Redcliffe Street underpass has won Most Intimidating Subway of the Year.
Judges visiting Bristol for this year’s National Urban Decay Awards, noted how the subway’s darkened entrance, blind corners and sunken ceiling all contributed to a sense of ‘dread and uncertainty’, making it the favourite of the category.
Local residents were thrilled with the award. Rosary Farce said ‘it’s the last place on earth I’d ever want to go, except maybe with a hatchet and chainsaw. There’s not many places you can say that about in Bristol. Well, maybe a few.”
Councillor, Tim Reid, said the community had a love-hate relationship with the subway, as in they love to hate it. “It’s long been a talking point for the local community as a place that contributes to personal safety fears and general uneasiness within the neighbourhood. It’s fantastic that this is now being recognised as something to be proud of.”
Swindon was the overall winner, however, receiving the Gritty City award for being “generally bleak all round.”
I feel drunk, except I’ve had no alcohol, only short, bittersweet glasses of tea; ubiquitous refreshment on the streets of Istanbul. It doesn’t help, however, that I’m stood up in a Dolmus, the taxi-cum-buses that chug about the city, picking up anyone anywhere who flags them down en route. My friend, Colin and I, clutch at the handrails and grin at the madness of it all as the driver bumps and jerks his way through the traffic. It’s just one more moment in a sea of experiences that have happened today and, thinking back, it’s no surprise that I feel the way I do.
First off, it was Carsamba market, with its never ending tunnels of clothes and groceries that filled up my eyes and ears with colour and chatter. Then there were the crumbling buildings of Balat that caught my imagination, an old Jewish neighbourhood, where washing lines are strung out across the streets and children roam as free as the stray cats that call the area their home. And I’m frankly still a bit fazed by the shoe-shiner who reeled us in with his thank-you-for-picking-up-my-brush routine and offered to polish our shoes out of gratitude only to snatch a 20 note from my wallet after asking for a donation. In hindsight, however, it simply added a little extra adrenalin to the mix as well as reminding me that not only am I tourist here, but a very fortunate one too.
The sheer variety of experience has been a constant as we’ve explored the ever-changing quarters of the city and by the end of each day my head has been left spinning with a heady mix of information overload and travel-inspired glee. It’s this combination that has led to such a feeling of intoxication and it’s something I know will only continue as we are dropped off at a gondola station where we await a carriage up to the Pierre Loti café overlooking the Golden Horn and the cityscape at dusk.
Tomorrow, the hangover will surely kick in as I board the plane back to England. But I’m hoping that I can take home at least some of the sense of adventure that has characterised this trip, so that I might better appreciate the colours, sights and sounds that are everywhere in my own city, albeit in a less exotic fashion. That way the trip never really ends.
(Written for the Telegraph’s ‘Just Back’ travel writing competition)
I entered a writing competition back in December, as part of the Bridges project, run by the Trinity Arts Centre in Bristol (see Crossing a Bridge for details). Sadly, no prizes were won for my efforts, but my piece is now available to read on the Trinity website along with the rest of the entries.
Despite being unsuccessful, I really liked the idea that I came up with and rather than letting it go to waste, I have decided to improve upon it and make the new version my next submission to Ether Books as I feel it deserves to be out there!
Last month, I found out about a short story competition that was asking for submissions under the theme of ‘bridges.’ This was open to interpretation, including physical, mental or symbloic bridges and I quickly realised that I already had an exisiting idea that could be reworked to include a bridge in the storyline. However, there was something disingenuous about this way of writing and I felt that I it would be more satisfying to try and come up with a new concept.
It was at a new exhibition at Bristol Museum that this happened. I was looking at photos from a project around ‘Harraga’; immigrants from Morocco and Africa who try to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to get to Spain. It was eye-opening to read about the situation and I realised that they were trying to cross a type of bridge.
I read up more about it, including first hand reports of children who live at the port of Tangiers, trying to make it across by hiding under lorries. I also discovered an insightful photo essay by Jan Sochor that helped to form a picture in my mind of the kind of environment these people are living in. From this, I forged a narrative about two boys who try to board a boat by hiding underneath a frieight lorry.
It’s been a satisfying process of creation and I thought it was worthy of noting down. Up until now, I have often relied on my imagination to conjure up storylines, often with much difficulty, but believing that the most interesting or unusual scenarios would ultimately come from there. However, basing my idea on real events, especially on a current social issue, is not only fulfilling, but ultimately connects my efforts with the wider world as opposed to just my own thoughts. It’s something I’ll be considering when it comes to future ideas.