In 2019 b-side was awarded funding from The Heritage Lottery Sharing Heritage fund to work with artist Laura Hopes on a film and publication celebrating the history of the Portland Stadium.
The majestic site of the Stadium, closed to the public, is monumental and surprising in its scale. Hidden from view in a former quarry, and behind locked gates near to the present day YOI, the site is unknown to many. During b-side Festival in 2018 the site was opened to the public for an art installation by Laura. Her work featured an astonishing sound work – the deafening roar of 5000 invisible football supporters emanating from the surrounding trees and bushes that now replace the terraces. The event was popular, emotional and awe-inspiring.
The football theme was a natural fit for the site as it was regularly used until the nineties by residents of the YOI on Portland, and in fact was converted to that purpose (from quarry pit to sports stadium) by their forebears, in the 1930s, under the guidance of a Borstal PT instructor, Burt Bridges. Laura was struck by the grandeur and emptiness of the site – known as the Bowl, in comparison with its heyday, filled with cheering fans, and this seemed to reflect the stories of those that used to play there. She wanted to reanimate the site, and turn this slightly forlorn corner into an exciting, awe-inspiring and dramatic place to be.
The result of Laura's research has been a publication and film celebrating the installation piece which includes recordings of conversations with visitors to the installation who had memories of the site. In addition, she conducted interviews with current residents of the YOI and collaborated with Professor Rosie Meek, whose research centres upon the rehabilitative power of sport behind bars.
Many of the images used by Laura for the publication and film have come from the incredible archives of the Grove Prison Museum with the support of Jon Hutton, a former Borstal Officer.
You can download a pdf version of the publication below.