting vulnerable individuals

In the course of providing a service at Sparks, our volunteers, employees, and third party service providers may come into contact with individuals that may be vulnerable. These individuals are those who in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, risk of abuse or neglect. When this occurs, the following procedures should be followed:

  • One-on-one meetings with people who may be vulnerable are to be conducted in a public location or in an area that is private but visible to others.
  • People representing Sparks must never spend time alone with one child.
  • Sparks volunteers, employees, and third party service providers when contacting vulnerable people outside of work are asked to seek prior approval from the appropriate employee/leadership volunteer, and, in the case of children/youth, from the parent/ guardian.

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