Darth Vader stands in the centre of Bristol

There’s been a genuine wave of affection after Dave Prowse’s sad death the other day, and in his hometown in Bristol there was erected a fitting tribute to him as the only, true Darth Vader.

It’d have been better to have The Green Cross Code Man because then the statue could have kept it’s Bristolian accent…

Nothern Soul Girl meets The Joker

Levanna McLean made a name of herself seven years ago with this still gloriously joyous video of her dancing to Happy by Pharell Williams in the streets of Bristol. Since then she’s carved a niche for herself as the UK’s leading promoter of Northern Soul to a new generation which is quite fantastic. She’s become quite the minor celbrity in Bristol, and her latest video is just a stroke of bloody genius as she becomes Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker from last year’s film but on Christmas Steps in Bristol. Last time I went down those steps I was heroically drunk so it’s nice to see a decscent somewhat more graceful than mine.

So, here it is, enjoy…

The fall of Edward Colston

At last the city of Bristol is free of the Edward Colston statue.

colston1

During the Black Lives Matter protest yesterday, crowds pulled it down and chucked the thing into the harbour where it suffered as watery a grave as some of the 18,000 human beings his company killed over the time it shipped slaves to the UK.

colston2

First, the Covid issue. As you can see from the second picture any social distancing there was broke down, and I’m assuming everyone there won’t be quarantined for the next fortnight so it means the virus will spread. We can’t excuse one protest because we agree with its aims over any others, so this now opens the doors for other protests which on top of what seems like lockdown fracturing means there will be spikes and this will put pressure on an exhausted NHS.  Other protests in the UK did manage distancing, and organisers did make it clear protestors have to quarantine afterwards, so that should be the basic minimum from now on.

As for the incident; good. That statue needed to go and for decades has been a smear on the city. When I first moved to Bristol and when I first found out what the statue was and who he was, it was outrageous that at that point in the early 90’s in a city which was so multicultural celebrated a man who brand human beings with his name. The problem is the name and acts of Colston are woven through Bristol to the extent it’d be impossible to purge it completely but it now falls upon institutions carrying Colston’s name to do what they can because frankly, if that isn’t going to happen now at a time when the world is focused on this, then it never will.

Bristol made its wealth through slavery, as did cities like Liverpool, Glasgow or any major city in the UK. In some cities a debate has raged for decades, in some (Glasgow for example) there’s only a serious debate starting now as to what to do with the names which hold the names of slave traders and trading, and also those institutions who are still financially benefiting from slavery even today.

Whether this moment leads to lasting change remains to be seen. We’re in a pandemic still and life won’t ever be the same once lockdowns are loosened further but there’s also a potential second wave being predicted, plus on top of that a global depression is coming so overall we’re entering uncertain times however these sort of times are hell to live through but it may end up with the sort of social change needed in the 21st century.

 

Do Brexiters know why they wanted to leave?

The UK has left the EU, though for the next 11 months we’re in the transition period which means taking all the EU’s rules without making any contribution to them. Brexiters though were overjoyed because they were getting something back but few could articulate how how it’d change their lives, assuming it’d change them at all. Fewer even realised there’d be no real effect on their lives til 2021.

/But overwhelmingly, Brexiters who’ve drunk the Kool Aid by the litre are like these two.

Now these women have been lied to. They’ve also not been taught to think critically, so they soak up the consensus opinions of the bubble they live in. They’re also thick. They were easily used and manipulated, and you know, sometimes people need to deal with the fact they’re thick.

But no, leaping out the shadows are middle class liberals piously defending these people.

brexiters

I’m sure many can but most won’t because we all know racism, xenophobia and a sense of ethnic nationalism drove Brexit to this point and beyond, but here’s people who are defending these people who’ve opened the door to the wolves. It’s always the nice, middle-class liberals who can ride things out who first fall in with awful things like Brexit hence why many are saying they ‘accept’ what’s happened as if you would morally sell your soul out to do such a thing under any other circumstance.

But this is what always happens. The fight is lost from these people so any fight back against Brexit and what it stands for will come from the sidelines in England at least. However you don’t defend people so stupid, so thick that they’ve voted sanctions upon themselves for no real genuine reason. They deserve contempt.

The long trip to Briggadoon…

This is the last post I’ll be making for a bit as I hit the tracks tomorrow to head south to spend a few days in Bristol before heading to Glastonbury on Wednesday. Just look at the site as it is now on the webcam…

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And the sunset, oh lordy that sunset!

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So after a funeral tomorrow I get to park all the problems in the world up for around 10 days.  I frankly cannot wait to set seat in my train seat and finally turn off tomorrow afternoon, but most of all I can’t quite believe how much I’ve missed Bristol and the South West.

