Features

When did ambition become a dirty word in Bristol?

A culture that sees itself as one continuous collective protest eventually suffocates itself

29 November 2014

9:00 AM

29 November 2014

9:00 AM

When a man is tired of London, he just needs to relocate to Bristol — or so the stream of westbound émigrés would suggest. Each year, hundreds up sticks and flee the capital in search of its laid-back lifestyle.

Bristol prides itself on being the chilled-out alternative to the big smoke — a bit like Brighton, but further west and therefore cooler. Here they swap the ruthless capitalism of their blowhard cousins in London for giant water slides, balloon festivals and radical street art. But the city is still chippy about London’s cultural dominance.

I grew up in south Bristol, and went to the same school as its most famous export, the graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy’s caustic barbs — against politicians, priests and bankers — are a miniature snow globe of Bristolian attitudes. Ours is a radical city, the narrative goes, a repudiation of the square bureaucrats and businessmen in London. You guys can slog away on the capitalist treadmill all you like: we’re too easy-going for that.


A lot of my parents’ generation were exiles from London — many had been priced out of the capital and subsequently convinced themselves they’d never liked it there anyway. London was, as one friend’s dad told me, just ‘seven million people screaming me, me, me’.

Yet Bristol’s determination to define itself in opposition to the capital smothers the city’s vast potential. It is, after all, a genuinely beautiful place, with stunning Georgian terraces and easy access to countryside. But the culture is stifling — success, drive and ambition are treated not as virtues but as cause for shame. The city has, for many years, been nicknamed ‘the graveyard of ambition’: a label adopted with woolly-headed pride by the locals. It’s the inverted rhetoric of Bristolian exceptionalism — we’re the best city on earth precisely because we don’t try. As our chosen spokesman, Banksy, puts it: ‘People who get up early in the morning cause war, death and famine.’

How did this asinine anti-authoritarianism become the default position in Bristol? It seems to have arisen, in part, from the city’s uncomfortable relationship with its past. Bristol was the country’s leading slave port in the early 18th century, and the ‘Atlantic Trade’ generated much of its wealth and shaped its streets. The city has never properly confronted this difficult inheritance, finding it easier to sever ties with the past and generate a new myth: protest, counter-culture and environmentalism. But there’s something unsettling about pretending to live in an anarchist utopia, free of human conflict, in a place with such an ugly history.

Radicalism — or at least the forced mimicry of it — pervades all public life in Bristol. The city’s mayor, George Ferguson, describes himself as an ‘establishment rebel’. When a few years ago I worked at a community arts centre in the city, my colleagues celebrated the news of a nearby police station being trashed — ‘the effing pigs deserved it’, one told me. The following year a Tesco was stormed by rioters in Stokes Croft, a trendy area near the city centre. Their behaviour was met with a surprising level of approval, and commemorated by Banksy himself with his ‘Tesco Value petrol bomb’ poster. The Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, while denouncing the rioters’ actions, waxed about what she called the ‘People’s Republic of Stokes Croft’, with its ‘counter-culture: arty spaces, small venues, vegan cafés, graffiti-covered buildings’: the locals were ‘peacefully protesting by laying their bicycles in the street, playing bongos, a trumpet and at one point climbing on top of the bus shelter… to play their saxophones’.

A culture that sees itself as one continuous collective protest eventually suffocates itself, because it suspects everyone and everything of playing into the system. Many of my childhood friends were taught by their parents — themselves disenfranchised ideal-ists — not to try too hard at school. The education system was an outmoded relic of authority, designed to sap our natural creativity. Real virtues, they were told, would arise spontaneously and effortlessly.

Many of these friends did indeed develop virtues — kindness, cheerfulness and solidarity among them. They showed promise, but they never had instilled in them the burning desire to achieve anything. This, to me, is modern Bristol’s saddest legacy — a generation, now entering adulthood, for whom ambition and achievement are just dirty words.

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Show comments
  • red2black

    Nice to see there’s more to life than ambition, achievement and London.

    • yes, actually that’s the kipper motto.

      • red2black

        ‘Love Britain’ is the UKIP motto, or slogan if you prefer.
        The BNP claim it was stolen from them.
        ‘Love Britain, Vote BNP’ predates ‘Love Britain, Vote UKIP’. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4019269.ece

        • Wessex Man

          There’s nothing wrong in loving Britain, you should try it!

          • red2black

            I do – without making a song and dance about it.

          • Alex

            You can tell a true Briton by his self-deprecation – that is as close to patriotism as we get. It isn’t the British way to wave flags – that’s for new nations with no history like America and France.

  • wudyermucuss

    Stokes Croft doesn’t represent Bristol,nor does Wanksy.

