Mayfest, May 16 to 26

Here’s one of my favourite things to do with Mayfest shows: pretend that they apply to people from various parts of Bristol. For example, while walking down East Street the other week I wondered how the people walking through there would react to Hook, Skip, Repeat: being invited to use brightly coloured rope and a giant crochet needle, to help weave eye-catching spider’s web-like creations. It’s free.

How about Turning the Page, to who would this be most suited?

Imagine if your well-thumbed, outdated guidebook could talk. Think of the stories it would tell about the places it’s been, the characters encountered and narrow escapes along the way.
Through this intimate installation you are invited to investigate a series of clues hidden within a guidebook that magically come to life as you turn the pages.

How do books act as repositories of treasures and triggers of memories? When we read a book, do we leave something of ourselves in and on its pages?

I imagine that it would be magical for everyone although I may be a little biased as it is taking place in the library.

There’s something about some art installations or plays that make me think that it’s all designed for white middle-class audiences and then I read their program and realise that I am more than white and middle class.

Without trying to sound pompous (and failing), the human experience beyond labels is what the artists find as well and it was Brand New Ancients I thought of I as walked passed betting shops

The gods are in the betting shops, the gods are in the café,
The gods can’t afford the deposit on their flat …
Winged sandals tearing up the pavement,
Me, you, everyone, Brand New Ancients.

(Kate Tempest
Friday 17 – Saturday 18)

Mayfest brand new ancients

There’s also one where you are advised to only sign up if you are not afraid of heights and don’t have a heart condition. Goodness.

The Great Spavaldos

Mayfest runs from May 16 to 26 and there are many things to do – see Programme.

The Ethicurean cookbook

Cookbooks are the one print media that I can’t imagine disappearing into a collection of electronic means. One look and touch of the Ethicurean cookbook reaffirms my belief that you need solid pictures, bigger than the screen of your phone or e-reader, to see beautiful creations come alive just ingredients away. You also need the space just to appreciate the style in this book and text big enough and a medium robust enough to be able to leave it next to the stove as you cook.

The Ethicurean Cookbook

Divided into seasons, the recipes are scattered throughout with stunning accompanying pictures. Maybe too stunning, they were certainly a distraction from my search for sticky toffee apple pudding, more recently served at the restaurant with warm cinnamon infused cream, and duck confit. The former wasn’t in there but there was a section for confit which I found when I glanced through it for a second time. There was also the guessing game of whether Jack Bevan would be bearded or not in the next shot (or what he would be doing).

Aesthetically it is more than pleasing but it’s the food I’m interested in. My daughter’s dad waxed lyrical about how he thought it was so beautiful that he wouldn’t want to harm it by using it in the kitchen and having it get dirty. He doesn’t cook that much yet and I think it can only get better through use. I would have it dusted and greased and pollinated by all the ingredients I would surround it with. (Some of them are flowers.) I would write in the margins the date and names for who I cooked the meals and leave bookmarks scattered throughout for my favourite recipes. What’s the point of a book if it’s not for the beauty of its content.

So, yes, it’s beautiful because everything the Ethicurean seems to do is done well. My daughter and I have celebrated some our favourite events there with her father over the last two years and she has run around the gardens and fallen asleep in my arms while we’ve enjoyed coffee and cider and sticky toffee apple cake with cinnamon cream and looking over the garden and the valleys of Wrington.

We’ve been very grateful to the four friends who set up this restaurant in an enchanting Victorian walled garden in the Mendip Hills. With an ethos of seasonality, ethical sourcing of ingredients and attention to the local environment it is no wonder they have already been awarded the Observer Food Monthly best ethical restaurant in 2011, a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2013 and the Bristol Culture best restaurant of 2012.

Get 20% off if you travel there by bus. There are 120 exciting recipes in this book and I aim to cook most of them (apart from the rabbit ones).

Try this one for medicinal purposes : The Ethicurean cocktail. Includes thyme, vodka and honey.

m at the Ethicurean

The Ethicurean cookbook is published today by Ebury Press and costs £25.

Cider Spectacular at the Southbank Arts Cafe

The Cider Shop hosted a cider festival at the Southbank Arts Cafe over the weekend and if I’d known how good it would be I would have posted about it beforehand. I started to write while at the festival and then M fell asleep in my arms and I was busy eating a hot dog and drinking two halves of unknown origin cider. One was quite honeyed and pear-tasting and the other dry and not too heavy. Both were pleasant. The queue at the cider purchasing part of the festival was so long that M’s dad picked up four and came back inside.

The festival was put on by the Bristol Cider Shop and the Southbank Arts Cafe was an excellent location. There was a beer garden out the back which quickly filled up and kept everyone away from the spacious indoor pub-like room. We managed to sit on the comfortable sofa and stuck it out there for a bit.

Just before we left I had a coffee from a most intricate coffee-making contraption I’d ever seen. I was dubious of the product and kept saying ‘it smells funny’ although no one listened. The coffee’s aroma was aromatic and nutty and the flavour was sweetish and smooth. Not a hint of acridity or bitterness. I took a photo but didn’t think to ask its origin.

The Southbank Arts Cafe was lovely and a great setting for cider and the large crowd. On Saturdays they have a family children’s session from 9.30 to 12.30 where they show children’s movies. I don’t think M would sit still in a movie yet but the place generally was great.

