Inspiration City
A fountain pen representing a ship in Bristol harbour

Creative people are behind that quirky advert you walk past on the way to work, they worked on the movie you’ll watch at the weekend, and they help make your life easier through the millions of apps you can use on your phone.

But the starting point is always an idea. So how do creatives get going and create that spark when staring at a blank page? Where do we find inspiration?

Creative ideas often come from unexpected places. It doesn’t have to involve meditating at the top of a mountain many miles from home, but by being curious about your surroundings, the world around us can become a place of wonder.

Fortunately for us, we’re based near one of the world’s most inspiring cities, Bristol, and for many of us it’s the place we call home. So, we asked the team what places in Brizzle put the wind in their creative sails. Let’s embark on a ‘muse cruise’ to find out.



UNESCO included Bristol on its list of creative cities, highlighting its film-making credentials, such as Aardman Animations and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit. So, where better for our first port of call than our film team?

“There are some wonderful places to watch films in Bristol,” says Greg Marsh, Harleys’ Film and Animation Director, “but I love Watershed”. The appropriately named arthouse cinema and creative studio housed within converted harbourside warehouses is a popular cinema within Harleys. “I remember watching Midsommar there, which is already a creepy and sinister film,” says Greg “But Watershed’s setting really added to the experience, as it somehow felt both intimate and private, creating a sense of isolation which draws you in to what you’re watching even more.”

For James Harris, a keen skateboarder, independent film fan and our Head of Film, The Cube cinema in Stokes Croft is the destination of choice: “It’s a brilliant little cinema that not only showcases the latest films, but also supports the Bristol film scene. I’ve had a lot of skate videos premiered there. For young independent film makers, getting a platform to see your work on a big screen is an important step.” James leverages his experience shooting skate videos on his shoots with Harleys: “Sometimes I use my skateboard as a dolly to make shots as dynamic as possible, which also brings the advantages of minimal set up time and an ability to film anywhere. Plus, it looks pretty cool.”



From film faves to clubs and raves, as the home of trip hop, Bristol has a lot to offer the musically minded. “Music helps us understand the history and culture of a city, but it also has the power to bring people together – to dance, laugh and connect,” says Cielle Bragg, Content and Marketing Strategy Director at Harleys. “That’s what’s really inspirational to me and the music scene in Bristol really has something for everyone.”

Ken Hale, Chief Creative Officer, added: “As well as being a thriving hotbed of music scenes and genres over the years, Bristol has a wealth of great music venues for all kinds of gigs with great layouts and acoustics”. Cielle and Ken singled out Motion, a regular entry on lists of the world’s best nightclubs; Strange Brew, one of the more eclectic and interesting venues for live music and art, and two locations for seeing upcoming bands before they hit their prime: indie venue The Fleece, appropriately named after formerly being the site of a livestock market, and Thekla, a now permanently moored cargo ship.


Food and drink

Food is fuel for the body and mind, but more than that, sitting down in a busy eatery can be a way to explore new sensory experiences as well as chat, debate, and collaborate with other people. Our Digital Director Chris Taylor, had this to say about Bristol’s food and drink scene: “There are a lot of passionate individuals establishing restaurants and breweries, producing creative food and drink experiences that you might not have seen anywhere else.”  For sheer variety, it’s hard to beat the food stalls at St. Nick’s market, but Bristol’s foodie heart resides on the Stokes Croft/Gloucester Road strip, known for its fierce love of independent shops and high-quality food.

In this area of the city, it’s easy to treat your palate like an influencer’s passport as you navigate from Vietnam to Morocco, Korea to Persia, Sri Lanka to Ethiopia, as well as all the European and North/South American destinations you would expect. Whatever tickles your tastebuds, you can be sure to get a great tipple too. “If you like beer with your brunch, it has to be the Crafty Egg in Stokes Croft,” says Chris. “I often get the Kimchi mushrooms with added chorizo and a pint of Left Handed Giant pale ale”.



From crumbs to crypts, we head beneath Bristol Cathedral with Beccy Burgin, one of our designers and a lover of letterforms. For Beccy, venturing down to the vaults is a rewarding endeavour: “There are some beautifully ornate, hand-lettered plaques on Victorian tombstones. It’s so impressive – all the imperfections and subtle inconsistencies tell a story of makers who hand-crafted each piece with such care and attention”. Emerging above ground after a tour of the tombs will bring you to College Green, a small but beautiful public space that, in addition to the cathedral, is home to Bristol’s Central Library, Great Gatehouse and City Hall, two former entrances of which are now also gallery spaces for local artists called ‘The Vestibules’. Each of these buildings is listed owing to their historic and architectural significance, making the entire an area somewhere worth seeing for those with an appreciation for design.



For Yan Soar, an Immersive Designer and collaborator with Harleys, the natural world is a wellspring of ideas for her work building virtual worlds. “Leigh Woods has always been a source for inspiration for me, especially on sunny days. The weather isn’t always so kind in the UK though and one dreary afternoon visit sparked the idea of creating an AR filter that captures the essence of summer in this location, exploring its vibrant colours, sights, and sounds”. Leigh Woods is a sprawling woodland and a charmingly incongruous haven hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city just a short stroll from the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.



Going exploring on Bristol’s annual sculpture trails are a great way to discover the city and find places you may not have been before. Over the years, sculptures of Aardman characters, gorillas and unicorns have been placed all around Bristol for the intrepid to track down, before being auctioned off for charity. Our Head of Content, Stacey Williams explains: “I love the whole idea of the Aardman trails. I grew up in Bristol and having Aardman based here is a very cool part of our creative identity”.

Bristol also offers audio trails, including literary, ecclesial, and historical, which are a great way of discovering hidden stories around the city. “A large part of being creative means seeking out the things that leave you feeling inspired and with a desire to recreate that spark in your own work” says Stacey.

Being curious is one of our key values at Harleys. We are constantly exploring new ideas, seeking out intriguing stories, and asking questions along the way. So, next time you find yourself looking at a blank page, take a walk and see what you can discover around you.

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