The worst things about Bristol?

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..

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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’?

2/George Ferguson.

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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.

3 /Buses

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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

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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!!

5/ Londoners

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

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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.

7/ Clifton.

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Yeah, it’s nice and everything but it’s also amazingly false. You also need a second mortgage to buy a pint here.

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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.

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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.

A quick word about Vice’s article about Stokes Croft

Today Vice published an article about Stokes Croft in Bristol, and in particular, Chris Chalkley and the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. It’s essentially a publicity piece for Chalkley and the PRSC that shows no actual journalistic questioning and assumes Chalkley speaks for the majority in the area, while repeating the same old myths about the riots three years ago, not to mention the gentrification of the area.

I’ve spoken about gentrification in Stokes Croft before, not to mention the 2011 Stokes Croft riots which has been completely shaped to be something entirely different from what happened over the month or so when those riots happened. As said, the Vice article repeats some of the myths, or frankly, lies that have been spread by Chalkley not to mention a media mainly based in London. It doesn’t seem to also know much of the history of the area, for example:

For years, the area has been best known for its derelict buildings, squats and a collection of local charities that serve the homeless. If you’ve read anything about gentrification before, you’ll know that those criteria make it an area primed for investment; it’s an inner city pocket offering cheap rents and a bunch of affordable places to hang out, meaning students and arty people have moved in, giving it the cultural capital that developers can exploit on the billboards for their pricey new penthouses.

 

While it’s true that a decade ago Stokes Croft was known for it’s cheap rents, squats and (it still is) known for derelict buildings, things have changed drastically in the last six or seven years. It’s now a desirable area which means rents have skyrocketed, house prices have went through the roof and the area is being shifted towards catering for a young affluent community while the established community is quietly being pushed out of the area. Part of the drive to make this area attractive came from Chalkley and the PRSC.

I’ve commented previously that Stokes Croft is in the middle of a tug of war as multiple groups try to grab control of an area which has changed dramatically since 2007. Yes there’s still derelict buildings, the odd squat and if you’re lucky, a reasonably cheap rent but these won’t be there for much longer as the multicultural area becomes whiter and more middle class. In this Vice article Chalkley describes various ways to help but the detail is thin. the article also repeats the flagrant greenwashing the PRSC used to get the ‘93% of people are against Tescos.

Regardless of the PRSC and their plans, developers can already expect to face plenty of opposition in the area. In 2011, 93 percent of local residents objected to the opening of a Tesco Express in Stokes Croft.

 

There’s too much taking Chalkley and the PRSC at their word and telling their side of the story which ironically is one of the things which drives gentrification, not to mention getting the media in London to notice them which produces articles like this which is all window dressing but missing essential detail. Yes there is a mention of rents going up as if it’s something going to happen in the future as opposed to the here and now.

I’m glad the media are taking an interest in parts of Bristol that isn’t Clifton or the Suspension Bridge, but the misinformation and lies around Stokes Croft is frankly, fucking depressing. Of course gentrification has brought some benefits but a deeper investigation as to the motives of those involved is needed before the area is lost forever to the sort of people who’ve made vast parts of London utterly horrible. As I’ve said in my previous blogs, there’s a lot of people being moved away from the area silently through to having being priced out and their voice isn’t being hear in the rush to present Stokes Croft as a Hipsters Paradise. They should have their voice heard and journalists should question more and accept less because they’re fucking journalists……

 

The Stokes Croft Riots-Three Years Later….

On the 21st April 2011, a series of riots broke out in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol. They’ve generally went down among the media, and indeed, many people as the actions of local people protesting the opening of a new Tesco’s store near the area. In fact, that was an excuse because the reasons behind these riots are for more than anti-capitalist reasons. I’ve touched upon these riots before in a blog about gentrification, but here’s how things went down three years ago.

There used to be a comedy club called Jesters on the Cheltenham Road in Bristol. This closed when the club moved over the road to a venue which is now currently closed so this left an empty building on a road where there was a few empty buildings, including a squat just over the road named Telepathic Heights because of the graffiti plastered on it.

