Moving from London to Bristol?
There is a limit to my patience and fake facial expressions these days. It’s not the two men having a punch-up outside my window right now, using language I can’t publish. It’s not the burglar alarm on the industrial estate opposite us going off at 4am this morning, or the beeping of the forklift from 6am. It’s not the 3am pub karaoke or the drug dealing under the adjacent lamppost.
My limit has been reached regarding people talking about moving to Bristol. During the last ten years, I’ve had so many polite conversations with people who have decided to move out of London with their families and buy in Bristol because it’s ‘edgy’ and ‘diverse’ here. It’s multicultural.
I’ve nodded in sympathy at the family who were sad that they only had £500,000 to spend on a house, at a time when I was homeless with nowhere to live.
I agreed with others how competitive it was to find a rental property in Bristol even with six months rent upfront. Whilst agreeing and making all the right sympathetic noises, I was being knocked back by landlords for having children, being self-employed and a myriad of other reasons.
There was a time I looked at moving out of Bristol, a city I was born into 40 years ago, desperately trying to find somewhere to live whilst others spent a week holidaying it up and looking at homes in Southville, Brislington or Redland.
Bristol, like many others cities, is experiencing a housing crisis. There are already nearly 12,000 Bristolians on Bristol City Council’s housing register for social housing. To get on the register in the first place, you need to have a local connection, which the HomeChoice Bristol Housing Allocation Scheme (Amended April 2018) states ‘continuously’ living within the boundary for the last two years.
To rent a family home here, Rightmove shows fairly average three-bed houses, flats and Maisonettes in the city are between £900 and £1500 per month and letting agents can afford to be ultra selective.
But of course, it’s not just about housing, it’s also about schools and lifestyle. Bristol is frequently knocked for having ‘bad’ schools, which is very unfair. Perhaps ‘bad’ means the city doesn’t have the grammar school system.
Redland Green is always the school of desire for outsiders. It’s in the ‘nice’ area with the ‘nice’ housing and the ‘nice’ parks and the ‘nice’ shops.
When someone says they want to move to Bristol with their family because it’s diverse and edgy, what this really means is they want to move to Redland near the best schools and where the ‘safe’ white people live.
They want to soak up the vibrant ambience of the Harbour Festival and spot balloons on Brandon Hill. But they don’t want to walk home to St Jude’s.
They want to go to the St Paul’s Carnival, but they don’t want to go home to St Paul’s.
They want to spend summer with their toddlers paddling in the pool in St Andrew’s Park. They don’t want to try and push a Phil and Teds through pools of vomit and blood on Stapleton Road.
They want the nice lunch in Cabot Circus and a Ferry to the SS Great Britain. They don’t want to dodge the woman from upstairs who got so high she went outside and took a dump in the children’s play park. The arson-proof type children’s play park.
They want to peruse books in charity shops on Gloucester Road or sit in independent coffee shops with a copy of the Guardian. They want to spend the morning making organic muffins and singing at a franchise baby music group.
They don’t want night after night of broken sleep because Sharon across the road did pub karaoke until 3am.
Yes, Bristol is diverse and edgy. It’s vibrant and multicultural. But Bristol is also a city which is incredibly segregated, both in terms of socioeconomic circumstances and ethnicity. When people say they want to move to Bristol because it is vibrant and diverse, they don’t actually mean they want to move to the vibrant and diverse areas.
You might wander Broadmead and notice the richness of many different cultures. But it stops there. When people go home, they go home back to their communities. Vast swathes of Bristol is white, and the areas with the densest representation of ethnic minorities – a segregating term by itself – are also the areas of high deprivation.
St Paul’s, St Jude’s, Lawrence Hill, areas of Easton, these are some of the poorest places in Bristol. They are also the areas with a high level of different ethnic backgrounds.
In 2017, the Runnymede Trust said that ‘Ethnic minorities in Bristol experience greater disadvantage than in England and Wales as a whole in education and employment and this is particularly so for Black African people.’
According to Bristol City Council’s Lawrence Hill Statistical Ward Profile 2017, 33.6 per cent of residents were white British, with the ward one third higher than the next highest which is Easton.
A 39.2 per cent of Lawrence Hill Ward residents were born outside of the UK, with 2059 coming from Somalia, 624 Jamaica and 431 from Pakistan.
Bristol, A City Divided? Runnymede Trust’s report asked, and yes, yes it is. It is divided. It might be exciting, full of events and festivals for all. It might be a hub of ethnicity in a cosmopolitan city centre that embraces diversity. But it is divided and the inequality is vast.
We have horrific problems with street homelessness, with unsuitable and unaffordable housing. We have a complete lack of social housing provision, yet developers popping up badly constructed new builds with the least social housing or affordable provision they can get away with.
We have swinging cuts made by Bristol City Council every year, with only the white middle class to protect their local libraries and services.
We have huge inequality on the streets of Lawrence Hill Ward. Pavements covered in blood and emergency services which have all but given up when there’s another body on the street.
So families in London, don’t lie to us and don’t lie to yourselves. Next time you talk dewy-eyed about wanting to live in multicultural Bristol. To become part of our diverse city. To embrace our free festivals and party in St Paul’s. Don’t lie and say you want to come live in Bristol because it’s edgy, cool and multicultural. Just cut straight to the chase and we can point you towards the clean, middle class, faux left-wing areas you really want to live in. The ones unsullied by the problems of low-income, racism and poor housing. Go move to Redland, Clifton, Westbury-on-Trym or Bishopston. Paddle in your clean pools with your children, the ones you don’t want to mix with the ‘council house kids’. You do that, whilst we literally step over the bloodied bodies of the victims of Bristol’s diverse and edgy vibe.
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