Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Seeing Red

There are some things in life that make your blood boil.

If you're interested in the healthy development of Old Market, the Love Easton exhibition upstairs at the Architecture Centre during November 2009 may well be one of those things.

The catalogue makes a fair stab at it with its presentation of the first of the project's 'Big Visions', Old Market Road (sic).

The double-page spread shows two photo-montages: one large, one small.

The larger one, presumably the bigger vision, depicts a bleak red-light district with a few shady characters left and right, one at a French style pissoir. The neon sign above his head promises Live Rude Girls on Stage Open 24 Hours. Red lights illuminate the windows of the Palace, while the business next door offers Girls, Girls, Girls, Live Exotic Show, Peep Show and Striptease. Further along we see Fun City and 64 Selections Video Peeps. All this is presented under the arc of a rainbow.

A quarter of the size, the other vision, entitled Injecting life, portrays the streets of Old Market thronging with people in a manifestation of 'let's all go to the same place at the same time' not seen since the anti-Iraq-war protests of February 2003. There seem to be markets stalls there, too, though it's not clear exactly what they are.

So whose visions are these?

The cryptic catalogue gives no clue. The exhibition seems to be keeping that to itself, too.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Seeds, Flowers, Freeholds & Grass Roots Campaigning

The big news, of course, is that the lap dancing club's licence application for 22 hour-a-day opening has not been granted. Due to the objections raised, it will now go to a hearing of the Licensing Sub-Committee on the 15th October.

The planning application for another lap dancing club next door at the former Ghana Goods shop is still available for objections. The consultation period has been extended until the 14th October, due to BCC's late sending of the notification letters. The Old Market Community Association is urging everyone to 'Object NOW!'

On a brighter note, Old Market Street now has a Florist! Funki Flora has opened, fittingly perhaps, at the former Green Party campaign shop next door to the Stag & Hounds. Apart from employing an apparently dyslexic sign-writer, business is blooming and the shop will be expanding into the realms of fruit and veg in the near future.

The Bristol Genuine Seed Bank has gone up in the world and down the street, moving to very much larger premises at the former Thorne Security shop. In these credit crunch times, it suggests that more people must be turning to growing their own.

Interestingly, Old Market has traditionally had a seed shop. Back in the 1930s, it was at 29 Midland Road, where the entrance to John's Cafe Bar used to be (best wishes to his family).

John's, incidentally, it currently being offered on £19,000 a year leasehold.
Details of this vacant shop, the rest of the building above and behind Funki Flora, and others in Old Market can now be found, collected neatly into one place, on the brand new - not yet officially launched - Old Market Retail website.

This is an initiative by the Old Market Community Association designed to make it easier for anyone seeking to rent a shop to the area, to find one. It's a free service, with agents' and owners' contact details and links back to their websites or ads. Agents and owners can add the details themselves by filling in the 'Add a Property' form on the website.

OMCA, who are strongly focussed on facilitating the regeneration of Old Market, has been contacting owners and agents of empty shops to get the details of the properties. At the same time, it has been encouraging them to display the weekly or monthly rent in the shop windows, in an attempt to let people know how low the rents in Old Market really are.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Regeneration or degeneration?

The lap dancing flesh-peddlars have applied for a new licence to lure like-minded misogynists into the area twenty-four hours a day, while the unlicensed, hence illegal, adult shop in Old Market Street is now flashing its open sign.

With its AGM looming in just over a month, the Old Market Community Association needs to turn its attention to what will be on the agenda.
Regeneration is an obvious candidate.

The ball has started rolling, following the successful OMCA meeting with council Regeneration and Transport officials. Then there's the Love Easton Urban Design Task Group, with its One Vision for Old Market, drop-in consultation day.

So, what does Old Market want for itself?

What do the people of the Old Market Conservation Area really want for their neighbourhood?

Right now, it's an unsustainable and uncomfortable juxtaposition of vacant and specialist shops, charities, gay clubs and bars, porn and massage parlours, friendly and unfriendly pubs, a laundrette and a smattering of food places all side-by-side with around 750 up- and down-market homes containing about 1500 residents.

During the daylight hours there's little vibrancy: little to tempt you into the 'high street' for a stroll.