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There’d been problems in the previous years at Telepathic Heights but on the whole it was a typical squat (I lived in a squat for a few months years ago in Nottingham though there were just two of us and it was the quietest squat in the Midlands) with a seemingly endless supply of homeless people suffering from various addictions mixed in with middle class drop out’s playing at it, not to mention the anarchists, Crusties and the people you’d expect at a squat in the middle of Bristol. There wasn’t too many problems outside of noise, and sadly, walking on used syringes (I used to live on Sydenham Road which is just behind the building, so I know how bad it was at one point)  and all the detritus from a squat.

Around the autumn or so of 2010 it was announced a Tesco’s store was to open in the old Jesters building, which was to be honest, an arsehole move. At that time I was living on Bath Buildings, a road which would have been hammered by delivery lorries, not to mention it’d take business from the lovely little corner shop at the bottom of Picton Street.

A map of the are is handy just so people can understand the geography of what I’m talking about as this was all happening in a very compact area about half a square mile if that.

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In late 2010 a group of anti-Tesco’s activists decided to launch a campaign against it’s opening which is where things start to go a bit wrong, not because protesting against Tesco’s is wrong, but because of the methods used.

There was a survey taken of people whether they wanted a Tesco’s to open on Cheltenham Road, or as it was asked, ‘Stokes Croft’ even though Cheltenham Road isn’t Stokes Croft it’s in fact Montpelier.It’s important to note this because it’s a deliberate obfuscation as Stokes Croft itself had been sold as a ‘brand’, mainly by the PRSC who were trying to rebrand the area as ‘Bristol’s Cultural Quarter’. To many the actions of the PRSC were fine initially as it was about street art brightening up a rundown area but when they became more political and began speaking ‘for the people of Stokes Croft’ even though nobody involved with the PRSC has ever set themselves up for any election locally, things started looking a bit shifty.

Anyhow, back to the survey. This was taken on a few weekday mornings of people walking to work past the Jesters building where they were asked whether they knew a Tesco’s was being planned, and did you approve?  Nobody was asked their address, where they lived, or anything you’d expect from a group trying to get a survey together. It was essentially an excuse for No Tesco in Stokes Croft to proceed with this bit of street art.

The problem is that there is no way of knowing whether 93% of ‘local people’ said no, because at no point did anyone define what ‘local people’ meant, or indeed, even admit they’d not addressed the fact that they’d asked passers-by who could be walking from anywhere further up the road whether they lived in the area. There was no definition of ‘local’ Again this is a deliberate obfuscation.

You cannot conduct a legitimate survey like this without asking whether people live there or not, and you cannot get away with vague but self-important message like the above art, because it hurts the overall message. At this point though it was still a peaceful, though increasingly controversial protest because it seemed more to do with various people within the movement’s political ambitions in order to expand the influence upon an area that they’d built up in the previous few years.

I need to make it plain that local people were not asked. Houses round the corner were not asked. The only people asked were people walking to work. I’ve had it said that it was fair because it’s what organisations like Tesco’s do, which is a skewed argument if you pretend to take the moral high ground and say you have ‘local people’ supporting your cause, especially if you don’t live in the area as was the case with several of those involved with the protest at an organisational level.

By spring 2011 the sight of regular protests outside the building which would house the new Tesco’s was fairly common, but it again was all very well mannered and peaceful, if somewhat twee at times. There had been a few incidents at Telepathic Heights including one where Cheltenham Road had to be sealed off due to a man on the roof throwing things at people on the street, but again there wasn’t anything worse than that.

April 2011 was a weird month. There was a late Easter, which was to be followed by a royal wedding on the 29th April which was another long bank holiday weekend following the long Easter bank holiday weekend. The smarter among us worked out that taking three days holiday would give you a nice long break from work, and when the weather forecast looked to be warm and sunny this is exactly what plenty of people were looking to do so the 21st April was going to be the last day of work for many people for up to 12 days, if not more.

At the end of March/start of April, Telepathic Heights population boomed as people from all over Bristol, and indeed the South West seemed to descend upon it as it was the focus for the protest against Tesco’s. Some of these protests were less peaceful as the it got nearer to the store opening with things boiling over with people getting fed up in the week or so before the 21st of April with an all night party which ended up keeping people awake all night and drawing the attention of the police.

By now, the squat was home to a serious mix of people, many of whom were just there to get fucked up and couldn’t care less about the store over the road. It also didn’t help the situation that in the run-up to the bank holiday the squat’s mess spilled out onto the street outside, with all the wreckage you’d imagine. Things were tense to say the least as the police were acting upon Telepathic Heights because it was no longer just a squat, but a house which was full of people who frankly were looking for trouble to break out.

