Bristol artist and Creative Exchange Lab Alumni Muneera Pilgrim has been researching co-creation and collaborating with women in Bristol to explore joy, community and care.

The Joy Project is a key part of a long-term programme We Are Bristol; a collaboration with Eastside Community Trust and Ambition Lawrence Weston to investigate how the tactics of live art can help us realise the concept of ‘cultural democracy’, a situation where we all get a say in what counts as culture, where it happens, who makes it and who experiences it. 

We have been exploring the merits of ‘slow working’ when it comes to projects made in collaboration with communities and partners. As a result, in the past year, Muneera Pilgrim has been resident artist researcher, taking time to explore and uncover new methods for how artists, communities and organisations can work together. 

To support us in our investigation, we have been joined by UWE PHD Researcher Frances Bossom and Evaluator Gaia Rosenberg Colorni. Along with Muneera, IBT and community partners, they have been part of a deep-enquiry into new ways we can build collaborative art projects, developing methodologies that can influence not only this project, but all aspects of IBT’s work. 

This project has three main strands, 

  • Ongoing research, dialogue and reflection
  • Workshops and co-creation
  • Dissemination and public sharing

IBT wants to be changed by collaborators, to evolve and be relevant IBT staff member

Reading Group 

The first stage of this project was a weekly Reading Group involving Muneera, UWE PHD Researcher Frances Bossom and Evaluator Gaia Rosenberg Colorni and supported by In Between Time. It ran for six months between August 2020 to February 2021; together Muneera, Frances and Gaia discussed texts by bell hooks, Adrienne Marie Brown and Paulo Freire, which in turn generated their ongoing dialogue around pedagogy, collaboration, co-creation, cultural democracy, care and how joy might be realised in practice by artists and communities at a time of unprecedented global crises.


‘The Joy Project’ emerged from this research and took the form of online workshops and were a collaboration between Muneera and women living in Bristol. Following an initial ‘taster’ workshop attended by 33 women from across the city, with a smaller group committing to take part in regular weekly sessions. We took a hybrid approach mixing analogue and digital experiences through materials sent in the post then used as part of online sessions. Through virtual workshops, during lockdown, the women involved used conversation, poetry and performance to explore joy, reflect on absence of joy and develop strategies for connectivity and care. 

At a time of extreme isolation for many over lockdown, together the group built an online community, while exploring the meaning of community, connection, intimacy and joy.

‘We seem to be going through similar things at the moment, everyone has the willingness to share...We just need a space to. Can providing a space be enough in itself when working with our community?’ Joy Project Workshop Collaborator

Charneh Watson took part in the Joy Project Workshops, she shaped her reflections on the experience into the following poem:


A moment of coming together

Connected by Bristol

We are here as curious women

We are here for Joy

Carried by our ancestors

A space shared in our truths, our stories and creativity


Take a breath


Carried by our matriarchs

A space shared in our intentions, gratitude and rituals of letting go


Take a breath


Carried by what is sacred to us

A space shared in intimacy, light and stillness


Take a breath

Bask in moments of quiet Joy

A moment for coming together

Connected as women

We are here to nurture

We are here for Joy

Joy Publication

Together the group have created a ‘Joy Pack’, contributing their poetry, provocations and ideas to create a package which can be sent in the post to support people to cultivate joy, connection and create space for personal exploration.

Pleasure, joy and relaxation become a form of resistance in a society that says we have to be working all the time. This is especially true for women when living in a society that doesn’t value us. Muneera Pilgrim


Emerging out of her collaborations with women who took part in the workshops and her own artistic explorations and research Muneera, will develop artworks and encounters for IBT’s future programme. 

There will further collaborations to continue to explore joy and what we need to connect with each other and build community.

This project is made possible with funding from The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Bristol City Council and West of England Combined Authority.

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