Category Archives: Events

Baby Boomers, All About Age?

Ed Howker and Shiv Malik were at the Arnolfini as part the Festival of Ideas. Howker and Malik have written the book Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth.

“Born after September 1979? Struggling to find a decent job, even though you’re a graduate? Can’t afford to buy or even rent a house? No prospects? Welcome to the jilted generation. Things go wrong in society all the time, but rarely do they go wrong for an entire generation” says the summary at the back of the book.

Apparently these two authors did their own research and discovered that today’s young people (31 and under) did actually face a harder time than young people of 30 to 40 years ago. Pardon me for my lack of enthusiasm when Malik told us that he’d had to learn to use Excel and to draw up graphs and everything. Compare that to the 1.38 million hits that social mobility as a search term brings up in Google Scholar.

Some of the issues that young people are facing according to the authors:

  • Being stuck in the rental sector, over 50% of young people rent because they can’t afford to buy;
  • Student fees mean that young people start off their professional lives in debt.
  • General financial situation: increased national debt because of the costs of pensions and the NHS etc.

Why do these things matter?

  • Because young people will stop having children, apparently there is a statistical link to housing and money;
  • Society will lose its communities;
  • People will stop having relationships;
  • People will start leaving the country.

The political part of the discussion focussed on neoliberalism and the rise of Thatcherism. There was some discussion about demographics and market research and how we were now segmented into voters. Politics focuses on short term discussions rather than the real issues apparently.

Also, young people just weren’t involved in politics any more, they weren’t striking, they weren’t protesting and they were generally apathetic. The irony of the pair’s own friends who were policy advisers and that at 29 they told us they were themselves too old to advise politicians seemed to pass them by.

The relationship between the media and politics was questioned and we were told that editors are usually much older and this was the problem.

Ed Howker rejected the idea of class as a determinant of how society works. Then when I questioned why they, two 29 year old journalists, who in general are professionals who will have grown up in families that are better off than three in four of all families in the UK, and both married saw themselves as facing the same issues as young kids from Brixton (an example from another audience member) – Shiv got defensive and wondered why his choice to get married should have any affect.

Most of the talk was based on generalisations, 50% of young people are now in higher education we were told. In actual fact the real rate was 45% in 2008/09. But those 45 out of 100 are not randomly plucked out of the population. Female and male young people face a difference at 51% and 40%, respectively. Also, “currently fewer than one in five young people from the most disadvantaged areas enter higher education compared to more than one in two for the most advantaged areas.” (2010, Hefce 10/03).

It was a fascinating talk and most of it was shallow enough to raise many arguments. Some audience members agreed with the ‘analysis’ and told about how their children spent too much money. Another woman nearly had tears in her eyes talking about how she had to go on the dole in January after being very well educated. I was reminded of the David Icke documentary I saw one time where the existence of lizard people was combined with discussions of 9/11 and terrorism. Just because some elements are true does not mean that we need to believe the rest.


Love Cooking Festival, Bristol

Whenever I brag and rave about Bristol, I tend to mention the festivals that are such a huge part of life here. Sometimes there’s one every weekend, I say and what I really mean is that they’re all the same, pick one and go to it and you’ll find the same stands, the same crafts, the same people wandering in and then leaving again. Some charge and some don’t and occasionally that seems to be the biggest difference.

With this thought in mind, there wasn’t much surprise when reading about the Love Cooking Festival although its location at Colston Hall was an interesting twist. However, who would want to go see people cooking on stage at around £20 a ticket? A visit seemed to be a good idea.

Richard Allen was the first chef I saw and she was announced on stage by Nigel Barden, the food and drink presenter for BBC London TV, Radio and Online.

Nigel did not just do the presenting and introductions but stayed on to help Rachel with the banter and consistency. She had been up since 2.30am to make her way to Bristol and my heart sank a little at the potential half-hearted performance. The show proceeded at a steady pace and Nigel filled in with chat for about half of it.

Rachel cooked a three course menu of Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Orange; Roast Duck Legs; Lentils with Red Wine and a Treacle Tart. Her commentary was consistent, her manner professional and by the end I thought I would try out the recipe. I couldn’t help but be distracted throughout the session, however, with crying babies, half empty rows of seats – it was held at 2pm – and general thoughts of ‘this would be just as good on TV’.