Thursday the 21st April was a warm, sunny day. I’d moved to the Gloucester Road from Bath Buildings a few months earlier, but my walk to work still took me past the new opened Tesco’s store, and across the road, Telepathic Heights.Outside the squat a couple of crusties were swigging from wine bottles at 8 in the morning on a stained sofa where they could leer at the new Tesco’s store across the road. The mess in the street was vile. That evening,  I’d finished work at 5.30, had a few drinks in the Full Moon at the bottom of Stokes Croft, and walked past Telepathic Heights about 6.30 or so and much of the mess had been tidied up but it was still unpleasant. Cheltenham Road itself was heaving as all the pubs and bars were full of people who’d finished work and were enjoying a drink.

I was heading for the Cat and Wheel at the other end of Cheltenham Road, which was my local, and where I spent most of the rest of that night watching things unfold and get lots and lots of first hand accounts.

What is agreed is that the police moved in around 9pm to evict the squatters of Telepathic Heights as they’d apparently been warned that there were plans to petrol bomb the new Tesco’s store. Now why the police didn’t evict people sooner, when say, locals had complained about the noise and mess is a bit of a mystery, as is why they decided to go in at 9pm on the Thursday before a bank holiday weekend rather than early in the morning.

What is also true is that the police went in mob-handed. Was there really a need for over a dozen wagons and hundreds of officers from across the region and from South Wales? Would not a dozen or so police first thing in the morning clearing out the squat been more effective than dozens piling in wearing full riot gear?

At the same time word was spread on social media about what was happening, so hundreds joined the crowds in the streets, which incidentally had been sealed off by the ridiculous amount of police vans.

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A mix of heavy handed police, a protest, and a number of opportunists who took this situation to have a riot meant that by 10pm a riot was in full flow. The following week riots broke out again during the royal wedding bank holiday, mainly because by now people had arrived who were looking for trouble and they got it. The events of these riots are all over the internet and Youtube. There’s plenty of footage of people being smacked by police, and rioters throwing bricks at the police.

This was not as some have said, a riot to compare with the St. Paul’s Riots in the 1980’s as that was about racial prejudice from the police, and the working class families of St. Paul’s being treated like animals by the establishment. That was people who’d been oppressed spilling over with anger. This was about people who were a bit pissed off with Tesco’s taking an opportunity to cause damage to the very area and people they said they were trying to protect. There was a hell of a lot of shite written about the riots, but to see why there was another set of riots a week later one needs to draw attention to the national press, especially this article by Sam Allen in The Guardian which featured these two paragraphs.

I will never condone violence and smashing up Tesco is not my approach but I am clear that the damage caused to Tesco’s property last night is relatively insignificant compared to the damage Tesco has been able to inflict on this community.

Bristol City council has a clear choice now: continue to let Tesco trade and risk last night becoming a regular occurrence or support the community it is supposed to represent and tell Tesco to leave.

 

This was quickly picked up to mean ‘come on down and smash the store up’, and as far as I can see, Allen never had the decency to explain these comments which were just on the legal side of incitement. What also didn’t help was this account of the riots in the New Statesman by Laurie Penny which is a shockingly poor bit of journalism but features this paragraph worth addressing:

After the pubs turned out, more people turned up to join the ruckus. “There were a lot of drunks,” said “Sarah”, who lives near the Telepathic Heights squat (she asked me not to give her real name). “This was a totally spontaneous protest. It tapped into the tension that the area has felt since Tesco opened, a fear of gentrification imposed by the council. There were masked up, clued-up activists, myself included, but the majority were young people from the area who were up for kicking off and wanted the police to leave.”

 

And this:

What happened in Stokes Croft has stirred up Britain’s growing anti-cuts and anarchist movements, with supporters travelling from across the country to Bristol today. 

 

The first section features comments from ‘Sarah’ and suggest that gentrification is being driven by the council, but the truth is somewhat different. Until the mid part of the 2000’s (or noughties or whatever last decade is called) Bristol City Council couldn’t give a toss about Stokes Croft. It was only around 2007 or 2008 after gentrification had started that the council suddenly realised there was money to be made from wannabe Banksy’s and Hipsters moving into the area, and of course the PRSC were fully involved in all of this.