    Bristol did once try to rival London,but its low tide river meant grounded ships.
    Hence “ship shape and Bristol fashion” and the new docks.

  • Marginalia

    This is a very partial view of Bristol. To generalize from the People’s Republic of SC to the whole city is hardly credible. You could just as easily say that the Bristol area has the highest concentration of tech companies outside of Silicon Valley and is therefore a beacon of entrepreneurship and innovation. That would be a partial view, but it would be equally true. Like all cities, Bristol is complex and diverse.

    • justejudexultionis

      Same applies to Brighton, where I live. It is significantly more laid back than London but it is one of the ten most economically vibrant cities in the UK. There are many web startups here, as well as annoying hipsters.

    • LastmaninEurope

      Bristol appears to have won a Progressive accolade for complexity and diversity. However the charge of a lack of ambition suggested in the article holds true.

      A mere 4 girls raped and used as prostitutes.

      Their complex and diverse counterparts in Rotherham, Oxford and Rochdale showed much more entrepreneurial verve and innovation.

      • realcountryman

        The “multi cultural” areas of Bristol, unlike London, are concentrated in 1 location more or less. The hipsters, students and trendy twenty somethings live in the same area, but everyone else lives out their normal working lives just getting on with it. However the Somali rapes were underreported no? The Guardian had no comments open for its reporting of the case. An utter disgrace.

        • LastmaninEurope

          No surprise re the Graund. Lying by omission is their stock in trade. But they are being exposed.

          I frequently visit ‘Komment Macht Frei’. I notice that, while the number of BTL for and against comments are on a par, those against the tenor of the article receive many more upvotes.

          This is not universal of course but holds true for anything regarding the EU, immigration and articles re the ‘RoP’.

          It suggests that the tide has turned markedly against the Cultural Marxist Progressives and their self loathing, multiculti dogma.

          Too little and late though for a number of young girls, and indeed the rest of us, is my fear.

          • Christopher Mooney

            How have you turned an article about economics, and ambition, into a rant about Muslims and immigration?

            I’d see a therapist my friend. You’re full of self loathing yourself

      • Alex

        Diverse need not mean ethnically diverse – it shows your preoccupations that you jumped on this.

        • LastmaninEurope

          No, indeed it need not; I too have access to a thesaurus.

          I confess to some opportunism. Who would not make the connection given the propinquity of this article with most recently revealed outrage perpetrated by immigrants to these shores?

          However, your patronising heads up betrays your preoccupation i.e. the reflexive desire of a Progressive to display their self righteous credentials.

          Have you admonished the Guardian via Komment Macht Frei for their preoccupation with the Ferguson shooting and the contrasting total lack of comment re this incident in Bristol?

          Thought not.

          • Alex

            It’s not self-righteous to point out when someone has been disingenuous. The neutral reading of that sentence would interpret “diverse” as “diverse in attitudes, lifestyle”. At least restrict your racism to articles and comments that have something to do with the subject.

            What propinquity is that, incidentally? I don’t see the slightest relationship to the grooming gangs, which I assume is the issue you are referencing so opaquely. You are the person who has brought this up unbidden when it is not suggested by either the article or the thread we are in.

            As for “Komment Macht Frei”, you obviously don’t realise the Stokes Croft riot, which I assume is what you mean by “this incident in Bristol”, occurred three and a half years ago. It would be most irregular if the Guardian were still reporting on it.

            At the time, the Guardian seems to have produced three CIF pieces on the Stokes Croft riot. This is generous coverage given that it was a minor action by hipster types lasting one night, while the Ferguson riots have extended over several months, been much more severe, and cut to the heart of a nation whose political fault lines have always been around race.

          • LastmaninEurope

            Disingenuous? I think I was very candid. Of course you picked up on it quickly , thanks to your PC radar, but so did some 27 confirmed others who also saw where I was coming from.

            Didn’t take you too long to throw out the Raaaacist epithet. You do know that is time expired thanks to people like you throwing it about like chocolate at Christmas.

            Anyway, tell that to the victims in Oxford, Rochdale, Rotherham and Bristol (more to follow doubtless). I expect it was uppermost in their minds as they were used despicably by these devotees of the ‘RoP’.

            Of course Islam is a religion (allegedly) not a race, so to be accurate you should have used that other favourite of the Progressive lexicon ‘Islamophobe’.

            “What propinquinty”. You really do appear to have misplaced your thesaurus what with this and you disingenuous interpretation.

            Which bit of ‘nearness in place and time’ of the Somali rape gang’s charming activities in Bristol and the publishing of this article, concerning Bristol just one day prior, is difficult for you to comprehend?