But I’ll be back tomorrow night and although I don’t expect to post again before Glastonbury you never know but for now, stay safe and see y’all the other side of Glastonbury Festival.

Life is Golden

The other week during an especially tedious corporate team building/training exercise we did a thing where you”re to give away one of six things that mean the most to you. Everyone else picked ‘friends’ or’ family’. I picked time because if you don’t have, or indeed, make the time, then you can’t appreciate that which you hold the closest to you because you don’t realise as you live life that you don’t actually have much time. In an ideal world it should be down to oneself to decide what time they decide to waste, but the mundaneness of modern life enforces one to devalue time to the point where you never consider it, or worse, wish it away, to simply exist.

I say this as a friends back in Bristol passed away this weekend from cancer. I’ll not go into to much details as I’m unsure how much he’d, or his family, would like details splashed on the face of the internet, but needless to say it takes something reminding one of their mortality to appreciate time because for him his time is done, and we can only remember the times we all had drinking while watching the football, or talking bollocks in drunken nights down the Cat and Wheel, the local where a small community grew organically over the years.

Now that community which has been scattered over the last few years comes together to mourn and remember as we take the time to give one of our own their dues. It’s sad it takes an untimely death to remember how precious time is but while people remember you by taking the time to do so then there’s a part of you that never really dies. Instead you live on in the fractured bits of memory we all have of people never to fully fade out of existence.

In the end, once time has ran out for us all, this remembrance is all that’ll remain of us and that’s good because if you can get through life having an impact for the better on one person at least then you’ve lived a decent life and that’s all we want to do at the end of the day.

The Passenger

There was an interesting piece the other day in the Leicester Mercury about punks in the city in the late 70’s at a Damned gig at the De Montfort Hall. Now I wasn’t living in Leicester then, I wasn’t even a teenager back in Glasgow, and didn’t got a gig til Blondie at the Apollo in the early 80’s then I was off banging round the city seeing gigs in places like Rooftops, The Mayfair (where I first saw The Fall) and of course Strathclyde and Glasgow Uni not to mention the Barrowlands which has barely changed in the decades.

But in 1988 I moved to Leicester, experienced the joys the De Montfort Hall, the Princess Charlotte (still one of the best pub venues I’ve ever been in and now sadly gone as a venue) and of course the bus trips to Nottingham for whatever was on at Rock City. Leicester’s close location to London meant that I’d often vanish into the gaudy neon lit streets of London, specifically Camden and Kentish Town, though it’d not be unrealistic to end up in a pub or club in Soho to bide the time before waking up the next day in bed/on the floor depending on how lucky one got.

Then Bristol became somewhere I’d go to and again I’d experience the nitelife there, so my teenage and formative years up to my mid 20’s was scattered across the UK like precious  Infinity Stones as I didn’t just belong in one place, but many but at the same time I didn’t really centre myself in one scene but many.

Now, the point of all this nostalgia is this. Since my stroke and cancer, and in particular, since moving to Glasgow I’ve essentially become rooted in one place considering what I’m actually going to do for however many years I’ve got left but I’ve been doing my best to avoid making any actual decision by getting a job that vaguely pays or generally devolving any serious thought as much as possible. Well, tomorrow I go to the hospital for my 6-month cancer checkup and should, barring incident, be told only to come see the hospital once a year which means I can’t put off decisions or hide much longer. See I don’t want all my futures to be sitting wallowing in nostalgia, fun though that may be, but I want to create new moments and fashion new gems of memory to collect as time goes on that is beyond just existing and doing alright.

Tomorrow I may have to finally move on from the holding pattern I’m in and finally grasp the steering wheel of my life to guide myself to whatever is next. We shall see what happens…

Closing the Fleece in Bristol is cultural vandalism

I wrote recently about how the Thekla, a live venue in Bristol, was under threat of closure. The same threats have been hanging round the neck of The Fleece and Firkin, one of the UK’s oldest live venues.

Private developers have been developing office blocks opposite the Fleece for some time, but let us cut through the legalese and say exactly what is happening here. This is cultural vandalism for the sake of profit that isn’t restricted to Bristol, but London, Glasgow, or indeed anywhere across the UK where these venues are either ‘eyesores’ for potentially Millennial yuppies buying their flats next to a pub and are pushed to closure, or pushed to close for future private development.

Cities are being stripped of what makes them special. They’re being turned into places where all character is being stripped only to be replaced by a shadow of what it was but made safe and attractive to be consumed. It’s vandalism that won’t be opposed by any major political party as they too care little or nothing about keeping cities exciting and vibrant, but instead look wide-eyed at the wads of money brought to them by private developers. Fight these developments all you can because what’s coming are cities neutered and emasculated as this is gentrification writ large.