It’s also worth noting ‘Sarah’s comments about ‘young people in the area’. These are the kids who are pissed off. These are the kids who can’t live in somewhere like Stokes Croft because it’s now too ‘vibrant’ for them, so they’ve been priced out and shunted back in St Paul’s. These are the people who at every point in this never had their voices heard. We only heard this story told through people like ‘Sarah’ or journalists like Laurie Penny.

As for the idea that those riots were about austerity, that was shown to be laughable. History says otherwise. So what were they about? They weren’t about austerity, and they certainly weren’t about Tesco’s. There was anger about the police being so extraordinarily heavy-handed, and there was anger about the way they dealt with the evictions from Telepathic Heights. The problem was there were multiple reasons why they happened but it was a perfect storm of heavy-handed police, a squat which was out of control, a protest that was allowing this to latch onto it, locals angry about gentrification, and people just wanting to smash some buildings up and break some heads.

The effects were that local businesses had to close. People’s homes had to be repaired. People themselves who lived in the area had to pick up the mess while journalists vanished off back to London to witter on romantically how Stokes Croft means something, even though the gentrification it’s had has meant a drastic change. You now have Guardian articles suggesting Stokes Croft as somewhere to live as somewhere for a bargain half a million quid. Though there’s a comment in that piece supposedly from the person who set up The Cube worth noting.

Quite simply the area is undergoing gentrification but by a mulitplicity of agencies and groups. Its too early to know what will really happen but if you read the wikipedia entry on gentrification its hilarious. The branding of the ‘area’ by PRSC has been undertaken in earnest maybe but more and more it looks like an empty and shallow emotional solipsism unable to regulate its use of the street as a canvas (yes some people hate graffiti, or too much of it anyway). The area is just filling with people trying to feather their own nests or jump on the cash booster bandwagon.

 

And here’s the point. There was no protests at another ‘massage parlour” (brothel to you and me) opening at the bottom of Stokes Croft in  2011. In fact when I brought this lack of protest up with people who were part of the No to Tesco’s group, I was told that that was fair enough and it wasn’t as bad as Tesco’s. So exploitation of women is fine, but a fucking supermarket is beyond the fucking pale!

Three years on the area is gentrified. Not fully, that’ll be in a few years but it is as mentioned in that comment from the Guardian above, just now an area where various people are fighting for their own cut of an increasingly profitable pie with the people who lived there prior to 2007 being tossed aside and shunted away so wealthy students, Hipsters can live there. It’s increasingly losing the multicultural feel of the area and moving to a street which is becoming increasing less like what made this area of Bristol what it was, and more like London with businesses from there seeing the area as somewhere to expand into. It’s now like many other gentrified areas thanks to the new wave of people moving in since the riots especially.

The riots didn’t stir up the anti-cuts movement or the anarchists. They did give developers along with leeches like the chancer running the PRSC a chance to make something from ashes. but that something is only going to be for the people who can afford it. That’s the legacy of the riots. Not that a new progressive movement has seized the people of Bristol but a group of pseudo-liberal capitalists have exploited the area for their own gain and their own profit.

That’s the tragedy of all this. Something good could have come of the events of three years ago. It could have helped social injustice in the area, but it’s helped mythologise the area to exclude people from being socially equal so when you walk past one of the many cafes or bars on the street consider what the prosperity of the area is built on and who exactly had to pay for it so Bright Young Things can move in to take advantage of it.

One year later…..

A year ago I started writing this blog around the same time Margaret Thatcher finally stopped breathing, so two good things happened at the same time…

In that year I’ve written a lot of guff, some ok stuff and the odd thing I’ve been proud of. I leave it to the reader to skim through what I’ve written to work out which is which but I reckon I’ve done more good than bad, so at this first anniversary I’m looking forward to what’s coming up in the near future.

  • I hope to finally lay the beast of the Daily Bale to rest. I’ve not continued blogging about this because frankly, it doesn’t deserve to take up more of my time than it has and I’ve also done my bit to get the fucking thing in court. This isn’t to say I’ll never return to it, but after Joshua Bonehill’s sentencing, I’m leaving it.
  • My series of Glastonbury blogs have been great fun to write and I’m working right now on my history of 2005’s festival and here’s a wee clue for the title of the blog..