            “Unbidden” I don’t need your permission. Get a job as a Guardian Kmf moderator then you can exercise your secret illiberal fantasies and remove all those posts you know to be wrong -“Inside every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out”

            Sadly for you no ‘memory hole’ here on the Spectator.

            “Political fault lines have always been around race” Who says so? I thought it was “the economy – stupid”. And you accused me of being preoccupied!

            As I said, self righteous.

          • Alex

            You seriously need help … stop reading current affairs, it’s not doing you any good.

          • LastmaninEurope

            Devastating response.

            You start off by accusing me of a prejudice, subsequently betray your own, add in a soupçon of verbal ignorance for good measure and your final comeback (unless you decide to ‘phone a friend) is “stop reading current affairs”

            There’s that fascist, latent in all you dishonest Progressives, bursting through yet again.

          • Christopher Mooney

            You seem to think that flowery language elevates you above bigotry. It doesn’t

          • Christopher Mooney

            You seem to think that talking about bigotry, in eloquent, flowery language, doesn’t make it bigotry.

            Well, sorry, you’re on the intellectual level of any Sun reader

          • Christopher Mooney

            White people do terrible things to children as well, unfortunately. On the exact same scale.

            Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, and everyone arrested haven’t been Muslims. They’ve been white Christians. Hundreds of white people are arrested every year for these crimes I imagine. if not thousands.

            That just doesn’t seem to offend you, or upset you as much.

            Look inside your own brain.

    • Wessex Man

      This is a view of a Bristol that is entirely alien to me. I live 25 miles to the east of this fine City, have been proud of it as if it were my own, dealt with go ahead forward thinking business men and women all my buisness life.

      Yes it has some pretty grotty areas, any city does but it has more that are fantastic, the people of Bristol are amongst the most generous and likeable you could ever meet.

      Despite the efforts of George Ferguson and his idiotic friends Bristol still thrives.

      As for Stokes Croft, as any city Bristol has it’s desperate band of revolurionaries, who some years ago battled with the police about a Tesco Store and caused a fair bit of damage. We then had Penny Red Laurie Penny the public School Champagne Socalist telling the world ‘Bristol is burning!’

      I went to Bristol to watch my Football team shorty after and everybody was laughing about it and hoping the Council would use the event to get the brothers and sisters of the revolution evicted from their squats!

      • Liam_Coal

        Going on what I heard at the time, that riot is pretty misunderstood. It kicked off in response to a raid on a squat across the street, admittedly on suspicion that there was a plot to firebomb the Tesco. Responding to an escalation as people began objecting to the perceived heavy-handedness of the operation (there were dozens of police there), the police responded by kettling people and closing the thoroughfare – for hours. In that situation, frustration boiled over and the Tesco was smashed – it was already hated, so an obvious target once people got pissed off enough at being stuck there. Also, the Tesco’s was hated not only because it was an unwanted competitor / presence on the street, but also largely because Tesco had put for and gained planning permission under a different name – something unsurprisingly seen as corrupt and underhand.

        • Latimer Alder

          So where do the Bristol revolutionaries get their personal hygiene products like bog roll and hair gel if they don’t go to Tescos?

          • Christian

            Because they’re complete and utter ducking hypocrites, they go to tesco of course

          • Alex

            Well, quite: the very issue the Tesco Metro store threw up was the trend towards cartelisation and the death of choice in the high street.

            I know it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup, it’s not like we are priced out of bog roll and hair gel by monopolistic practices, and probably the actual rioters weren’t thinking about the issue but instead just jumping on a bandwagon. But still, to me your comment is what is ironic here.

          • Liam_Coal

            I’m not sure what your point is here?

          • Latimer Alder

            Just asking.

            Did they grow organic bogroll in their squat?

          • Rkier

            best, about 3:30 am. grab a pint of milk and a couple of cans while your there. ooh and some rizla….. shall we do balloons? yeh grab some anyway! ta. sugar…F%$ksake… ahh well.

  • Aardman have done pretty well. 😉

  • spiritof78

    Ridiculous. How to generalise about a large city with no substance or evidence.

  • Dan Jones

    wow. what a piece of utter, and actually harmful, nonsense. “ambition” defined by the capitalist agenda right here. claiming that “kindness, cheerfulness and solidarity” should give way to an ambition to move to London and earn tons of money. this is exactly the type of poisonous attitude that leads to parties like Conservatives and UKIP dismantling our country’s moral infrastructure.

    i’m from bristol but currently live in Portland, OR and work for a large company earning good money and i cant wait to get back home in next couple of years and start doing something far more worthwhile.