One year later…

This time last year I’d just returned to Glasgow from Bristol to recuperate, recover and take stock after a stroke/cancer/slipped disc/general falling apart. Basically I was in a mess this time last year and needed time out to get things together which meant doing things like learning how to deal with post-stroke pain, a slipped disc and everything else which made my first few months back in Glasgow hard.

I’d essentially fooled myself last year I was in a fitter state than I was. I was, to put it bluntly, fucked. Readjusting to the darkness of a Scottish winter didn’t help either, as mornings are a glum vision of twilight.

But thanks to the doctors, nurses and physios of the Scottish NHS I was able to pull enough of myself together to make the idea of living a life viable again. The mornings are still dark though.

So a thank you to Bridget, Hal, Andy, Mike, Lauren, Sloane, Steve, Janet and dozens of other folk that’ve made the last year easier than it could be as I now start to work out where to go next. I’ve not posted much on my current events as nothing much has happened barring being in work since July but with the comics side of things being slowly ramped up I can start to think about the future.

Loads needs still to be done. I’m still in lots of pain, and the phrase ‘pain management’ is an affirmed part of my lexicon. and my walking is slow but I’m walking which is something this time last year I couldn’t do without heavy painkillers. Rebuilding hasn’t been easy but once I work out exactly where I’m going I’ll be sure to let you all know…

Save the Thekla in Bristol

The Thekla in Bristol is a familiar sight for people living in the city, and if you’ve went out for a night since the early 80’s in Bristol it’ll have been someone you’ve probably turned up at in whatever state your alcohol tolerance decides is good for you. You’ve possibly even seen a gig there in its long history. In both my spells in living in Bristol in the early/mid 90′s and from 2000 for 17 years, I’ve enjoyed a night at the Thekla from seeing Edwyn Collins turn in a show in the 90’s to drunkenly trying to not fall over last time I went whenever that was?

Basically, the Thekla is part of the fabric that makes Bristol what it is.

However there’s a redevelopment across from the boat at Redcliffe Wharf where private developers promise…

a riverside location to work, live relax and enjoy

And…

Extensive external seating, a high quality public realm, and the proximity to a lively and active waterfront will all contribute to the attractiveness of Redcliffe Wharf as a place to work, live and enjoy.

Except take away the Thekla and you remove part of what makes that area unique, but then again you take the Thekla away and you don’t have any competition for the ”event space” and bars promised by this new development. Ah, ‘but you’re just a cynic’ you may say, but the system has been gamed against the Thekla because when the venue was tested for soundproofing it was their quietest days of the week.

Their main issue with the development’s application is that the sound assessment for it was carried out on a Monday or Tuesday night, when Thekla was not at its busiest or loudest, meaning the soundproofing installed at the new development might not be adequate, making it more likely for people to complain.

Now that’s a dirty trick. It also saves the developers money while getting rid of a problem. Of course Bristol Council will fight the Thekla’s corner as they wouldn’t want somewhere that helps gives the city the image it has to die surely?

Oh.

So the council is working with the developers. There’s good reason why the people running the Thekla are resigned to the development gaining planning permission and the venue having to close because the council will ensure it happens.  Too many people will be making money out of it, and if a vital part of Bristol’s cultural soul is ripped out then so what? The people moving in won’t give a fuck and as far as the developers and council are concerned it is these people who matter. So what if some teenagers won’t get to have fun, or people can go and see a gig when you’ve got a shiny, bland vacuous development probably selling £12 loaves for people to buy.

This sort of gentrification isn’t new, nor is getting rid of venues for redevelopment, but the fact is in cities across the UK it’s one-way traffic in terms of who wins these battles. If Bristol City Council want to turn their city into a bland paradise for people fleeing London then they risk destroying what Bristol is and the spirit that attracted so many people to come, stay and add to the city’s culture rather than replace it with over-priced flats in a tediously cold development.

I’m now back in Glasgow having moved last year from Bristol, and we’re facing the £12 fish supper as the Barras starts its path to gentrification (which threatens the future of the Barrowlands as a venue) but Glasgow, like Bristol needs jobs and housing, and housing that is affordable to people on minimum wage however those in charge of Bristol have decided the city isn’t going to be for those people hence the Thekla’s likely end.

It isn’t all over of course. Public opinion can change things especially if it shames a council and a mayor, so sign this petition, share it and if you live in Bristol write to your councillor, MP and MEP in order to cause as much of a stink as possible and hopefully the Thekla will survive. I’m not optimistic but I want to be proven wrong and just for once, the developers are the ones who have to jolly well fuck off.