All the slight detachment disappeared when Ainsley came out to play. Ainsley Harriot was on between 4 and 5pm and he was magical. A well seasoned TV presenter who has hosted various TV shows and food specials and is probably best known to daytime viewers as the host of Ready, Steady, Cook for 20 seasons. His ease and charm with everyone in the room meant that Nigel’s role quickly became redundant as he sat back and also enjoyed the show.

Ainsley danced and cooked and sweated and told us all about his life. In the early 1990s he was part of the musical act Calypso Twins with schoolfriend Paul Boross and released a hit record in the early 1990s, “World Party”. We were treated to various renditions of calypso music throughout the show which accompanied his dishes. The chilli cornbread muffins were prepared as a side to Peppy’s Ackee And Salt Fish In De Pan which brought with it stories of his mum. The Chargrilled Jerk-Slashed Chicken brought up opportunities for banter with the audience and he even promised some food to a woman a few seats in front of me.

Ainsley stepped out into the crowd, joyfully hugged a woman celebrating her birthday, interviewed the catering college students from the City of Bristol College who helped out with the preparations, and brought to the stage an audience member tasked with tasting the wine and the food.

He put on a show and I would pay to see him again but I must confess it was Rachel’s duck dish for which I passed by a supermarket and bought the ingredients. The Love Cooking Festival in Bristol was a great example of how not all festivals are alike and there was not a Pieminister pie in sight.

Love Cooking Festival sessions: London, 2 November. Harrogate, 5 December. Tickets are still available.

Guillermo Del Toro, Cancelled

For those who booked a ticket to see Guillermo del Toro at 7pm on Friday 8 October at the Cheltenham Literature Festival you are about to be disappointed.

Guillermo del Toro is unable to attend as he has cancelled his planned trip to the UK and is no longer intending to visit Europe over the next few weeks.

If you have a ticket then please contact the Box Office for a refund or exchange your session for a different one. There are many to choose from.

You can buy tickets and browse through all the sessions at

Watershed: Wildscreen Festival

The Watershed will be host to the Wildscreen Festival from Saturday 09 to  Sunday 17 October. While others are sitting in the same room as Simon Pegg, Derren Brown, Guillermo del Toro and Michael Caine in Cheltenham, you could be admiring little creatures and environmental delights in central Bristol.

The festival provides the chance to see a selection of award-winning films from around the globe. Screenings are free and tickets are available from the Box Office on the day.

Note that due to Wildscreen’s huge popularity Watershed’s first floor (including the Café/Bar) will be a delegates only area from Monday 11 – Thursday 14 Oct until 17:00hrs each day.

Wildscreen 2010: Monkey Thieves: Searching for Sanctuary Sat 09 Oct
Even Jaipur’s temple monkeys are affected by the global credit crunch. Monkey Thieves follows their lives as troops are forced to divide, friendships are challenged and hard times come to all. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves Sat 09 Oct
Size and power square off against speed and teamwork, as mighty grizzly bears contend with powerful packs of wolves for control of the food supply in Yellowstone National Park. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean Sat 09 Oct
Imagine if we could drain the water from the ocean. Using the latest scientific data and state-of-the-art graphics, Drain the Ocean reveals the strange and bizarre landscapes that lie beneath the waves. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa Sat 09 Oct
Presenter Steve Backshall and his team are on a fun-filled, adrenalin-fuelled journey to find the 60 deadliest creatures on the planet – creatures most people spend their lifetime avoiding. Further Information

Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX, +44 (0)117 927 5100,,

Portents: College Green

There are 50 tents set up at College Green and they make up the art exhibition Portents. The event is organised by the Pierian Centre and runs from Saturday 18 to Sunday 26 September with each design created by a different group in Bristol.

I thought I was the audience…

… and then I looked at you.

by Ruth Claxton

The exhibition took place at a gallery at the University of Essex in 2005. A room full of small figurines all around the shelves on the edges. From the centre of the room, the dolls would be all staring at the audience if their eyes weren’t covered up. Streamers, a flower, green extensions, big sunglasses and all types of items provide the cover. So while we’re looking at them they are quite specifically not looking at us.