    • R Davies

      if you can’t wait why are you still there?

      • Dan Jones

        relocating is extremely expensive and i simply can’t afford to right now. but i’m saving to give my self the possibility within the next 18-24 months.

        • Wessex Man

          The people of Bristol will be most upset upon your return.

          • sebastian2

            Except that you don’t speak for “The people of Bristol.” So how would you know?

          • Dan Jones

            your name is Wessex Man so you are clearly more bristol than me.

    • sebastian2

      Ukip is rebuilding our moral infrastructure by, first of all, restoring it to the people. Currently it “belongs” to Brussels where so many laws and directives originate. That aside, moral infrastructure is not a sole political prerogative. Presumably you’ll return to Bristol with substantial assets. Whether or not you’ll do something “more worthwhile” with them remains to be see. Things may appear different then. Now, distance lends enchantment to the view. Be aware of that.

      • global city

        If only they were. They used to. but now they go on and on about immigrants, to the same audience that got the message ages ago.

        • sebastian2

          This may be because immigrants go on and on – so it’s a fairly pressing public concern. What’s more it’s one that perhaps invites the worst kind of smear and misrepresentation. So it has to be dealt with thoroughly and intelligently. But as you imply, there are other matters too. The biggest being our sovereignty and the repatriation of powers trickled away to undemocratic Brussels, our outrageous payments to Brussels, and the general unwillingness of politicians (Westminster) and bureaucrats (in the EU) to sense what we ordinary people think and feel about things.

          My view is that these other important topics will take their proper place very soon – as indeed they should. So chillax, pour yourself a glass of seasonal port …… and wait for the rest to come.

          • global city

            but they are not dealing with it thoroughly, which is my point. as I asked, do you need to be reminded of the issue in order to be convinced, if not, who do you think is being won over each new time it is raised by UKIP? Why do you think that they need to be told over and over again about the difficulties mass migration has caused?

            Do you not think there are other issues that need to be highlighted just as pressingly?

            If the EU were to surrender free movement, would you be content with that?

            The other half dozen core issues need to have as much exposure as mass immigration does, one reason being that mass immigration is but a symptom of even greater problems. They have raised the issue of mass migration and lack of control now.

            They need to put it into it’s context, or people will indeed begin thinking to themselves that UKIP really are only concerned with immigration….. then where’d we be?

          • sebastian2

            Yes, you make some very fair and perceptive points which I dare say UKip are mindful of. There is a lot of housekeeping to do over and above the immigration issue. The country’s ability to tackle this though, turns on the sovereignty issue: another major Ukip concern. Without sovereignty, we’re slaves to an unaccountable and remote Brussels. Sovereignty, Border Controls, our financial circumstances, global trade and wealth creation …………….. there’s a lot that the established parties have either neglected or been half-hearted about and that Ukip will have to tidy up. So let’s add, too, our diminished defences, a reduced police-force, the outrageous BBC tv licence fee, and the NHS’ focus on expensive management rather than on patients, nurses and doctors. I’m sure you can add more to this catalogue.

            Immigration may be the current headline item but there’s much more to it than this.

          • global city

            Yes, that’s my point. UKIP have to now show that mass immigration is a mere symptom of deeper issues. They also need to generate anger about issues like Defence in the same way they have immigration, which will add more people to the list of UKIP voters.

            As a vote increasing tactic, I think that immigration has now ran it’s course.

          • sebastian2

            Well, there are at least two of us – you and me – who are pretty furious about Defence: internal and external. Let’s go!

  • sebastian2

    I guess I know Bristol as well as you do Kit and feel slightly qualified enough to suggest that Bristol’s malaise has much to do with its left leaning city council and it’s vast rotten borough council estates that consistently vote their anti enterprise political benefactors back into power. The city’s attitude towards serious enterprise is jaundiced and suspicious.

    This is not to say things aren’t happening – the old Wills Tobacco factory has been renovated and turned into something useful and there have been other signs of life – the waterway area close to Temple Meads and – up to a point – the Waterfront and central docks. Here, though, the city centre itself which held much development promise, is a major disappointment: dull and uninspiring. Nearby Old Market is a mess. The bus-station is an eyesore. The tidal “Cut” which should really be restored and made fit for tourists and wild-life, is opaque and filthy. (In some contrast, much credit must go to those who plant and maintain the city’s trees. Bristol hasn’t yet matched its green, German twin – Hannover – but it’s trying.) Bedminster is dying.

    And there have been disastrous decisions like allowing in thousands of immigrants without any public consultation – this has bred understandable resentment, stress on services and, in some serious instances, very unsettling crime. Bristolians are right to question this anti-citizen imposition.

