A little note before anyone gets stuck into this blog. 90% of it was written during Christmas 2015 as it was a sort of half jokey/half serious blog listing things that annoy me about Bristol that’d I’d list before heading back to live in Glasgow with a large part of it written before we had a change of mayor. Then I had a stroke, and then diagnosed with cancer which put plans on hold, possibly permanently, but now I’m cleared to travel I’m heading back to Glasgow. Looking back at this nearly a year later it’s odd reading it as if I wrote most of it now it’d have an entirely different tone and I even considered binning it though decided not to, so I present it here as it was written with the extra 10% thrown in to finish it off. Enjoy..
A blog post titled 10 Things I Hate About Bristol has been flying around for a long time now and it’s entirely true as Bristol can, and often is a fantastic place. However as much as I enjoy living in Bristol, there’s things which are utterly awful about the city beyond the usual image of Bristol as this hipster/student paradise that’s often painted in not just the London-based media, but local media which often skims over Bristol’s rather large problems, not to mention it’s horrendous local politics.
I’m not saying Bristol is a terrible, grim place,. It’s not, that’s other places but as my time here draws to an end as I return to Scotland and my native Glasgow it’s time to say a few things that I’ve been meaning to say for years but have saved it up for this…
So diving right into the list in no particular order…
1/ It’s no longer a ‘Rebel City‘
The above graffiti was displayed on the Portway at Avon Gorge back in 2011 shortly after the ‘Stokes Croft riots‘ which were supposed to be a signifier of Bristol’s ‘rebellious spirit’ but all the last four years has done is to show that rebellion can be marketed as one would frozen peas.
As the reasons for the riots passed into myth, legend and bullshit, the marketing folk fell upon Bristol so Stokes Croft, and indeed Bristol, was marketed to the hilt. After all, actual genuine rebellious spirit can be a bit scary as it might end up changing something, so far better to repackage it for middle class Londoners looking for somewhere ‘authentic’?
Ferguson is our first elected mayor. Everyone seems to complain about him but few voted for him. I didn’t vote for him, I voted for the Green candidate back in 2011, but enough people that did vote were taken in by Ferguson’s line in neoliberalism, not to mention his red trousers. Look, he’s wearing red trousers!!
Ferguson opened up the city for exploitation to private developers. Indeed, he’s transformed the city in ways that don’t benefit people of certain social and economic classes. If you’ve got money Bristol is a glorious place for the well off to enjoy, but increasingly being poor in this city is being made harder and harder, and it seems that our scarlet betrousered mayor does not think the poor, or indeed areas outwith the city centre or more desirable areas worth dealing with. After all, there’s not a lot of votes for him in Southmead but there is in Clifton or Redland hence why infrastructure and public services in the latter areas are massively superior to poorer non red-trousered voting areas.
Then again gentrification is profitable, for the right people that have invested in the right properties and an architect like Ferguson is doing what people like him have always done which is look after his and his like. The rest of us can go whistle.
Getting a bus in Bristol can involve a risk to one’s life if that is, the bus actually turns up. To explain, Bristol is an old city at it’s core so it’s really, really not designed for the traffic volumes it gets but rather than doing things like setting up a congestion charge zone in the centre, bringing back trams or looking at ways to get people living on the outskirts of Bristol into the centre cheaply and easily, the city has let things fester for decades.
So assuming a bus comes (if a snowflake falls then the city is locked in gridlock) you then have to hope it’s not rammed to the gills. In fact I’ve gotten on buses that have been so full people have been standing on the stairs clinging onto their lives by their fingernails, but drivers let people on. Then you’ve got to hope your driver isn’t reliving the best bits of Mad Mad: Fury Road and you’re not driving at 80mph up the Gloucester Road.
Bristol’s infrastructure is by far the worst of any city I’ve lived in, or been to, and I include London but that’s got a superb infrastructure compared to Bristol.
4/ Cabot Circus
If you’ve got a city famed for it’s sense of individuality and it’s then a great idea to build an expensive temple to consumerism and open it at the start of the worst recession in living memory. Opening a shopping centre that looks like a shopping centre anywhere on the planet is the least worst thing about it. It’s helped destroy shops elsewhere in the city centre but hey, it’s got some posh shops!!
The Bristolian dialect and indeed, culture, goes back centuries. Problem is with gentrification the dialect and culture is being pushed out the city to be replaced by Londoners. Lots of them. As a non-Bristol native myself I get the element of hypocrisy and the ebb and flow of cities means culture and language adapts while retaining what makes cities unique.
Then the Londoners move in and the city you thought wildly different just turns into an extension of the South East of England. That lively culture isn’t embraced by most of the people coming in, or worse, there’s a pale pastiche of a city’s own dialect and culture thrown back at itself by people with a shimmering contempt for it. Of course it isn’t everyone, but seeing areas change into a sort of Shoreditch of the west means Bristol has lost what makes it Bristol in parts of the city.
6/ Graffiti artists
I love street art. Most of it is great or brightens up an area. Some of it though is a two-fisted blind monkey-wank done by people desperate to be the next Banksy but in reality would end up being binned for even the Vision On gallery back in the day. Bristol is full of people like this. A word of advice, please give up the day job.
Yeah, it’s nice and everything but it’s also amazingly false. You also need a second mortgage to buy a pint here.
At this point if things had stuck to the original blog outline there’d be more things to moan about, but here’s the thing, for all the many, many problems and issues with Bristol I’m going to miss the place and the majority of people. As a city it is wonderful, but it’s also changed in ways that were I not ill and in need to regroup and recuperate, I’d probably stay in for years to come.
Looking back at the words of a year ago there’s a lot of simmering, internet rage. I especially like the slagging off of George Ferguson who is no longer mayor having been voted out in May and replaced by Marvin Rees who so far is a bit crap, but nowhere near as annoying.
Bristol is a glorious place. It’ll be for all the flaws a beacon of whatever the progressives and the radicals can make of it, even with the skin-crawling yuppie students trying to out-Barley each other. So cheerio Bristol, it’s been emotional.