On Monday, we received news from the mayor’s office that Bristol City Council will be taking back control of the Bearpit.
Deputy mayor Asher Craig stated: “In particular, there have been targeted attacks on the traders in the Bearpit which has led to the deterioration of the space and forced them to close their businesses temporarily.
“The council does not feel this is acceptable and has concluded that more control is needed from the council over the space.
“The council will therefore take back control of the Bearpit and work closely with the police and other interested stakeholders to deal with the ongoing issues and set a positive strategy in place for the future of the Bearpit.”
We are pleased the council has made this decision as it empowers the city to make decisions about what our city centre should look like.
For too long we, as a city, have spoken about the faults of the Bearpit, but that has been fruitless time and time again. This approach gives us belief that change is possible.
As citizens, organisations, communities along with the council it is our responsibility to start thinking of solutions, short and long term.
Our community action day last month, proved a will for change, engaging with over a 100 volunteers who came along to be part of that process. This process has a long way to go, but it’s a positive start.
Bearpit Bristol CIC released statements in mid-January expressing our concerns of safety and sustainability within such a toxic environment which opened an extremely emotionally exhausting journey.
This lead to us having to cease trading, letting go of our team and walk away from our business and the community.
We are extremely grateful to all of our loyal customers and humbled by the continuous public support we receive. There’s a great sense of loss and sadness when we visit the site currently to check up on things.
Our priority was to ensure the safety of the general public and our team and we hope that this is an indication that the city as a whole is ready to look forward to a more welcoming space in future.
It’s easy for people to focus the conversation onto graffiti or homelessness, or worse – ‘that this is how it’s always been and so we should just accept it’.
The reality is the Bearpit was a toxic place. A place where crime, violence and antisocial behaviour thrived, affecting every person who interacted with the space. A place where people came to get away with just about whatever they wanted to. It was our civic duty to hold our hands up and say this is not OK.
All the sacrifice, heartache, abuse and threats were worth it, as to us this is the heart of Bristol. It deserves fighting for.
We echo the deputy mayor’s vision of a “space that is providing a safe and positively responsibility environment that people across the city can enjoy”.
Our role going forward is to keep engaging with council and stakeholders as there is no sway on our commitment to bring about positive long lasting social change to the St James Barton roundabout.