Blog : Posts tagged with 'Bristol' : Page 2

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Slash, slash, slash

In which spending cuts may be a good thing


Following on from yesterday’s post about government spending cuts: there is, of course, one thing that would save quite a bit more money than freeing up some unused phone numbers. Regular readers of this blog will – especially if they were regular readers about a year ago – be very bored of me droning on about the West Of England Partnership‘s* ongoing guided busway scheme, which consists essentially of turning former and current railway alignments such as the Bristol-Bath Railway Path or the Bristol Harbour Railway into private roads for the exclusive use of First Group, at public cost. Rather high public cost, at that, as for any road scheme; and the first phase of the project would have no purpose other than to replace the current Ashton park-and-ride services with new, less useful, park-and-ride services from the same car park. Follow this link to read more.

Well, the local press has suddenly noticed that cancelling this scheme might be a nice easy way to cut the Department for Transport’s budget down a bit; and other local bloggers have had similar news on another poorly-thought-out local transport scheme. That big hole in the government budget, it appears, is suddenly going to mean no money for new roads, whether that be a replacement for Hartcliffe Way, or paving over the Harbour Railway so that bus routes 903 and 352 can avoid Hotwells Road.**

Reading that Evening Post article highlights, really, how pointless the guided busway scheme is. It goes to the new museum, an entire ten minutes walk from the Centre. It goes to the new football stadium site – as, er, do the existing park and ride buses. How many people want to get the bus between the two?

You might also notice a quote from Councillor Hopkins in that article. “An alternative might be a much cheaper ultra-light rail system, which was tried out on a short stretch of Bristol’s dockside several years ago.” He’s referring to a machine called the Parry People Mover, a small lightweight railcar powered by a flywheel that gets charged up at stops. I don’t see it happening, either. Parry People Movers have been tried at various sites, including the Bristol Harbour railway, but they’ve never seemed to last very long except for one location, Stourbridge (West Mids), a very short line with no intermediate stops. They need a railway line to run on, and reinstating the railway to Ashton Gate then extending it to Ashton Vale would be as expensive, probably, as building a road. Similarly, you couldn’t extend a Parry People Mover line into the city: you’d have to lay tramlines, for one thing, and if you were doing that, you may as well go with a real tram that doesn’t have to wait for a 5- or 10-minute recharge at each stop.

So: a short-for-cash government means no new buses and no new roads. In the long run, no new public transport is a Bad Thing; but new roads, public or private, always mean more traffic, higher emissions, and more oil used up. Hopefully, an enforced pause will mean we can wait for a while, until we can design a transport scheme that’s actually useful, not just one that’s easy.

* I do wonder sometimes what other local councils, like, say, Somerset, Devon, Dorset or Cornwall think of the CUBA local authorities claiming the name “West of England” for themselves and themselves alone.

** Because that, essentially, is all that first phase of the “Bus Rapid Transit” scheme, for all the work it needs, amounts to.

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Photo post of the week

In which we tour the neighbourhood


We’re moving house, soon, from south Bristol to east Bristol. As we’re moving, here are some south Bristol photos.

Bristol Sewers Underneath Brunel Way, Ashton Footbridge, Bedminster
Bristol bridges Bridge over the New Cut, Bristol Bonded warehouse and photographer, Bristol

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The art of walking

In which we look around other people’s houses and other people’s art


As I said last week, I’ve been planning to write something about this year’s Southbank Bristol Arts Trail. Because, well, it’s a local event, a local grassroots event, and the sort of thing that more people should know about.

The idea, if you’ve not come across it before, is: local artists either open up their homes, or exhibit in local community spaces, studios, workshops and so on. The rest of the local community spend the weekend rambling around the area, getting slightly lost, hunting down these little artistic spaces and finding out what’s inside. I’m not entirely sure I’d want to open my house up, because if we did, we wouldn’t get any chance to go and investigate anyone else’s place. That’s half the fun of it. That, and poking around strange, unexpected corners of the neighbourhood. I’d never thought that the back of North Street can be so rural: but turning the corner of Sydney St mid-afternoon, we surprised a startled-looking fox, who had been trying to quietly plot a route into a henhouse.

