Bristalgia: Bristol Nostalgia

Bristalgia: Bristol Nostalgia


We’re all guilty of over-egging it on the nostalgia as we get older. ‘Wagon Wheels were bigger’,‘Children’s TV was better’, ‘Noel Edmonds was less sinister’ – but really, WAS it better in your day? Bristol has undergone quite the transformation in the past twenty years, and the last couple of years in particular has seen its reputation rise in the UK for its food scene, urban art and green credentials, but before we spend too much time high-fiving Bristol’s ascendance, let’s have a think about some of the things that we can’t help but miss…

Working docks in the centre

We’ve all seen the sepia pictures of the cranes outside M Shed plying their trade, or the big sail ships lined up outside the Hippodrome before the river Frome was covered over to make way for fountains and outdoor urinals (some say these are one and the same). As nice as the fountains and benches and coffee kiosks are, we all seem to get a bit bleary-eyed over the idea of bringing the boats back to the centre, and no, ferries and canoes don’t count.


Cooler than buses (not hard), slower than trains – what could be better? They run on rails! In the street! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see why Croydon and Manchester should get all the tram glory, and if Amsterdam has shown us anything it’s that what pedestrians need is a daily gauntlet of avoiding the silent threats of both bicycles AND trams – we’re already halfway there guys!


Image: Pete Townsend

Being Boring

The biggest backlash of recent times seems to be from locals who feel like their city is running away from them and into the arms of trendy young émigrés from London. As Bristol tops all of the ‘Best Places to Live’ lists, and regularly appears in weekend break features in the press, the increasing popularity of the city has also led to the inflation of house prices, and more importantly, beer prices. It’s a bit like that band you saw play to 4 people at The Louisiana in 2008, who then get on the Radio 1 playlist and now have their songs played over every dramatic pause in The X Factor. Hey man, I loved Bristol before it got cool.

The Victoria Street Flyover

I had no idea what people were going on about when they banged on excitedly about the ‘old Temple Meads flyover’, then I watched ‘Shoestring’ (a surprisingly good detective show set in Bristol at the end of the ‘70s), and there it was – what looked to be a giant piece of Meccano spanning the junction at the end of Victoria Street. Narrow, unsightly and rickety – it looks like great fun, and much more interesting to look at than the current roundabout, plus it’s not like the traffic around that part of town could get any worse. Let’s bring it back – flyovers for everyone!


Image: Pete Townsend

The Old Stokes Croft

My first experiences of Bristol were gigs at The Junction and The Croft, and I remember Stokes Croft being a series of boarded-up shops, squats and massage parlours; it was like Gangs of New York with trustafarians. These days, the influx of independent businesses and co-operatives has transformed the area, with it even getting its own committee in the form of PRSC. Stokes Croft has always had a reputation for being one of the grimier and edgier sides of town – but once you’ve got a Tesco and a feature in The Guardian, you can’t help but think that the gentrification process is a bit too far along for this last bastion of city centre anarchy to survive much longer.


Image: Ed Mitchell

The Old Clubbing/Music Scene

Bristol was the centre of the trip hop and drum ‘n’ bass universe in the ‘90s, and it had the DJs, bands and clubs to prove it. Blue Mountain, Clockwork, Lakota were drawing clubbers from all over the country. Now it’s just Lakota still standing, and even then its notoriety has waned; you’re more likely to see the crowds queuing to ZaZaBazaar of a Satuday these days. Kids, eh?

City Mascots

Belfast has named everything after George Best, Liverpool has John Lennon – but who are the current mascots for Bristol? There’s only so many references we can have to Brunel. Likewise  Cary Grant references are wearing a little thin, it’s not like he stayed living here, or insisted on calling his most famous film North by South West, is it? These days our choices are limited to Josie from Big Brother and Justin Lee Collins – buck up your ideas, Bristol!

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