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.”
It was back in the summer of ’14 when I got my hands on the Los Angeles edition of Boat Magazine. The hazy rays that came through the window of the bar I was in seemed to go well with the dusky image on the front cover.
I opened the pages and started to read. Like a good book that you just can’t put down, I quickly found myself drawn in as discerning articles told of the extraordinariness of ordinary individuals living in the city. But more than that, it was the delicate composition of words that captivated me and a seemingly heightened awareness of the subject matter that isn’t generally found in your average travel magazine.
From then on, I was hooked and am now the proud owner of six issues of Boat. Not to be confused with maritime glossies, the word ‘Boat’ refers to the ‘floating’ nature of the magazine. Twice a year the team behind it pack up their office and head off to a new city to seek out the stories and the people that help mould a sense of identity about the place.
The secret to this seems to lie in their approach; by inviting local writers and artists to present their own view of the city they call home alongside visiting contributors, the magazine is able to provide a perspective from both inside and out.
Invariably, this makes for some pretty diverse reading. My favourite issue on Kyoto, for example, opens with a complex introduction to the city from a resident of 25 years, detailing the intricacies of society and its ability to assimilate new culture. Then follows a feature on ancient forestry practices that are kept alive by a few committed workers while further on, a delicate set of interviews shed light on the hidden lives of the homeless population.
Yet, for all their individuality, what’s prevalent is a sense of intimacy and sensitivity towards the nuances of place, which threads everything together. The result is a compilation of writing that not only informs, but leaves you with a sense of having glimpsed an inner nature that not many travellers, maybe even citizens, are likely to encounter. This is what keeps me coming back to the magazine rack every six months and its also the reason I’ve kept every issue, so that I might take one out and dip into it, like bottled essence, should life in my own corner of the world become a little dull.
I recently put together a submission as a part of an application for a writing job. The process was a fairly straightforward one; write about something that inspires you and influences your practice. I opted to write about my current favourite magazine, Boat, as the theme and quality of writing always buoys me up 😉
However, a couple of weeks after I sent it off, I received a reply telling me it wasn’t quite what they were looking for.
Apart from the specifics of what was missing (insight and personal reflection should have been on the agenda) I realised I had once again fallen into a familiar mindset. It seems that lately, whenever I write, I become bent on just finishing the thing and getting it out there. I’m constantly rushing, whether it’s a short story or otherwise and find I often cut short the writing process just so I can say I’ve got something done.
Inevitably, the result is a finished piece, but hardly my best so it’s no surprise I’m not getting the answer I would like. In truth, I’m struggling a little with my identity as a writer. As time goes by, thoughts of ‘making it’ seem more fantastical than ever. Couple that with my mid-thirties fast approaching and the uncomfortable question keeps niggling away – is it make or break time? (Or just broke?) It seems as though the more I reach for it and the tighter my grasp, the further away a reality of accomplishment and satisfaction becomes.
So, for nobody but myself I rewrote the piece as if nobody is going to read it. Nothing to gain, just the truth according to myself. Hence, I’ve discovered a motto that I’m going to take forward this year and hopefully a different way of working; Write like nobody’s reading. Fitzgerald said something similar, but I can’t recall the quote. If anyone knows it, please tell me!
A few technical hitches later, I’m pleased to say that the cranes on Bristol’s harbourside are talking to each other again. For anyone who knows what I’m talking about, they’ve changed sexes and perspectives and will happily be bantering away between 10 and 4 everyday.
For anybody who isn’t from round these parts, you might want to read this post. There is a copy of the scripts to view at M Shed and, hopefully, an audio clip on the website soon so people can get a taste of what they sound like.
Jack sniffed the dirt. Someone had been here. There were traces of urine, possibly excrement too. He went to investigate further, but something was holding him back. Damn lead was always pulling Jack off the case.
I feel like a proper adventurer as I emerge from the scrub following my conquest of the tunnel.
The sun breaks out again and I hot-wheel it down the pavement, the bridge flickering through the trees above. The end of the gorge is in sight now, rock giving way to Hotwells and the unsightly tangle of the Cumberland Basin octopus junction.
But its not over yet. This place still has a few surprises and the next one is perhaps the most surprising of them all. Set into the cliffs like a lost temple to transport is Clifton Rocks Railway, a Victorian construction that once saw a funicular train carry people up inside the rock to the top of gorge. The last I heard, there were attempts to get it running again, but as I cross the road for a closer look, there are no signs that this is the case. In fact, there’s not really much to look at apart from the bath-stone carved exterior and a gate, through which a glimpse of a tunnel is shortly consumed by darkness.
In case you’re wondering why so much effort went into ferrying people from bottom to top and back again, an answer lies in the adjacent buildings of the Colonnade and Pump Room, part of the Hotwell Spa that once existed here. They are a grand set of buildings, and at one time would have attracted a very grand class of clientele who came to benefit from the water’s health-giving properties. But much like the railway, they are largely ignored these days, except by the occasional rambling tourist or some commuters who happen to get stuck alongside during a traffic jam.
Opposite, is an old landing pier for steam boats that once graced the river and dropped off out-of-towners to the spa. It’s now rotting away in spectacular fashion, with great bows of wood bending or broken and gradually sinking in the merciless mud. It runs for 50 metres or so until a newer, concrete version replaces it, before the Brunel locks open out and the New Cut begins.
Looking across from 200ft up are the houses on The Paragon, majestically clinging to the very ends of the gorge. Then the rest of the neighbourhood sweeps down into Lower Clifton and beyond. I turn off here and negotiate the obstacle course-of-a-cycle route that cuts across a bridge and two locks, seeking out that waterside pint.