There are so many places on the trail – 54 venues, most of which we managed to reach over the course of the weekend – that it is tricky just to summarise all of the ones we saw. But I’ll try: there was stained glass at the Southville Glass Studio, photography at the Spanish bar just by it; a First Crush Wall on Ashton Gate Terrace; pottery and photography in a B&B on Green Bank Road;* various artists and furniture at the ambulance station on Raleigh Road;** seascapes painted by someone called Shirley Gosling who has an impressively-decorated house; a set of prints by a group of designers, and a DJ in their kitchen; Terry Williams, who I’ve already mentioned; bedroom music in Rachael Dadd’s house on Birch Road; decorated china on Hamilton Road; interesting bird prints on Leighton Road; tiles and various other things further along the street; some pretty handmade jewellery on Beauley Road; an intriguing and bloody installation piece above the reclamation yard on Park Road;*** some excellent screen prints on Howard Road; too much to mention at the Southville Centre; a variety of art and sculpture in a flat on Stackpool Road; typographical artwork on Greville Road; free happiness to take home on Mount Pleasant Terrace; pottery and photography in a garage further along the street; are you still reading?; close-up abstract photography in a flat on North Street; a variety of things including photography, live pottery and well-known printmaker Lucie Sheridan at the old pickle factory that’s now a bed factory on Braunton Road; drawings on South Street; illustration on Agate Street; a delightful little sculpture garden tucked away on North Street; live printmaking of seascapes on Chessel Street; landscape paintings all the way down on Thanet Road; stuffed toys on Aubrey Road; an illustrator whose work I’m sure I recognised on the opposite side of the street; an empty house with “NO ART THIS YEAR, MAYBE NEXT YEAR” in the window on Balfour Road; and a variety of art and things on Truro Road. And breathe. If you read all the way through that, well done. Personally, I recommend spacing it out over a weekend.

At some point I will go back over all that and fill it out with links. It demonstrates, though, what a variety of creativity and artwork there is in a relatively small part of this city, not to mention what a variety of homes people have.**** And, too, it makes me think: “why aren’t we doing more of that?” I’m sure we could, if we were willing to stay in and show other people our home, instead of going out and looking at everyone else’s.

* Confusing geography moment: I discovered Bristol has a Greenbank Road and a Green Bank Road, nowhere near each other.

** Including some nature photography, an artist who had published a book about his leukaemia, and some rather homoerotic studies of men in showers. None of whose names I can remember: this is why I should write my blog posts straight away.

*** Not just in the attic space above the reclamation yard, either; it continued down the stairs and out into the street.

**** I was particularly impressed with one artist who had a copy of McDermott & Clinker’s classic History Of The Great Western Railway on their bookshelves.

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Political football

In which we consider the World Cup bid


There’s been lots in the news lately about Britain’s 2018 World Cup bid getting into an embarrassing sticky patch, the FA chairman resigning after some unflattering private conversations were published, and of course there’s speculation that the bid may be over before it’s barely begun. Well, hurrah for that, I have to say.

I’m guessing that England’s bid has some rather flaky patches hidden underneath the glitz, anyway. This is because part of it involves Bristol, and the flakiness of Bristol’s part of the bid has already been well-publicised locally. To summarise for non-Bristolian readers: the bid depends on a new football stadium being built on a greenfield site. Part of it still doesn’t have planning permission, and campaigners are still trying to block the rest. The football club have previously claimed that they could only afford to build the thing by also building a housing estate – refused – and by selling their old stadium site to Tesco, which generated a rather big local anti-Tesco campaign. Tesco, presumably not wanting to be seen on the losing side of an argument, pulled out of the deal just before their planning application was due to be heard. Their place has been replaced by Sainsburys, who have a shiny website but not much else likely to swing opinion in their favour.

I’ll nail my colours to the mast straight away and say that I’m not in favour of the World Cup coming to England. I’m not in favour of it existing at all, in fact; but if it has to exist, I definitely don’t want it getting in the way of real life. Particularly, though, I’m not in favour of having to pay for it, which undoubtedly all of us will, especially if we live in a Host City. I’m also not really looking forward to having my home city turned into a corporate-sponsored advertising opportunity for a couple of months; because, let’s face it, if you follow the money-trail then the World Cup is nothing to do with football and everything to do with advertising the highest-bidding corporations; part of that involves turning the host cities into corporate monocultures where anything referring to those corporations’ competitors is strictly forbidden.

