While we were making this film, letting the pink feather boa blow in the wind, the staff came rushing out shouting “We’ve been trying to catch one of you for ages!” They thought I was a base jumper, trying to parachute from the bridge! Extreme sports enthusiasts first jumped from the bridge in April 1979.
This story was made at a two and a half day digital storytelling workshop with a Brunel theme, for architects, engineers, photographers and anyone interested in the legacy of Brunel and his impact on the city of Bristol.
The workshop was led by Liz Milner, and took place at Watershed during March 2006 and was supported by Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and completed six years after his death in 1864. Since then over a thousand people have committed suicide by jumping 245 feet into the gorge below. Bristol and the surrounding area has a suicide rate by jumping of 9.3% compared with 4.9% in the rest of England and Wales.
[Latino dance music]
On a windy night in 2004 I found myself on the bridge during a first date with Julia Guadelope Bravo. She pulled a tub of bubbles from her coat and held the plastic blower aloft to use the gusting wind instead of her breath They danced around the illuminated supports, twinkling orange before diving into the black night and the gorge below.
And just because my mind works in funny ways, I imagined these bubbles being popped by the ghostly fingers of those who’d jumped. Playful souls in limbo, whistling around in the storm like those demons in the Harry Potter movies.
I thought of Sarah Ann Henley, who in 1885 following an argument with a boyfriend, threw herself from the Bridge. Beneath her billowing dress she was wearing crinoline petticoats, which slowed and cushioned her fall. I considered her initial frustration turning to amazement when she realized she was floating and not falling.
She was injured but was pulled from the mud, eventually recovered, and died in 1948 at the grand old age of 84.
[Sombre string/synthesizer music]
It’s said that physical places can become imprinted with extreme emotions, especially if there’s water nearby. So I wondered if the emotional energy-field, aura, or whatever you like to call it, of this famous Bridge, this place of endings and beginnings, was balanced, or not.
I’d like to think it was, and I believe that the contribution we made that windy night, that spark of new love, was a significant one.
All media not otherwise credited created by the story author, or permission obtained, used under copyright licence.