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  • Comics!! I’m planning something shamelessly nostalgic for Glaswegian comic fans of a certain age. I’ve also enjoyed doing my reviews not to mention my odd rant about the state of comics
  • Rants! This seems to have been something judging from the general views I’m getting that makes up what people want to read, so I’m working on a sequel of sorts to this blog about Stokes Croft in Bristol just in time for the third anniversary of the riots…

I’m also going to do some more ’20 best of lists’ as I’ve done with horror, SF and comic films with probably documentaries being next, though I reserve the right to change my mind on that. I’m also going to do some more odd stuff, some of which may be a wee bit more of the personal biography I’ve been threading through a lot of my blogs.

This means I’m finally going to tell the time I reenacted this…………

So thanks for the last year, it’s been different!

Things Can Only Get Better-The Myth of Gentrification

This is the story of how gentrification of Stokes Croft in Bristol hasn’t made things better, and hasn’t rescued the working class established community of the area from the poverty that they were in, and that gentrification was supposed to save them from.

First, a wee bit of background…..

Stokes Croft is a street in Bristol, though the name is now used to define an area which stretches from the Bearpit, a name commonly used for the St. James Barton subway and you can quickly see why it picked up this nickname from looking at it.

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I first saw the place in an piece on the late lamented Snub TV back in the 80’s during an item about Crusties and how to recognise them! Oh those crazy days! The sort of person that inhabits the Bearpit now tends to be the Trustifarian hippy, along with of course many people with drink and drug problems.

This is better than Crusties begging, or drunks falling around the place isn’t it?

No, actually it’s not. The problem is that since the area began it’s gentrification around a decade ago, it’s gained additional problems in that the previously established community has been usurped so that what actually, attracted people to the Stokes Croft area (the multicultural mix, the Bristolian culture, the cheapness of the area) has been replaced with horrible monsters like Shambarber.  After all the world needs a fusion between house music and  cutting hair….

If all this sounds cynical, then you’re entirely right but the point is that the Afro-Caribbean community is being pushed out. The working class in the area are being pushed out to be replaced by the affluent, and semi-affluent Hipsters who make area’s like Shoreditch in London such a chore to pass though.

I’m not saying that bringing money into an area is bad. but when an area like Stokes Croft is gentrified, then something honest is lost as the cracks are pasted in, and the undesirables are shunted off elsewhere to be dealt with in poorer areas. Gentrification distorts property prices, (an example in Peckham here) so local people of all races, colours and creeds are forced out to be replaced by the sort of bland mass of Hipsters and students which means you might get a nice craft beer, or a home baked pizza with truffles on it, but schools, libraries, and places where the community meet and mix are replaced by endless amounts of pubs, cafes, and bars which then create a new set of problems.

This of course leaves the people who lived there the choice to somehow afford to live where in some cases, they may have lived there all their lives, or more commonly move somewhere cheaper, which means that the ‘development’ of an area is often more like social displacement as people who’ve invested in an area are replaced often by people who come from a wealthier background who are buying the ‘authentic’ nature of an area but not wanting to actually go through the horrible messiness of living in actual poverty, or near anyone who isn’t like them.

Now if this all sounds bitter, twisted and just a tad hypocritical you’d be probably quite right. I am of course one of those people who in the early 90’s and 2000’s was part of the gentrification in my own wee way and of course, places like Bristol have always been places where people come and go so there’s a constant flux of what an area is like.

There is of course a fine difference between coming to an area and integrating with the established community and helping price and drive that community out. Organisations like the PRSC don’t help either when they clearly encourage the sort of development that drives people out, while at the same time pretending to be ‘working for the community’ when really they work for a small number of people, many of whom don’t even live in the area. There’s also the farcical No to Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which although they weren’t directly responsible for the riots in 2011 were highly influential in the depressing romanticisation of them in parts of the media. Considering that the area is supposed to have a stand against corporate culture, there was barely a murmur when the American chain Papa John’s recently opened an outlet recently even though their business practises are even worse than Tesco’s. I won’t even talk about the complete blank the PRSC and it’s supporters made when a new ‘massage parlor’ opened up in Stokes Croft, but I heard some insane defences of the place from people who were happily protesting a supermarket, alibet one which is swamping areas everywhere.