The local press sneaked a darkly threatening line into one of their recent World Cup stories: the bid is legally binding on the city council.* In other words, if England is unlucky enough to make a successful bid, that’s it. It goes ahead, and the city council is bound to deliver what they’ve promised. In other words, if Bristol City FC are telling the truth, if they really can’t afford to build a stadium without a supermarket, and the supermarket plans get thrown out, then presumably the city, somehow, will have to find a way to build it. The council could be in a nasty trap, either to approve an unpopular supermarket or to fund a stadium they’re obliged to ensure exists. Of course, there may be a way for them to get out of it; I really do hope there is.

That’s one of the problems, I suppose, in making a bid for something on the grounds that you have a nice stadium which doesn’t exist yet and doesn’t have funding in place. Presumably the people at FIFA who are going through all the bids with a fine-tooth comb will spot that England’s bid depends on at least one stadium which consists solely of pretty pictures and promises so far; and will want to know what’s going to happen should the money to build it not turn up as expected. Fingers crossed. Even so, I feel like patting Lord Triesman on the back; when it comes to England losing the bid, everything will help.

* Right now their website search seems to be down, otherwise I’d give you a link.

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Location, location, location

In which Ipswich is apparently a suburb of Bristol


Regular readers – if there are any left – might recall that back in January I spotted some TV filming going on in our neighbourhood, that turned out to be for a drama about prostitutes, drugs, etc. that wasn’t set “specifically in Bristol.”

Well, indeed. Because it turned up on the telly last weekend, and it turned out to be Five Daughters: a drama-documentary about the Ipswich prostitute murders of 2006. Apparently, the film-makers thought that Bristol’s distinctive Victorian terraces look just like Ipswich’s (former) red-light district. Or that Bristol’s highly-distinctive market, on hilly Corn St, looks just like Ipswich city centre.

Now, I know telly is all about editing, and it’s not actually real. But, even so, we were slightly amused by moments such as: a car driving past the same restaurant (“Al’s Tikka Grill”, also known as the “Hungry Bite Cafe”, on Ashton Road”) three times on the same journey, twice shot from the same angle.* Or, the way that Ipswich seems to consist solely of Ashton Road, a handful of roads off Ashton Road,** and Corn St. The way that they had used a real BBC Bristol reporter for their mocked-up news footage; and the way that the programme cut from clips of real news footage showing the real Ipswich, to shots of supposedly the same location, filmed in Bedminster and looking entirely different. I know it’s a drama, and I know their budget might have been a bit stretched, but I would have thought the crew would have put slightly more effort into suspending people’s disbelief.

* Well, he could have driven round the block

** There was also the A-One Cafe, near the junction of Duckmoor Road and Luckwell Road, and very definitely the A-One Cafe, its name visible all over the place.

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Awoken by the political hubbub

In which there has apparently been a lot of fuss over nothing


Well, yes. It’s been quiet round here, hasn’t it. And, as I’ve said before, modern politics makes me want to retreat further into a bunker. There’s a reason why the three sane-and-national parties are so close together in the polls right now: on the surface they’re so close together on everything else. Do you support the ex-public-schoolboy who wants to cut taxes on business and cut public spending, or the ex-public-schoolboy who wants to cut taxes for lower incomes and scythe public spending? Or, of course, the ex-university-firebrand who is also going to cut public spending, but not yet? If you don’t like those, there’s the right-wing fringe: the doddery old chap who leads his party from the House of Lords, who responds to most questions with “I’m not a professional politican, so I don’t know all the details or what’s in our manifesto – can you ask me the questions I wanted you to ask me, please?” If you don’t like his apparent lack of knowledge of most things his party plans to do, there’s always the Cambridge graduate* who thinks that Ireland is part of Britain, and that none of those nasty foreign types should be allowed to settle here unless maybe they’re from a country like France where potential voters might want to retire to.** There’s probably a left-wing fringe, too, but they’ve not popped up on my radar.

Having said all that, I do feel slightly sorry for the former university firebrand, who, I’m told, caused havoc with the administration of my own alma mater back in the 1970s. Because, to be honest, I’m fully aware that politicians aren’t angels. Practically everyone I know, everyone I’ve ever come across, is willing to be polite to someone’s face, then complain about them behind their back. We’re all happy to say things in private, when we think it’s private, and we don’t expect that our enemies are listening in. If there’s one thing you can criticise Gordon Brown for over the events of yesterday, it’s that maybe he was too polite in public, and wasn’t willing to stand up strongly enough for what he presumably believes: that people who ask vague and poorly-stated non-questions that imply they don’t like the free movement of labour in Europe are, bluntly, wrong.

