Columnists / Dennis Wright

‘Why Stokes Croft has had its day’

By Dennis Wright , Thursday May 26, 2016

Every dog has its day, I suppose. Just like every mayor has got to move on every now and again and every post office eventually closes.

But aside from dogs and mayors and post offices there also comes an end, eventually, to every dream, every vision, every hopeful ideal.

And that end is now in Stokes Croft, the much miss-heralded utopian enclave that apparently is just ever so Bristol (ask the London types or readers of the on-board Easyjet magazine).

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I’ll take you back a bit. Things were obviously better when I was a lad. Except Stokes Croft, which really was shit.

Without boring you with the boring past too much, the area was what was known a “shithole” – a dying breed in gentrifying central Bristol, I know.

But where there’s shit there are also flies. And at risk of disparaging most of central Bristol those flies are artists.

Buzzing about looking for inspiration for their lofty poetry or poor drawing skills they buzzed to Stokes Croft because it was cheap and their rich parents hadn’t put out with inheritance yet.

And fair play to them. They injected some vibrancy and colour. They literally painted the place (see Banksy etc).

Like true modern-day urban trailblazers they came, they saw, they conquered, they were followed by people who thought it was edgy – and estate agents did the rest.

And that’s where the story ends. Or should end. Like most up-and-coming places before Stokes Croft, you now can’t move for cafes, new bars and diners selling the same overpriced food (except Slix, I will not have a bad word said against it).

Slix: One of the only good things left in Stokes Croft?

But where other neighbourhoods grow and develop with the natural desires of their changing demographics, Stokes Croft still tries (oh, how it tries) to hang on for that last little bit of something.

You can see it in the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft china shop, you can hear it from the top floors of Hamilton House where what’s left of the great unwashed are yoga stomping (or whatever the latest con is) and you can read all about it in the pages of the city’s great left-wing tabloid, the Bristol Cable.

I don’t want to drift too far in to conspiracy territory (leave that for the Cable), but I’d say the council are even in on it. The place is regularly left filthy.

So what’s the point in this stream of consciousness (congratulations for reading this far, by the way)?

I once got mugged on Stokes Croft. But I wouldn’t dream of it today. (Although I was charged £4.80 for a beer the other day).

And soon the spot where the guy pulled up in his car and pulled a knife on me for £20 will be directly under the gazes of those lucky enough to move into luxury accommodation which is soon to appear in the long-derelict Carriageworks.

And however hard what’s left of the trailblazers try, the full powers of gentrification will have engulfed this little street.

Even the graffiti here has now been hijacked, as was brilliantly pointed out on these very opinion pages by king of Stokes Croft himself, Chris Chalkley, who thankfully saw irony in Dr Martens painting an advert among the genuine street art.

And only this week a major political campaign pushed the Remain message in the guise of the type of genuine political street art that has helped make Stokes Croft a must-see tourist stop on a city break.

I lost count of the number of times someone wrote on social media that the piece was “so Bristol”. Wrong. It’s not so Bristol. It’s so a reflection of the invigorating irreverence of what Stokes Croft perhaps once was all about but now only aspires to be.


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