Brunel's Bristol: A Photographic Competition

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The Engineer’s Corset is a new play written by Janet Goddard as a Community theatre piece: a play for Bristol about one of Bristol’s most famous engineers - Isambard Kingdom Brunel!  It was created by Louise Matthews Productions Ltd, Chantry Dance Company and Janet Goddard.

In April 1843 a coin lodged in Isambard Kingdom Brunel's windpipe as he performed a magic trick for his children. It was stuck for forty days before finally being dislodged: the famous engineer spending this time in fear for his life. During the play we meet four aspects of Mary Brunel (the wife, the mother, the socialite and the Victorian gentlewoman) as we follow Isambard's ordeal. His life and influence flash before our eyes as we hear conversations, memories and snapshots of life in the new industrial age. We learn of his parents, Marc and Sophia, of their time in Debtor's prison and Marc's patented tunnelling sheild. We hear of Brunel's bridges and ships, Box Tunnel and early railway travel. We learn of accidents and incidents, women at work, and Mary's efforts to maintain her position in society whilst her husband deals with his harsh and unfamiliar working environment.

With a cast made up entirely from the local community this is a play for Bristol about Bristol. To mark its launch, we worked with Louise Matthews Productions, Photographique, Redgrave Theatre and Bristol In-Sight to create the Brunel's Bristol Photographic Competition.

We asked the people of Bristol to celebrate the life of Brunel by photographing one of Brunel’s seven sites in Bristol  with the winning images displayed at Redgrave Theatre during all showings of ‘The Engineer’s Corset’.

Winners also recieved:

  • A complimentary ticket to the show
  • A family tour of the Clifton Suspension Bridge
  • A family ticket for the Bristol In-Sight bus tour
  • A Holga 135 Pinhole Camera or £10 in Photographique vouchers


Hobbyist Category


Winner - Steve Kemp: 'Dry Dock'

Steve Kemp

Steve chose to photograph M-Shed, launch site of the ss Great Western from Patterson's Shipyard. The judges particularly liked the lighting in this image, which draws the eye into the picture.

"I tried to use the colours and tones that you might find in a Victorian photograph. I took several pictures and was lucky to capture a single seagull in this one."

Steve's daughter told us "He loves photography and takes pictures wherever we go. I'm learning too and taking Photography as an option when I do my GCSEs."

Follow Steve on Instagram to see more of his images.


Runner up - Philip Watson: 'Toll Stars'

Philip Watson

Our judges enjoyed the unusual angle Phil had chosen for his picture of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and said it was a different way to view a familiar site.

"To capture this shot of the bridge, I had to get up very early in the morning." Phil told us. "The sky on that day was an amazing shade of blue!"

(We don't recommend sitting in the road - but if this is something you would like to do, please ensure you are wearing high-vis and complete a photography liability form which you can collect from either of the toll booths...)

See more of Phil's photography here.


Over 14 Category

Winner - Maggie Shapland: 'Swing Bridge in Heavy Rain'

Maggie Shapland

Maggie Shapland is committed to the conservation and heritage of Clifton, campaigning for the best areas of the area to be preserved. She is involved in the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society, the Clifton Roacks Railway and the project to save 'Brunel's Other Bridge' to name but a few.

"We were working on the Swing Bridge that day and had nothing to do until the rain had stopped." said Maggie. I just took a few shots while I was waiting!"

The judges loved the atmosphere of this picture, which shows two of Brunel's bridges at once. The liked the way the fine detail of the swing bridge was visible in the foreground. 

Read more about the bridge - and get involved with the resoration project!


Runner up - Geoff Wallis: 'Volunteers at the Swing Bridge'

Geoff Wallis

Geoff Wallis is an ex-engineer and is passionate about volunteering. "Just taking a few hours or days a month can make a huge difference" he said. "Volunteering is something I've done all my life. It's fun and takes you to some interesting places. I like to take photos of what's going on - capturing those little moments which might be interesting or amusing. I took a lot of pictures of the work on the bridge and wasn't quite sure which of my photos had won!"

Our judges enjoyed this shot, saying that it was important to show the restoration work in progress - but also that they enjoyed Geoff's humour!



Under 14 Category

Winner - Mitchell Densley: 'Signpost'

Mitchell Densley

Our judges liked Mitchell's approach to photographing a familiar site and enjoyed the detail on the signpost which shows the travels of the ss Great Britain. They said it was a nice introduction to the ship and something that often gets overlooked.


Runner up - Jordan Parker Webber: 'ss Great Britain'

Jordan Parker Webber

Our judges were impressed by Jordan's attention to detail, saying that they would not have noticed these bollards themselves.

Both Mitchell and Jordan are pupils at Knowle DGE, a specialist Learning Centre for young people with additional needs principally in the areas of Emotional, Social and Behavioural Difficulties (ESBD), Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD), Speech Language and Communication (SLCN) and Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) at the communicative, higher-operating end of the spectrum.


The Engineer's Corset is on at the Redgrave Theatre from 5th - 8th August at 8pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Buy tickets here.



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