    The city has enormous potential, only some of which has been realised. Most of the ingredients for powerful progress are there, except one. The city lacks proper and dynamic, pragmatic and authentically popular political leadership that will encourage and sensibly supervise the instinct for enterprise that waits impatiently in the wings.

    • Christopher Mooney

      Sebastien – I’m pretty sure you’re the only person I’ve ever met from Bristol who hates immigrants. It’s a very liberal city and people generally live in harmony.

      I’d move to a more racist place mate. You don’t fit in

  • Rkier

    ear, kit, what a load of old tripe mind! since when did becoming a friendly well rounded person become unambitious? Bristol was a port long before the slave trade. Like the lovely people below have pointed out to you, you’ve taken a sub culture and blanketed the entire city. If anything the mere fact that you’ve written this article is a contradiction to your own opinion. however did you struggle up the ambition in this asinine anti-authoritarian, ‘establishment rebel’ lead, radical city of inverted rhetoric? well done you!

    • sebastian2

      Bristol should raise a splendid statue of Mary Seacole outside the BRI, and then put the whole sorry race/colonialism/slave trade behind itself. What happened happened. Bristol has repented. It’s over. The city is worth much more than this. Now look to the future.

      • GraveDave

        Mary Seacole wasn’t a slave and given the chance would probably have owned a few herself.

        • sebastian2

          So that’s a group of statues then. Seacole and her slaves.

          I actually mentioned Mary Seacole because she’s often – correctly – cited as a “positive image” (which she is); a role model. My understanding is that she had to make huge efforts to get to where she ministered – more than Florence Nightingale had to. Bristol’s connection with the slave trade does not determine Bristolians’ attitude to certain other people. Bristol’s modern citizens are much more enlightened and forward thinking. Disappointingly, there’s a prevailing political ideology there seeking to trap the city into an anti-racist obsession with a certain part of history.

          • Wessex Man

            Get off your soapbox, Bristol doesn’t need you telling it how to behave!

          • sebastian2

            Since when were you Mr Bristol?

    • Christopher Mooney

      I think the point is, Bristol is anti-competitive.

      Their is no competition. Businesses just open up as “independents”, charge sky high prices, and assume snobby locals will buy their stuff.

      Any company trying to actually offer the same service, at a cheap price, is sneered at, and driven out.

  • Nick T

    This article is just misinformed opinion. I run my own start-up business out of Stokes Croft and share office space with around 100 entrepreneurs at 77 Stokes Croft. Meat Liquor (aka the boys from London) are moving in downstairs. The Bristol Games Hub is based in Stokes Croft – they are pooled together to create the next big thing in gaming. Over the road you have office space in The Canteen full of entrepreneurs. The fact that a restaurant like Poco challenges the way things are done and then goes and wins awards with The Observer for its ethics represents ambition – the owner now has a book out that you can buy on Amazon. His car hasn’t been torched yet as far as I can gather.

    The PRSC has a sobering voice and I like those guys. They are not anarchists, but feel that there can be another way to regenerate run down areas. Again, their china shop is a result of being from the ashes of the Potteries-based china companies. They acquired containers of china set for the skip and put artists to work on always artistic, sometimes political designs. Recently some of their designs have been selected for the V&A. Again, there is no lack of ambition in the PRSC (but we all know that you are just talking about money).

    The Gloucester Road for years has been fiercely proud of its independent shops. The war with Tesco was not an anarchist agenda, although I’m sure some anarchists were involved once the ball got rolling. Rather, it started as a protectionist protest for the independents. Most residents along the Gloucester Road love the spirit of the independents and do not want Tesco, Starbucks, etc. It is futile, but it is admirable that people want to keep the spirit of the independent entrepreneur. To spell it out in simple terms that you would understand – this is about people wanting to spend their money, but not with vacant, same-as-every-town-in-the-uk stores/cafes. What they do not want is an organisation that comes in and ‘does a Wal-Mart’ – drops all the prices and loss leads until everyone else is out of the business. Big corporates do that.

    Banksy (who, as you name-dropped, went to the same private school as you, so you like totally know him) is a global star and so he becomes an ambassador for the City, but he is not our leader. He’s an artist, he makes people question things. A lot of what he says is valid. But people can still live in Bristol, like Banksy, admire how much money he brings into the city, drink great organic coffee and work as a lawyer or banker in Redcliffe. People in Bristol feel a little more connected to real life and in touch with their artistic side and the rebellious, anti-establishment side of the West Country has always been here. But is that unambitious or brave and ballsy?