My vote, to be frank, doesn’t exactly make much difference. I live in one of the safest Labour seats in South-West England, one which even Michael Foot didn’t manage to lose in 1983. To move it to either of the other parties would need a monumental local swing: 13% for it to go Liberal, 15% to go Tory. The last local elections did see some movement towards the Liberals in some wards, but not, I think, enough to unseat our MP. Because of that, I don’t have any real expectation that the option I choose next Thursday will make any difference at all to the overall result. I’m fairly sure I promised one of our local councillors, too, that there was no way I was voting Labour whilst he still wanted to build a guided busway through Ashton and Spike Island; he still does, I assume, so I feel duty-bound to uphold my promise. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats also seem to like the idea, so it looks like this may well be the first election in which I end up spoiling my vote. Having said all that, though, the fuss over Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy*** has had one effect on my voting intentions. For the first time in a couple of years, I’m considering voting for Labour.

* Robert Graves had a lifelong antipathy to Cambridge graduates. I must say, I think his instinctive reaction to them was wrong; but possibly, in this case, it would have been justified.

** Or they know how to build the nuclear power stations that he’s going to fill the country with, of course. I wonder how much uranium we have left.

*** Whose anger at being called a bigot is slightly tempered by the fact that she didn’t really understand what the word meant.

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Lights And Action

In which we spot some filming going on, so talk about something completely different


On my way home, last night and the night before, I noticed something going on along Ashton Road. Big floodlights, lighting up the whole street: some sort of night filming was going on.

Being intrigued, I went to the internet to try to find out what it might be. And then I checked my website stats, and found that people have been coming to this site, already, to try to find out what was being filmed. They can’t have got an answer, at least not from me. I haven’t been able to find a complete one, either, but I have found that it’s a drama about “the lives of young women who are involved with drugs and prostitution“, and it’s not specifically set in Bedminster, Ashton Gate, or in Bristol in general. Cheerful, then.

It reminded me, though, to say: you’d be able to tell, just by looking at my website stats, that the new series of Being Human has started now, with new extra dark edginess and even dirtier vampires than before. You can tell, because of the number of people who are asking The Interweb where it was filmed. To be honest, the establishing shots in the new series make it even more obvious than previously: most of them clearly show the street name. For new readers: the Being Human house is 1, Windsor Terrace, Totterdown, Bristol.* The pub, going by the exterior shots, appears to be along Henry St. K and I had a debate about the location of the car park in Episode 1: she said Trenchard St, I said Prince St; and the gay vampire’s house in Episode 2 was on Redcliffe Parade – as anyone who’s visited Bristol probably realised. Handily just round the corner from the hospital, in fact, should you have an urgent need to pretend to be dead.**

* Not in Cardiff, as one searcher seemed to think, presumably as the series was commissioned by BBC Cymru/Wales.

** In fact, I’m slightly puzzled now, why he didn’t pop up in the first series? After all, if you’re going through a major crisis and the self-proclaimed Vampire Leader is promising to destroy you, and you have a friend who has helped you in the past and is probably On Your Side … and he lives about 2 minutes walk from where you work, you think you’d probably pop round at least once. Of course, I know the real reason is that he hadn’t been invented at that point, but never mind.

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Photo Post Of The Week

In which we ignore the weather


Everywhere at the moment, of course, is full of photos of thick winter snow. Sometimes, though, it’s good to be contrary.

Freeland Place, Hotwells

Hotwell Road, Hotwells

Slipway, Underfall Yard, Bristol

Boats, Underfall Yard, Bristol

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Second Season

In which we spot something getting under way again


Fans of supernatural TV drama series Being Human, currently making its move up the channels to BBC1, might be interested to know that location filming for its second season is just getting under way.

How do I know? Because, on my way home yesterday, I spotted a chap tying up temporary road signs for the benefit of lost Being Human crew members. They’re bright pink, so you can’t really miss them.

Being Human location shoot signs

These particular signs are on Bedminster Bridge. “BH LOC” is pointing towards Bristol General Hospital, one of their main shooting locations. “BH BASE” is pointing, presumably, towards the expanse of waste ground waiting to be developed between Cumberland Road and the new museum: that’s where the shoot’s trailers all parked up when they were shooting the previous series, so I assume that’s where they are now.

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Stencilled Out

In which we join the queue


It is, according to Venue magazine, possibly “the biggest cultural event of the decade”. With it only having a few weeks left to run, we finally made it along to the ever-busy Banksy retrospective at Bristol Museum.

