I know that this is going to sound slightly ironic when reading this; here we are, yet another non-Bristolian who moved here some years ago and never looked back, raving about why they love this city so much, yadda yadda yadda.
But, I’ve not travelled far. I came to Bristol six years ago from the quieter, smaller landscape of Exeter in Devon, so I’m keeping it within the South West. I’m not from London (can I say that?!) insert winking emoji here. I jest of course.
But what is it about Bristol that has me convinced I will probably (most certainly) never move myself back down to the shire? Why do I want to stay here? I thought I might write down some of the reasons why I FUCKING LOVE BRISTOL.
Well, let’s start with the obvious. I love to eat, but I never realised just how passionate I was about food and everything connected with it until I came here. There is a strong focus on sustainability, being ethical and supporting local and surrounding businesses – it’s collaborative, enthusiastic and extremely positive.
Bristol is surrounded by plentiful and beautiful greenery, perfect for foraging and collecting ingredients to be used in kitchens. It also means there are farms right on the city’s doorstep, providing us with a great selection of organic and free-range meats or poultry, vegetables and dairy. We really are situated within the West Country’s glorious larder. The food we enjoy in Bristol’s independent restaurants is fresh and of high quality, and it really doesn’t get much better.
No one is jostling and fighting for the spotlight, and if anything, restaurants, kitchens and bars actively promote each other across various platforms and encourage locals and visitors alike to give their city neighbours a try. We’ve got some strong offerings across this patch, all serving up quality and variety. I’ve always said if there is a certain cuisine, or dish that you fancy, you are most likely to find it somewhere in Bristol, and nine times out of ten, it won’t bankrupt your wallet. Growers, producers, farmers, restaurant owners and chefs all work together here collaboratively, and I fucking love it.
The Bristol Lingo
When I first moved to Bristol, I lived in Horfield and had the chore of commuting to and from the centre every day. Hearing the immortal words, ‘cheers drive’ has never grown old though, and now I don’t get the bus anymore I kind of miss it (not the bus journey, but the saying). The Bristolian lingo is one I love and I have learnt many new phrases since arriving here; who knew that getting your hair off meant you were in a pissy? Or the end of a loaf was the topper? I’m not sure I can get on board with smoothing the cat rather than stroking it, and I couldn’t get away with saying I was going to see ‘are muh’ but I love hearing it. Plus, I will never tire of being called ‘love’, ‘lover’ or ‘babber’ by friends and sweet strangers. There’s something so heart-warming about it.
I haven’t seen a city fully embrace creativity and freedom of expression like I have seen it in Bristol. Embraced so much so that, in fact no one bats an eyelid. There are often events happening that I just don’t think would go on in other places, and I’m not sure if this is because there is a much stronger independent offering here which allows more flexibility, or that there are just more creative minds in Bristol possessing quirky ideas (I’m going with the latter).
Whatever it is though, I’m not complaining. I’ve twerked to hip hop in an actual fish and chip shop, I’ve dressed up as a hero of Ancient Geese and ran from pub to pub like a madman with my teammates to complete challenges which included throwing crab sticks down each other’s pants, I’ve danced to Golden Lookin’ Chain at the amphitheatre and the one closest to my heart; I led the Big Bristol Burger Crawl with the help of some very special friends, restaurants and a wonderful group of enthusiastic eaters. I would never have been able to do this in my hometown, for various reasons but mainly because it’s on such a smaller scale. I’ve created hilarious memories and fucking enjoyed every minute whilst doing so. Friends and family often comment to me how jealous they are that I live in a city with so much going on all the time, it never gets boring and there is always something to do.
Power Ballads at the Fleece
The first Friday of every month sees this epic club night at The Fleece and no matter how many times I go it never gets old. It’s a no frills, no-holds barred Bristol karaoke session basically, with you and every other reveller on the dance floor. There have been many occasions when I have belted out 4 Non-Blondes and Whitney Houston whilst flaying about and being my own air guitar master; serenading complete strangers who also meant to only go out for ‘one’ after work on a Friday. It’s a bloody laugh innit.
I couldn’t write down the reasons I love Bristol and not mention the burger scene. For anyone who knows me knows how much joy I get from chowing down on a bap and we are truly spoilt for choice with options all over the city. Of course I understand the arguments for having too much of one thing, but I disagree. I believe each establishment offers us something different; there are places to takeaway, to sit in and have cocktails, restaurants that are better for families and venues which aren’t afraid to try something new. It would be pretty boring if they were all the same anyway right?
Through my love of eating, I’ve also managed to forge some lovely friendships with the teams behind the buns, and their enthusiasm for bringing the best to Bristol is wonderful to see. I often get tagged in burger photos on Instagram and on Twitter, and receive messages from friends and strangers asking for recommendations on where to get their next burger fix and this brings me no end of joy. I’ve been able to meet, communicate and discuss all things meaty with a bunch of new faces which I really love. It’s just another reason (aside from them being delicious) that I will always champion the Bristol burger gods and for some people to call me Bristol’s burger queen is beyond a compliment.
Action for Change
There are so many examples of initiatives and events I could shout out for this example of why Bristol is special, so big up to everyone championing to make a difference in any way they can. Not only do individuals recognise problems and the need for change here, but they actually roll up their sleeves and start doing something about it.
The 91 Ways events have proved hugely popular across the city, and the idea behind it is really quite simple; uniting people through the love of food. Bristol has a diverse range of communities that live together and these events are designed to fuse these different cultures and promote a healthier, more sustainable city. It also allows communities or people who may feel isolated or out on a limb to make connections with others and engage in important discussions. It is ideas like this that allow people from all walks of life the chance to come together.
There are also smaller scale (but no less important) projects, such as Incredible Edible Bristol which promotes the use of land (no matter how big or small) to grow food. Volunteering Bristol through the team here, made up of volunteers and partners have created over 30 edible gardens in spaces across Bristol and the food grown is free and for anyone to take away and eat. This initiative has also introduced a scheme to get schools involved, so that youngsters can see the importance first hand of being able to grow and eat sustainably.
As in every city there are charities designed to help the less fortunate, so this is not something new in Bristol, however the support and willingness of people to get stuck in and help knows no bounds here. People collecting donations of food and warm clothes to hand out to those sleeping on the streets, unwanted/unused scarfs tied to lampposts so that those who are homeless can take them to keep and fund raising events are just a small selection of ideas I have witnessed whilst living here. Care in the community has never had more of a profound meaning.
So Bristol, I love you, do you mind if I stay?