Bristol projects its irreverent spirit and powerful sense of identity through its cutting-edge music, arts, clubs, bars, street festivals and food scenes
In Bristol, there is a shop, Stokes Croft China, that sells fine bone china emblazoned with quotes from Tony Benn, images of the late, local music legend DJ Derek and a photograph of the Queen surrounded by the words: “I eat swans.” Affiliated to radical community group the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, this ceramics enterprise – in its improbable mix of craft, creativity and protest – sums up Bristol.
Uniquely among large British cities, Bristol marches to the beat of its own drum (and bass). Liverpool and Glasgow may have a similar streak of independence, but Bristol’s refusal to kowtow to the homogenising forces of modern capitalism is a visible, city-wide phenomenon manifested in endless community groups and co-ops. There is a widespread solidarity in the arts, food and music that promotes quality and individual expression, not profit. From Gloucester Road (the UK’s longest strip of independently owned shops) to the city’s distinctive musical association with heavy bass music – from Massive Attack via dubstep pioneers such as Pinch, to modern cult heroes as different as Hodge, Vessel and the label Crazylegs – Bristol is a genuine one-off.