Community spirit is stronger than ever in Bedminster Down as people rally to support each other through increasingly uncertain times.
“Personally, I feel that the BS13 community has been incredible in both lockdowns,” says Jess Wright, the manager of Zion Community Art Space and Café, which remains open for takeaways during lockdown.
“The amount of community initiatives – from food deliveries and care packages to a weekly raffle to keep spirits up – has shown what a strong community this is.
“I know that can sound quite trite at the moment, but I really believe that this is a really supportive neighbourhood, we have a larger older population here and strong family connections in the area so I think people feel very protective towards their neighbours.”
The former church with distinctive stained glass windows on Bishopsworth Road that is home to Zion is in the heart of Bedminster Down, which has made headlines over the last few days as an area with one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country.
Addressing this unwelcome reason to be in the news, Jess adds: “Obviously we are experiencing a higher rate of infection this week than other areas, I guess we might see this reflected across the city before the year is out and I cannot imagine how hard it must be to work in a school, hospital or other frontline business but I know that everyone is doing as much as they can to keep positive and that is as important now as it was back in March.
“The pandemic will have a lasting effect on every community across the country, but hopefully good things have come out of this situation as well as the negative impacts on families and businesses.”
Further down Bishopsworth Road, the streets are full of noise and laughter as school children head home for the day on Thursday afternoon.
It’s two at a time allowed in Dev Convenience Store, where a couple of the children wearing masks wait good-naturedly outside as two come out, bags of crisps in hand.
The shop owner Avakash Patel says his business has been hit hard during the second lockdown. He took it over in March and fared well during the summer months, but says there has been a recent decline, particularly because of the number of pupils and staff from nearby schools having to isolate.
On past the currently-closed Bishopsworth Library, fairy lights are being put up to add a bit of festive cheer in the pharmacy on St Peter’s Rise, where a couple of people form a socially distanced queue outside.
There is also a queue outside the post office on Church Road, but Doubles hair salon next door stands empty in line with lockdown rules and the big brick Campus Skatepark building on the corner opposite is deserted.
Up in Withywood, a man struggles up the hill past the shops on Queen’s Road balancing a bulging plastic bag balanced on top of a suitcase on wheels. Carefully righting it as the whole structure starts to tip, he refuses an offer of help with a smile.
“I’ve only got to get across the park then I’m home,” he says cheerfully, adding: “Mind you I’ve walked all the way from Iceland.”
Inside the Withywood Centre – where a strict one-way system is in operation – all is quiet, but there is still plenty going on behind the scenes.
“Food bank requests have doubled and they’re just going up,” says centre manager Tracey Phillips.
“We’re relying on people’s generosity.”
Tracey volunteers at the independently-run Carpenters Food Bank and says more people are struggling as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
The Withywood Centre’s café is currently open for takeaway between 10am and 2pm and the chaplaincy team is still working to provide support for people who need someone to talk to. The South Bristol Advice Service is currently unable to see clients face to face due to the Covid restrictions but is still operating phone and online services.
In Hartcliffe, a woman puts down bags of shopping as she knocks on a door on Bishport Avenue.
“Alright?” She asks as she hands over the bags of food, pausing for a quick chat on the doorstep before heading off down the road. Further down, a couple of neighbours chat while their children play on the grass outside.
In Peterson Avenue, the @symes community building is temporarily closed to the public. A notice on the door gives information about local information and support services. It also states the volunteer-run CATT bus, which provides a lifeline for many residents, is still running a reduced service.
A dad and his two children wait patiently outside Boots, which is flanked by premises with the shutters down, while the odd shopper pops into the convenience store two doors down.
In Morrisons opposite, a woman waits just inside the entrance to provide masks for those who don’t have one. The supermarket is bustling with people in the late afternoon. Just past the checkouts, a food bank collection point is starting to fill with essential items and a table sets out the takeaway options available from the café during the day.
Outside, two women walk side by side – one carrying shopping bags and the other pushing a trolley. “We’ll be alright,” said one reassuringly to the other as they head off around the corner together.
All photos by Ellie Pipe