I said “ever-busy”: half an hour before opening time, the queue already snaked back and forth along University Road. It took us, in total, about 100 minutes of standing and queuing before we reached the doors of the museum, including the half an hour before the doors opened. A man and a TV camera walked up and down the line, asking people if they thought that Banksy’s mysterious non-identity was important. I wondered if it might be the man himself asking; more likely to have been an interchangable local-news presenter, though. He didn’t really resemble the photos of Banksy that have already been published in the press.

Coincidentally, the other day, Bristol City Council accidentally admitted that the mystery around Banksy’s identity is key to his financial success:

“[D]isclosure [of the name of Banksy’s limited company] may lead to the identity of the artist being at risk, which is crucial to his commercial interests”

Because – we assume – if you know that he’s a nice middle-class boy who went to Bristol Cathedral School, it does take something away from his “urban guerilla” image. But I’m not convinced that this matters too much. The important aspect of his “mysterious anonymity” is that it lets the viewer identify with him, whilst enjoying the glamour of the folklorique “cunning outlaw” figure. His work, too, is empty enough that you can subsititute your own feelings whenever you like.

You certainly get value for money at the Bristol show. Yes, I know it’s free; but I’ve been to free shows before and come away feeling short-changed. At Bristol, you first enter a room packed with work, before going on to two more Bansky-filled rooms. After that, there’s a whole museum to explore, with at least a couple of Bansky works or alterations in every room. It turns the building into a sort of game, a trick puzzle, which doesn’t really do the collections justice.* The items on show seemed to have been chosen to appeal to teenage boys, too: a dildo in the geology section, a bong amongst the porcelain. Hanging Banksy’s paintings – coyly attributed to “Local Artist” – alongside the museum’s permanent collection also doesn’t do his painting skills any favours: you notice the crudeness of his brushwork much more when you have better work to compare it to.**

It’s ironic that it was the Daily Mail who first printed Banksy’s alleged real name, because, from his work, he strikes me as the sort of person who claims to be radical and shocking, whilst at heart being inherently conservative, supporting rather than challenging existing prejudice. Take, for example, a classical landscape painting with burnt-out car added in the foreground.*** Its title? Landscape near Hartcliffe. A title to make the locals snigger – at any rate, the well-off locals who can look at the painting, laugh to themselves, and feel pleased that they are rich enough to live in a nice part of the city. Similarly, his paintings and statues of riot police behaving unexpectedly do their best to reinforce the stereotype of police being brutal, inhuman and mechanistic. Treating them with humanity and respect would, to be honest, be a far more radical and challenging standpoint.**** Most of the “great ideas” in his works aren’t that shocking or subversive at all; the sort of ideas that a GCSE art student might consider shocking and subversive, possibly. A painting of the House Of Commons Chamber, the chamber and press gallery both full of chimps, for example, is hardly a very deep and complex idea.*****

There is, I have to admit, one very very good thing about the whole exhibition. Two, really. It got people to look at some art, and it got people into the building. Most of the locals who were there, I’m sure, would never normally dream of going into their city’s museum, despite the quality of its collections. Making them aware it’s there has to be a good thing; making everyone want to travel round every room of the place is definitely a good thing, because it’s far too easy, with any museum, just to visit the one or two rooms you want to and ignore the rest. It’s a shame that this led to people treating the place like an Easter egg hunt, though; and a shame that the art they came to see wasn’t better art when they got there.

* I saw some people who were slightly confused by the rare Pokemon cards in the Oriental Dragons display, thinking they must have been a Banksy addition. No, they’re a proper museum exhibit

** Of course, his paintings are still rather better than I could manage myself

*** I suspect – with no evidence other than a good close look – that the majority of the scene is a printed reproduction, with just the car overpainted.

**** It’s also easy to nitpick at the many small, obvious mistakes. For example, that famous photograph of I K Brunel, exhausted and close to death, in front of the launching chains of his last great steamship, with a Banksy-added sign for “rail replacement bus services”. For one thing, if you want to make a comment about the railways, why not alter a more railway-related picture? For another, Brunel’s own railway locomotives were notoriously weak and unreliable, so much so that they were unable to maintain any sort of train service. I’m sure Banksy didn’t actually know that when making his picture.

***** I found it hard to decide how much of that painting’s shallowness was accidental. Was it deliberate that both the politicians and the journalists were turned into chimps, or was that just a piece of lazy and unresearched painting?

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