    To tarnish the whole of Bristol with one brush is, quite simply, stupid. Take a twenty minute walk around Clifton. Cotham, Redland, Westbury Park, Bishopston, Southville, St Andrews – these areas probably make up a third or more of the city and simple maths tells me that before long you won’t be able to buy a house there unless you have a £100k deposit and collective income of £100k. To base your opinion of a whole city on Stokes Croft or St Werburghs because there are a couple of areas challenging your Thatcherist vision of how things should be done is ridiculous. It’s like saying London is just Hackney.

    The fact is, you’ve missed what is actually happening. The gentrification of Stokes Croft, St Werburghs, Montpellier, St Pauls and Bedminster is happening. The fact that there is resistance is understandable as low income families will move out of the city and low turnover businesses will be priced out by rent hikes. The concern in Bristol is how to tame the ambition not how to make people more ambitious. I can guarantee you that people will look back at Stokes Croft in ten years’ time with a tear in their eye.

    • Noteeth

      @ Nickt T – very well said…. the article itself is pretty bizarre.

      • Christopher Mooney

        The article is bizarre to people who are accepted into Bristol’s rather odd, “independent”, hispter sort of community.

        Not to normal people

    • sebastian2

      The gentrification of these places means ordinary people can no longer afford them. Sell up and they’d never have the money to return. Bristol’s population isn’t just made up of organic coffee drinkers, wealthy lawyers, bankers peddling Brompton fold-ups, and artists of fashionable genre. Try looking next time. It’s significant that Southville was routinely referred to as “Lower Clifton”. Residents that still cling on there struggle to pay Council Tax and shop in Asda while their wealthier neighbours, delighted to enter that prized conservation area, struggle to park their Audis and shop in ………. Glos Rd for all I know. Whether Glos Rd is proud of its independent shops I cannot say – this seems a bit optimistic to me since it’ll be price that will determine their survival.

      Bristol, because of its location and sea links (now all but gone) has always thrived. It has weathered the recession and property values have risen. There is inward investment as companies seek to relocate from more expensive areas. But areas that you do not mention: Knowle, Hartcliffe, Withywood, Southmead, parts of Lockleaze (huge council estates) and other, central areas (St Pauls which the council has hosed money into with limited effect), are wastelands on the fringes that organic coffee drinkers would avoid and where Bromptons would get nicked. There are few – or no – start up opportunities there, though there ought to be since, given the chance, the people could be as creative and enterprising as anyone. But generally they are not. This is a cultural or attitudinal thing that it suits the left-leaning council to prolong. Bristol is becoming a two-tier city: the latte sippers and the rest.

    • Christian

      Middle class hipsters playing at revolutionaries. If you ever achieved your stated aims you’d piss your pants in fear.

      • Alex

        Hipsters annoy me as much as anyone, but they join Thatcherites and anarchist rabble-rousers in agreeing that socio-economic disruption is the way to make money and pitch us forward into the future.

        It’s easy to wish things would never change, and the socio-economic order is assured forever – I am the same – but it’s infeasible in practice.

        Unless of course the state and the banks prop up the zombie companies with corporate welfare.

    • Christopher Mooney

      Nick, the killer mistake you’re making is not realizing that you (and all the businesses you quote) happen to work in a niche, independent, ethical way that’s accepted by Bristol.

      So you are accepted and thrive. And the locals are willing enough, and stupid enough to pay above-market-rates, to support you, and hand you a healthy profit every year.

      Independent, inefficient, high-priced shops and business are the exact opposite of capitalism. And economic growth.

      They survive because of the snobbery of the community. People not wanting to go to Tescos or Starbucks. Not because of the service they provide.

      You run businesses that market themselves on “exclusivity”. And there are huge numbers of people in Bristol who like exclusivity.

      But relying on the good will of hipsters, to pay above-market rates, for basic services, is the exact opposite of dynamism and growth.

      It’s a sterile, exclusive club, where only a few can survive and everyone else is forced out.

      A dynamic, economic success story is businesses competing with eachother to deliver services, at the best prices

      It’s not independent coffee shops agreeing with eachother to charge high prices, so only a certain type of customer visits

  • PeteCW

    I was speaking to a friend who moved to Bristol a while ago and he was telling me how surprised he is at the extent of self-imposed racial segregation there is in the city, particularly in his daughters’ school.

    Not that Spectator readers would see that as a problem at all, but it does undermine the self-aggrandising ‘radical’ identity that (middle class, dope-smoking) white Bristolians would like to promote. Seems like the effect of slavery still lingers in the air along with the stink of all that weed. Still, as long as one’s dealers are black that counts as “celebrating diversity” yah?

