This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Bristol for the weekend, to perform a piece responding on the theme of ‘revolution and gender’ that had been published in the latest issue of Boscombe Reolution.
Bristol is one of my favourite cities in the UK and I find myself entertaining daydreams of upping sticks and moving there; one day, perhaps. Me and my partner Nina explored all over the city on foot, the best and only way, in my opinion, to get to know the territory you’re in. We ambled through the city centre and its chain stores, over The Bearpit sunken below the lanes of heaving traffic, past the Holiday Inn and up to Stokes Croft for lunch; then up into the greener, hilly parts, through Cotham and towards the university, getting lost down winding streets a number of times before finding our B&B.
Later, heading to the event armed only with the free map given to us by the B&B staff, we descended back into the city down the drop of St Michael’s Hill, back through the centre, passing the jerk chicken shops of St Paul’s, taking a wrong turn into a dimly lit children’s playground before finally finding the heavily graffitid pub.
The reading, held upstairs in brilliant Duke of York of pub, was one of the best I’ve experienced. A packed out room, full of people willing to listen and support. It always makes reading your own work a pleasure. A big thanks to Paul Hawkins and Sarer Scotthorne for editing an excellent issue and holding such a successful event.
One issue struck me, however, about halfway through what I was reading, and I looked at the crowd properly for the first time. The theme of this issue, like I said, was ‘revolution and gender’. I became aware that about 90% of the audience were women. I’d never experienced that before, and I came away thinking how sad it was that this, in my mind, was unusual.
When people talk about ‘gender issues’, there’s a worrying tendency to assume that means women’s issues, LGBT issues, but not of interest for a heterosexual male. The heterosexual man thinks of himself as the default setting; everyone else is somehow ‘different’ to that point of reference. This seemed to be reflected in the audience that night – where were all the men? I was the only man reading that night (asides from Paul who introduced the event). Do men only go to see other men read? If so it’s a sad state of affairs and something to be challenged.
The rest of the readings were all excellent, from Agnes Davies, Rose Drew, Myrian San Marco, Sarer Scotthorne and Lucy Furlong. Always a pleasure to meet more likeminded writers!
The next morning we headed up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, in brilliant winter sunshine, dodging eager cyclists and determined joggers. The bridge, slashing over the Avon Gorge, is a wonderful thing. I don’t often think about feats of human engineering, but this place has always impressed me. We climbed up to the observatory, took in the amazing views and I vainly hoped to spot a peregrine.
Then we crossed the bridge, Nina feeling the slightest touch of vertigo, before heading down to the Avon through the muddy Leigh Woods, following the river and it’s gleaming mudflats slowly back to the docks and back into Bristol. We passed sunken boats and shopping trolleys, buildings that may or not have been abandoned, other walkers and the ever-present cyclists.
We crossed rusty metal bridges and a train line that looked derelict, into the docks, watching the canoeists and swans, drifting through a working boatyard, back into the commercial districts of shiny shops and odd art. Finally, a little footsore, we reached our point of origin, the bus station, and headed back to London.