Southbank Arts cafe indoors

The amazing and wonderful coffee machine (the one on the right)

The Bristol Cider Shop 7 Christmas Steps, Bristol, BS1 5BS; The Southbank Arts Cafe, Dean Lane, Bristol, BS3 1DB
0117 966 5552.

Dates for Harbourside police beat surgeries

A Police beat surgery is held in Bristol central library twice a month. The police urge anyone with any queries or questions for them to go along. They will also provide crime reduction advice. The dates and times of upcoming surgeries are as follows;

Monday 13th May 2013 – 10:00am-11:00am
Thursday 30th May 2013 – 18:30pm-19:15pm

Monday 10th June 2013 – 10:00am-11:00am
Thursday 27th June 2013 – 18:30pm-19:15pm

Monday 8th July 2013 – 10:00am-11:00am
Thursday 25th July 2013 – 18:30pm-19:15pm

Monday 5th August 2013 – 10:00am-11:00am
Thursday 22nd August 2013 – 18:30pm-19:15pm

Arnolfini on the Harbourside

Full Court Press, Bristol

New cafe Full Court Press has opened on Broad Street in Bristol and it adds itself  to the list of good quality coffee connoisseurs. I enjoyed a well-made soy latte made with BonSoy milk and Mugomera coffee by Roundhill from Burundi.

‘How do you drink your coffee?’ determines what you end up drinking and mine was beautifully done. I’m sure my untrained palette picked up dark cocoa and woody flavours.

We chatted a lot about coffee with the staff and it was hard to say goodbye to the delicious beverages. The ex-boutique off Corn Street is grade II listed with an original fireplace from the early 19th century building,  spacious enough to sit in for a while.

There are cakes from Bosh and pastries from Harts Bakery. It’s a great addition to the Bristol coffee scene with an emphasis on quality and no gimmicks.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

Full Court Press, 59 Broad Street, Bristol, BS1 2EJ. 07794 808552.

Local elections in Bristol 2013

Local elections in Bristol 2013: just the facts.

Here is a list of Bristol wards and the candidates (and their address so you can ponder why the Green Cabot councillor is living in Southville and the Lib Dem for Clifton lives in Henleaze) :

You can also examine your candidates’ views about issues at The link is to Bristol South local candidates.

There is a Green candidate standing for election in every ward.

Aside: Vote for Green party candidate Simon Stafford-Townsend in Clifton (because I know him).

The irrationality of voting at elections

Voting in local elections is a slightly less irrational choice than in national elections because your vote is more likely to count. The idea that one vote can mean much doesn’t work too well at an individual level but there are many more reasons to vote which benefit your community and society as a whole, according to many political thinkers and not just me.

Benefits of voting at local, or any, elections

Not voting has other disadvantages which are felt at a personal level such as making people more engaged citizens and letting the parties know who counts. There is less incentive for elected parties to care for the needs of people who do not cast a ballot.

Allowing the wealthy and elite the power of effectively choosing a nation’s leaders regresses the system back to the days when landowners held the power. (The Politics of Voter Suppression)


Grillstock, Bristol: May 11-12, 2013

Grillstock is back and it has food, tasting competitions and Dr BBQ again. I’ve written about it and attended for the last two years and it only gets better. Last year the headline act that finished off the weekend was Alabama 3. The children’s tent had a Ping Pong table in front of it where local and international celebrities battled it out and there were lots of samples and lots of food in great quantity.

Two months early than usual, the two-day festival will also feature a pop-up Brooklyn Dive Bar which will let Craft beer lovers sample some US treats for the first time.

Grillstock 2011

Grillstock May 11-12 in central Bristol. Purchase tickets from the website.

An allotment in front of St Mary Redcliffe, Ovagrown

There’s a woollen man sitting on top of a door of a house where poet Thomas Chatterton was born in 1752. The man is just sitting there.

A man on a house

The house is opposite St Mary Redcliffe and just next to Portwall Lane very close to Bristol Temple Meads train station. Cars pass constantly.

Reflected St Mary Redcliffe

In front of the house there are three plots. Two of them are dug up and one has overgrown cabbages and other vegetables.

vegetable plots

A plastic covered sheet of paper has a link to a blog ( and includes some pictures of previous produce.

paper in sheets

The blog was last updated in October 2011.

Step up to the plate! A Bristol cookbook with a difference

Step Up To The Plate! is a cookbook with a difference: it is written by people with learning disabilities. The Park Cafe in Kingswood is a project run by Brandon Trust in Bristol where trainees prepare for employment, learning valuable transferable work skills while also gaining catering and retail skills. The Park Cafe trainees have gathered together their favourite recipes and want to share them with you. This book is also their stories, as they grow in confidence, contributing to their local community and living a life.


Published in February 2012 it is available from the cafe and Tangent Books

Pieminister shop gets a whole new look

The Pieminister shop on Stokes Croft has had a refurbishment and is now looking more like a bar and acting like one too. It is open until 11pm and serves a good selection of beers and drinks. They even have the sparkling Wild Beer Co and 6 o’clock gin and tonic.

There are still plenty of pies along dishes such as cheese platters, popcorn crayfish and other English tapas.

See more about the new shop on Bristol Culture – and a photo.

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