The point is that I’m trying to make in this long, rambling rant is that some change is good. Regeneration is good. Public art is good. New blood in an area is good. What isn’t good is social engineering and shifting out the poor so capitalist hippies can move in under the guises of ‘redevelopment’ to cleanse an area. It’s the tedious monotony of money and wealth winning over everything else.

We should question the motives behind gentrification and we should hold the people on all sides accountable while ensuring the established community isn’t left behind, or more commonly shunted off elsewhere so the newcomers don’t have to deal with them.

So there it is. I think the point I was making is we can all live together……

Pakis, Poofs and Pimps

I wouldn’t normally work on a blog on a Thursday night as I’ve just done an 11 hour day and I’m knackered but an incident on the way home angered me, which prompted me to do this. Also, excuse the title of this blog and some of the language in it but it has a point…..

On the way home I was walking through Stokes Croft  in Bristol and walking past yet another crowd of cloyingly dull middle class Hipsters hanging around braying loudly at each other in an attempt to be heard and seen. Harmless enough, if somewhat tedious.

Walking in front on me were two chaps in suits walking home from work. How do I know they were coming from work? Because I saw them walk from their office which was near mine, so we walked the same road from the centre of Bristol to Stokes Croft with me ambling away behind them.

Anyhow, as they walked past these Hipsters they started excitedly talking to each other which is where I walk by them to hear this snippet:

”yeah, yeah, two black guys in suits, must be pimps”

This made me snap round and flash them a look of ‘you fucking what??” , and I though the thought of ‘racist cunts’ had stayed in my brain but the look on their faces and the fact I felt my lips move told me I’d said it out loudly and scared the living fuck out of these kids as a large Scotsman is aggressively calling them racist cunts, which of course they were.

Now the point is I wasn’t so much angry at the sort of casual racism you often see, especially from privileged student Hipster types who probably haven’t lived in multicultural working class areas in their lives, but the fact that my calling them ‘kids’ downplays the facts that at 18 or 19 you should bloody well know better, regardless where you’re from or your upbringing because it’s the 21st century.

This is where I make my own confession here that when I was younger I regularly used to use language I’d never imagine coming out my mouth. I used to call the corner shop the ”Paki shop’ as many a Glaswegian used to back in the 70’s. Then I started getting Asian friends and I realised quickly the work ‘Paki’ was being used as a horrible pejorative mainly by racists, but people casually using it was deeply bloody offensive.

I was 12 when I learned that.  I even managed to get my mother to stop using the word (and she was very anti-bigotry) when she realised it was hurting people, as she’d been called a ”Tim” often enough in her life , so she stopped.

I used to throw around the word ‘poof’ like it was going out of business. I was even party to a horrible piece of vile homophobia disguised as a parody of American Flagg! called American Fagg! for a comic fanzine a bunch of us did in Glasgow about 1983 or so. All of us should have known better, and the artist went on to do better things and make a nice career out of comics so I won’t name them, but I know we’ve looked back at that and cringed like fuckity.

Then I started meeting gay people as one of the places people used to go who were a bit punky/goth/alternative in Glasgow in the 80’s was a club called Bennets, which was a very, very, very gay club. It was also astonishingly safe, and you didn’t end up with someone trying to beat you up with a lump of scaffolding because you’re trying to be Christopher Lambert from Subway, and you look a bit weird.

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Bennets was a learning curve. The regulars were very nice to us straights who would go in, and when the lads from AKA and SF Bookshop (Edinburgh’s book and comic shop) used to go out we always had a fun night out, and when even Pete Root (part owner of AKA and old married hippy) was propositioned by a young lad he took it as a compliment. In short, I grew the fuck up.

I was 17.

What I’m trying to say is we’ve moved on since then, and people shouldn’t take until they’re 17 to learn that calling people pejoratives or assuming bigoted things about people based upon their race, colour or nationality should really be a thing of the past as my excuse is I probably should have know better and I was a twat, but if you’re smart enough to go to uni, then you should be smart enough to realise that being black and wearing a suit doesn’t make someone a pimp and it’s actually fucking offensive. Especially in Bristol which has done to much to show that multiculturalism works.

My hope is that my calling these people racists in the street will shake them up in the same way I was, but I’ve got this horrible feeling it won’t and their sense of entitlement will only make them feel like martyrs as really, aren’t all black people wearing suits pimps anyhow?

Next time I really will crack on with the history of Glasgow’s comic shops in the 80’s, but this needed to be dumped off my chest……..