    And the abysmal Banksy – purveyor of dreary, sanctimonious ‘art’ for the perpetually adolescent – might like to ponder on the fact that Adolf Hitler was notably indolent, yet still didn’t do too badly in the causing ‘war and death’ stakes.

    • Wessex Man

      Your friend is telling you porkies!

      • Richard Eldritch

        I don’t think so. I was struck by the same thing when I moved there from London.

        • Strictly 4Fun

          Me too. 20 years ago when I moved here you’d never see a shop-assistant who wasn’t white. It’s not much more diverse now.

  • Ron Todd

    Every year we have the St Pauls Afro Caribbean festival, last time six people stabbed ambulance crews intimidated a car intentionally drive into the crowd and 11 tons of litter. So we are doing our bit for enrichment. We now also have Somali rape gangs.

    • global city

      Can’t wait for the carnival of Somali culture to be funded by the council… should be quite a few revealing floats!

      On Bristol, I’ve always found it to be quite a creative and entrepreneurial place. For example, look what they have grown out of the two TV franchises from the old days of commie terrestrial broadcasting dictated from Whitehall, especially compared to other entrepreneurial cities like Birmingham or state funded outlands like Manchester.

    • sebastian2

      Somali rape gangs. Pakistani grooming gangs. Libyan military trainees arrested for sex crimes, and others expelled. What do these groups have in common I wonder? Diversity and enrichment perhaps?

      • Alex

        Do they have anything in common with Jimmy Savile or the predominantly white rich Tory paedophile ring we are hearing about lately?

        Could it be that paedophilia is a disease that transcends national, ethnic and indeed class boundaries? Or would that be too difficult for you to comprehend?

        • sebastian2

          I was merely speculating – innocently. Besides, this has nothing to do with paedophiles as such. Please observe, also, that the groups I mentioned are themselves ethnically, nationally and perhaps class diverse – and they speak different languages. So boundaries have been transcended. I’ll invite you to consider what they may have in common nonetheless. (It’s widely rumoured that an alleged “prophet” of bloody but exemplary medieval reputation had a weakness for the under-aged. His followers blithely and with their leader’s ready endorsement used captured “infidel” women as sex-slaves.) As for grooming gangs, my guess is that more will eventually be discovered.

          Whether we can explain this when it happens with the sort of relativist perspective you adopt remains to be seen. Watch this space – as they say.

          • Christopher Mooney

            Errr, white people rape as well. Probably on a bigger scale.

            Is that their culture? Or are you talking rubbish

          • sebastian2

            How many mohammedan girls have organised white gangs chosen, groomed and repeatedly raped or sexually abused recently?

        • milo

          It transcends th class and ethnic boundaries but takes place when any single group is not intergrated into the society be that the rich white tories or the aformantioned ethnic groups. Its the feeling of not being the part of the bigger society.
          of course this is only an opinion and i dont want to get anyone riled up but i think the breaking of these boundaries and showing people they have a place and everyone else also does will combat this.

          • Alex

            I wouldn’t let either of them off anything like that easily, paedophile rings are mainly about abuse of power at whatever level. But I am in no doubt that social censure and alienation makes individual paedophiles turn inwards and become less curable and more likely to do something horrible as time goes on. I would like to see paedophiles able to volunteer themselves for therapy, monitoring, chemical castration with people having an understanding that that takes some doing rather than baying for blood the second the story emerges. (Though of course this wouldn’t help any with clear sociopaths such as the paedophile rings under discussion.) The other day there was a programme on Channel 4 with a non-offending paedophile admitting to it and laying out the tribulations involved, though I haven’t seen it I was surprised by how positive the online reaction was that I saw.

          • Christopher Mooney

            Milo. Your point can be rubbished by a single statement.

            Most rapists are white.

            It’s obviously nothing to do with race. Or religion.

      • Christopher Mooney

        there are thousands and thousands of white rapists you know.

  • realcountryman

    Dreadful article. All cities are more laid back than London. London is just a horrific mess, a nightmare of a place that is far too big in any case.

  • cmason

    It is suffocating to not be able to go at night into the ethnic diversity areas without fearing for your life or at least bodily harm! Try St Pauls after darki!!!!

    • global city

      Funny how nobody ever raises that aspect of enrichment?

      • Alex

        Yes, but that’s because the people are poor, not because of their ethnicity. If they were white, it would be the same.

        If your statement is true, it merely serves to highlight the inequality of opportunity for ethnic minority people that still exists in this country.

        • sebastian2

          This is a sweeping statement that, with respect, is highly misleading. Certain ethnic minority groups are succeeding magnificently (The Chinese? The Vietnamese? The Indians?) while certain sections of certain others are not. I would advise you to take a more discerning view. “Inequality of opportunity” is hardly an adequate explanation.

