Quirky; diverse; educated; historic; animated; edgy; cultural; apathetic; arty; infuriating … Bristol. Its bloody-minded contradictoryness eludes definition. It has several centres or none, depending who you believe. Like London, a river divides self-satisfied northern suburbs from an industrial east and south already subdivided into the gentrified and the defiantly unreconstructed.
The Saxon port was founded perhaps in the 900s at a muddy bridging point on the River Avon; the Normans built an imposing castle nearby. By 1200 Bristol traded with the entire known world, from Iceland to Venice and Alexandria. The 17th century saw the opening up of North America and the beginnings of the shameful slave trade. From its profit was built much of the Georgian city. Victorian Bristol made iron, brass, paper, chocolate, cigarettes, and almost everything else.
Finally in 1974 the docks closed. Financial and service industries, technology and defence now underpin the economy. It is England’s seventh largest city with about 420,000 people. Attractions include vibrant music, theatre and club scenes, numerous arts venues, museums, two city farms, a packed market, the zoo, Brunel’s ss Great Britain and his world-famous Suspension Bridge. The obsession with Banksy culminated in his blockbuster exhibition in 2009.
People often come here to work or study, thinking ‘it’ll only be for a few years’, but Bristol seduces them repeatedly with the promise of ‘just one more year’. This is the place where we live and the place that we love.