Another of Ruth Claxton’s exhibitions is on display at Spike Island in Bristol according to her website. It was last dated 2009 so I’m not sure if it’s still there but I’ll happily go and find out.

Update: I found out through the Spike Island web site that the Ruth Claxton exhibition took place between 31 January – 15 March 2009 and was called Land’s End.

Discovering Harbourside, Bristol

The Discovering Harbourside event, which took place on June 9, was so popular that it had sold out even before I had written about it. Luckily the time travelling walk was given a second date, hosted by Stanfords in Bristol, and this took place on Tuesday June 22.

The talk and walk was based on the book ‘Discovering Harbourside: A Journey to the Heart of Bristol’ which was published in January 2010 and is now available for purchase from the book store on Corn St. The author James Russell and photographer Stephen Morris led a walk around the Bristol docks followed by wine and a book signing at the bookshop.

A group of about 20 people set off from Corn St and walked a little way to the first location of the Corn Exchange. Not quite on the harbourside but a focal point for the merchants who would bring their goods and trade them. The three hands on the clock were pointed out, and for those who didn’t know, the two minute hands tell Bristol and London time respectively. The next stop was the Bristol Bridge with a passing comment for the obelisk on the other side of the road. It leads to cellars underneath the old city which are similar in style to the ones at Averys the wine merchants. The rebuilt St Nicholas Church was given some prominence as it now stands over the crypt where John Cabot used to pray.

King St and Queen Square were next as the tour walked through the Welsh Back. King St was intended as an ordered and tidy looking street with all buildings ordered built the same as each other and with parallel pavements. For those who have been to King St you will know that none of these plans worked out. The orders were meant to give Bristol a polished look more akin to London but “aristocratic London did not work in dirty trading Bristol”. Merchants built as they wanted and would not be told what to do.

Past the reconstructed marsh land of Queen Square, which was built up two metres from its original altitude, we failed to have a closer look at the statue in the middle, due to the Fan Park. Instead the next location was the Princes Wharf and the next story was a quite horrific one of what could have been.

In 1974, the harbour stopped being used as such and almost immediately became a heritage site. A planning committee was set up and one of the proposals was to get rid of the water in order to build a road through the centre of Bristol and up to, and then under, Clifton. A benefit would have been the reduction in millions of pounds of maintenance which is currently used for the harbour. However, Bush house, which currently houses the Arnolfini would have been destroyed as would over 100 other buildings. Due to popular opposition this plan, thankfully, never went ahead. One aspect not considered was that between the time the water was taken out of the harbour and concrete poured in, the quay side would have collapsed as the water now holds the buildings and sides in place.

The last fascinating tidbit that I’ll pass on is about Pero’s Bridge and Bristol’s link to the slave trade. Pero’s Bridge is named after John Pinney’s slave Pero. John Pinney inherited a sugar plantation, in 1760 when he was 30. He moved to the Caribbean island Nevis where at some point he paid £110 for Pero, Pero’s sister and mother, and a woman named Hannah. When John Pinney was ready to come back to England he offered Pero his freedom if he wanted to stay on Nevis or to come back to Bristol and take care of his house for him. Pero chose the latter but apparently was not brilliant at it.

The hour spent wandering around the harbourside was entertaining and fascinating in equal measures. Sharing some of the stories hopefully provides a flavour of the history surrounding Bristol and shared with all through Russell and Morris’s book.

‘Discovering Harbourside’ is meant to be more a guide book for time-travellers than a conventional history. Starting with a re-enactment of John Cabot’s return to Bristol from Newfoundland in 1497, it brings Bristol’s port to life in new and entertaining ways, encouraging readers to look at the city around them and imagine moments, scenes and characters from the city’s past.

‘Discovering Harbourside’ is meant to be more a guide book for time-travellers than a conventional history. Starting with a re-enactment of John Cabot’s return to Bristol from Newfoundland in 1497, it brings Bristol’s port to life in new and entertaining ways, encouraging readers to look at the city around them and imagine moments, scenes and characters from the city’s past.

The walk started and finished at Stanfords and lasted just over an hour.

The book Discovering Harbourside can be bought from Stanfords, Bristol; tel: 0117 929 9966; email: Further information from: