People / My Bristol Favourites

My Bristol Favourites: Neil Maggs

By martin booth, Saturday Mar 28, 2020

Neil Maggs is a journalist and sports consultant, who recently presented a documentary on BBC Radio 4 about what race means for white people.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he is organising daily DJ sets from people across Bristol via Twitter. Follow him at @NeilMaggs2.

These are Neil’s top-five Bristol favourites:

The BT Tower

Built in 1970, the Purdown BT Tower is on Bristol City Council’s local list of valued buildings – photo: Bristol City Council

“The BT Tower is the true iconic symbol of Bristol for me. Forget the Suspension Bridge, Ashton Court or the harbourside; I know I am back in my city when I see the tower. It’s like a comfort blanket. It’s Bristol’s Eiffel tower, our Statue of Liberty, our Sydney Opera House. It’s the real heart and the bedrock of Lockleaze; a pillar of strength guiding us through the darkness. I can usually see it from wherever I am at all times, providing purpose and strength. I would literally be lost without it. Although I can still rarely get a signal on my phone.”

The King’s Head

The KIng’s Head serves both English and Caribbean food to eat in or take away – photo: The King’s Head

“It’s tricky to choose my favourite pub. In Easton, I love the Lebeq and I have a soft spot for the Plough, but for me the King’s Head in Whitehall just shaves it. Great atmosphere, decent food, the football is always on, and it’s notorious for top notch BBQs out the front.

“It symbolises all that is best about east Bristol, the most diverse part of the city. You get all sorts here. It’s a real mix and I don’t mean that in a fluffy ‘right on’ way. It’s run by my friend Martin Hall, better known as Mouse, who is white, and his wife Pauline, who is black. It’s the most mixed pub in the city, does amazing Caribbean and British food, and retains a real genuine working class feel.

“Mouse isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He’s loud and brash, but I love him. His honesty and wisdom rings out as he hollers from his stool, like any proper landlord should. I pop in when I can and it’s like being in my front room.”

Fishponds Road

What Fishponds Road looked like when Maggsy was a young boy – photo: Bristol Archives

“I have seen loads of changes in my neck of the woods, and have always have a soft spot for Fishponds Road. My dad’s family had a cobblers shop down the bottom end, since the early 1900s.

“I used to go there a lot as a kid. It’s where we would go shopping, always heading up rather than towards town for supplies. I have fond memories of me going in sweet shops as a kid, and as an adult desperately running around Woolworths and Poundstretcher buying last minute presents on Christmas Eve. Today it has loads of supermarkets, and some nice new cafes, and is on the up, but still retains it’s character. Places like Doug Hillard sports shop, Pot Black snooker club and Turners opticians – the oldest shop along there – are all places still going strong that I would go to as a kid.”

The Galleries

Pancakes at the Galleries earlier this year – photo: The Galleries

“I know we have Cabot Circus now, with all those lovely fancy shops, and all that. But I connect far more with the Galleries. I see the Galleries as the underdog of the city, the poorer little brother, the Bristol Rovers of retail. Like the Gas, the Galleries is my team, and I am in its team. It’s always empty, there’s not much to buy, the stock is poor and I rarely leave feeling satisfied. But it’s mine and I love it.

“I will spend hours in Waterstones, dive in Boots, have a look in the card shop, and that weird hippy one, and sometimes just do a loop up and around up and down the escalators. Back and forth, like that polar bear that was once at Bristol Zoo. I find it strangely comforting.

“I remember when it first opened and it was like, ‘OMG, we have an indoor shopping thing’. So I have stayed loyal ever since, and will remain so until the last decaying charity shop remains. It’s my Bristol; you can keep yours.”

Eastville Park

Eastville Park, with another bonus view of the BT Tower – photo: Martin Booth

“My dad, no longer with us, once said that where ever he has lived he could always see Eastville Park from his bedroom. Not very adventurous I admit, but it’s not that much different for me. I was born at the foot of it and spent my youth in there all the time. I moved away for a while as an adult, have lived in other parts of the city but it’s not the same and I always gravitate back. I now live a stone’s throw away and take my three kids and dog there all the time.

“I love it. The lake, the local football, meandering streams, the walk into Snuff Mills from there. It’s the best park in Bristol by a country mile. In fact, part of my dad’s ashes are scattered at the foot of a big oak that looks over the lake where he would feed the ducks with us all. We call it Grandpa’s Tree.”

Main photo courtesy of Neil Maggs

Read more: When Maggsy met Marv

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