Attempts to lure a mainstream supermarket chain (and with it some retail confidence in the area) into the gap left by Thorne Security have, so far, failed - blame being laid partly on the local loop-the-loop traffic system.

Attempts to fire-up the area with pavement cafes have been doused by Bristol City Council Licensing officials whose blanket (carpet bombing?) pavement policies seem to be more about their own bureaucratic convenience than the needs of Old Market.

There is no doubt that Old Market has great potential. The question is how to acheive it.

Some envision pavement cafes, trees, benches and pedestrians. They see more specialist shops shoulder to shoulder with butcher, baker and greengrocer.

What would you like to see?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and The Bristol Evening Post!

If you daren't use a good headline, pick one that won't fight back!
That seems to be the bullying strategy of some Bristol Evening Post journalism.
Its article on Saturday, 9 August
Bristol's Old Market on Toxic Danger List is a case in point.
The story is utterly misleading about Old Market and leaves readers believing something that is patently untrue.
Whether this is deliberate scaremongering, just bad journalism, or both is difficult to say.

Either way, it wantonly damages Old Market's recent attempts at regeneration after years of having to live with another, ill-deserved reputation.
People who live or work in Old Market are no more at risk than those who live or work in Cabot Circus.
The statement that "The busy street, which provides one of the gateways into the city centre, is on a list of 15 'danger areas' [...]" is simply misleading.
It is not the Old Market Street gateway that has been monitored for toxic pollution.
The pollution measuring station just happens to be called "Old Market" because it is sited near the junction of Bond Street and Old Market Street.
In fact, it is located under the pedestrian footbridge, behind the old escalator building.
Obviously, it measures primarily the toxicity of the fumes from the traffic going through the Temple Way underpass, a busy dual carriageway.
This is the traffic that passes Cabot Circus and far exceeds that travelling through Old Market.
If the sensor station had been sited on the other side of the road, it might have been called "Castle Park". Then the headline might have been the absurd, "Castle Park on toxic danger list".
It is also true that there are only two functioning monitoring stations of this type in Bristol, so inevitably the data will refer to the area in which they are sited. In reality, it may or may not be any different from other parts of Bristol.
No doubt the story is newsworthy. People should be alerted to the dangerous levels of traffic pollution in Bristol.
However, the choice to malign Old Market when the news refers just as easily to Cabot Circus is despicable.
It clearly has not mattered to the Post’s journalist or editor that this sort of scaremongering unfairly damages Old Market's already unjust reputation and is therefore utterly irresponsible.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Moving Swiftly On...

A quorum of the Old Market Community Association committee met on Thursday with guest appearances from two local beat officers. Of particular note in the discussions were two items:
  1. a meeting with Bristol City Council Redevelopment and Traffic officers; and
  2. arrangements for an AGM combined with a general get-together for local people.
The former is in the pipeline and will be aimed at finding a way to make Old Market more attractive to daytime retailers and improve the lot of those already there.

The latter is proposed for the end of September and initial suggestions are for the meeting to be preceded - or pehaps followed - by a family-friendly affair with food.

Follow or join in the discussions via the Old Market Community Association facebook group.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A Week of Small Changes

Sometimes it's the little things that confirm that things are changing.
Anonymous wooden boards went up over the windows of the would-be massage parlour in West Street that has been prevented from opened by enforcement action.
The recently re-opened lap dancing club was warned by the Council that the “substantial nude lady” on its facade is unacceptable and will be required to be taken down.
After insisting that the hanging baskets in Old Market Street be removed because they were interfering with the proper functioning of the lights, Bristol City Council Lighting Services agreed that they could stay if they were fixed lower down.
Old Market is standing up for itself and is getting more respect!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Join the dots...

The Ostrich Struthio camelus is now farmed, pr...Image via Wikipedia

Saturday 28th June: lap dancing club re-opens.

Friday night 3rd July: a woman is attacked as she waits for a taxi at 4am. Police are looking for witnesses. More here.

Saturday night 4th July: a gay man is beaten up by a group of thugs after they leave the club.

Surprised? If you are, perhaps it's time to pull your head out of the sand!

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