  • Richard Eldritch

    Bristolians are girt racists. I remember Barton Hill was always fighting with St Pauls. I’d come up from London and was about to be beaten up for being a Cockney. When they found out I lived in Barton Hill they invited me down the youth club instead. I like ’em…..

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  • David
  • jesseventura2

    And the Somali muslim rapist groomers?
    Do we still welcome the diversity of these vermin?

  • Strictly 4Fun

    Bristol has a huge hinterland of real Bristolians who are unhappy, disenfranchised, poorly educated (over generations) and who are extraordinarily resistant to change. They’re not the kids of the London diaspora, they have always lived here and don’t have a voice. You’re just another one to disregard them in this equation.

    Your London parents and their counterparts have all moved here over the last 30 years because it’s oh so easy to have a nice life without really trying if you have a white-collar job. I bet your mum didn’t ‘have to’ work while you were growing up. That’s made Bristol a place where women professionals & leaders are much less part of the scene than they are in London. Probably the reason why your mates weren’t raised to try hard.

    All the protests you mention are young hipsters and older incomers, all the effort for change and improvement … same people. I think this is because Bristolians have not begun to find a voice yet. But they will one day soon.

    I think you’re on the right track, but there are so many more layers of complexity.

    • Alex

      We might hope that the newly minted mayors of Bristol and other regional cities, no matter what one thinks of their politics, will help to give people a voice. I think localism is going to be an important long-term trend over the next couple of decades.

  • jesseventura2

    Bristol like every other city in UK has the Pakistani and Somali muslim grooming gangs?
    These countries are not in the EU and Camoron could stop this infestation any time he wants?

  • carpetburn

    Proper Bristolians are some of the most thick backward city dwellers in the UK and have always been around 5-10 years behind other cities and areas of the UK. Urbanised farmers conversing in a garbled speeded up west country burr. That said though gotta love em and a lot of my long terms friends are bristolians.

    The funniest thing I ever saw was a 40 something year old guy around 2005 on a night out around redfield wearing a complete burberry outfit from head to toe without even a hint of irony. I had to pull over on the side of the road and wait until my laughing fit has subsided before I was fit to drive again.

  • Laeades

    Ambition is a dirty word in Bristol? Tell that to the thousands of students who graduate from its two major universities every year, many of whom stay in the city and go on to work for and even start up successful, innovative companies. I’m one of Bristol’s large population of graduates who’ve stayed in the area, and this portrayal of the city doesn’t reflect my experience at all. Yes, Bristol does have an anti-establishment side to it, but you’ve only talked about that aspect of the city and ignored all the parts that don’t bolster your point. Very one-sided.

  • Christopher Mooney

    I think the point he is trying to make is Bristol is anti-competitive.

    Businesses just open up as “independents”, charge sky high prices, and assume snobby, wealthy locals will use them because of their exclusivity.

    Any company trying to actually offer the same service, at a cheap price, is sneered at, and driven out. Or blocked from trading by community groups.

    This is obviously a wonderful situation, if you have a bit of money, and can afford to go to independent places. You’re part of the club.

    But everyone else is driven out

  • Christopher Mooney

    Great example is North Street in Bristol.

    Bar owners quite happily admit they charge sky high prices, and use obscure brands of beer, to keep their clientele classy.

    They could obviously make a lot more money, by trying to appeal to the whole community. But they’re not interested in that.

    They know if they market it in a certain way, they can attract enough snobby types to make it a viable business. And they don’t have to mix with working class people either. Everyone wins……..

    My point is, when businesses in a community (North Street, Stokes Croft) aren’t interested in making money, or competing with eachother, it’s the exact opposite of dynamism, growth, and enterprenulialism.

    It’s a stagnant, conservative, drab situation, catering for only a certain type of clientelle.

    A vibrant economy would be Stokes Croft/North Street bars and restaurants lowering their prices to try and attract customers.

    What happens is they fix their prices, as they only want certain customers.

  • Christopher Mooney

    Look at what happens with Supermarkets.

    Sainsbury’s try to move into North Street to try and inject lower prices, and competition into the region.

    George Ferguson campaigns against it, as he’s worried about the impact on local businesses. The local independent businesses being the companies who charge residents sky-high prices for basic services.

    Tesco try and move into Stokes Croft and they get the same response. Local independent businesses, charging sky high prices, not wanting competition.

    Why don’t they want to compete with Sainsburys or Tescos?

    As they’d have to lower their prices. Which would allow poorer, working class people to shop there.

    Which is the type of person the community doesn’t want

  • Nikki

    Spot on

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