Image: Destination Bristol
Whilst the majority of cities in the UK have their own unique composition, Bristol truly is different form anywhere else. Unlike its northern neighbours Bristol is geographically far removed from its English counterparts, closer still to Wales and as such takes up its own charm. It’s reflected in a gloriously divergent music scene which has delivered Portishead, Roni Size and Massive Attack amongst others, and a consistently brilliant festival and club scene.
One of those is Simple Things 2013 which takes place in the city on Saturday 12th October and will feature Modeselektor, Nicolas Jaar, Pantha du Prince and many more across a variety of as yet unannounced venues in the city. Ahead of the festival we thought that Author Nikesh Shukla who acts as the festival’s digital manager and relocated to Bristol from London a few years ago, would be best placed to run through the city’s very specific charms. He didn’t disappoint.
Where do you live and why do you live there?
I live in Bristol and I moved here for family reasons but I live here because it’s the coolest place in the UK except London. But it was time for a change. Go West, like the Pet Shop Boys told me to.
What makes the city so special?
It is diversity-rich; there’s no one single thing about the place. Bristol is an urban village comprising many communities. There’s a large music scene here, legendary in its status; there’s a big graffiti scene (though, we call it street art now, to make it more palatable in its rebrand), and there’s a burgeoning literary community, of which I am a proud part. I’ve brought the UK’s biggest lit night, Book Slam, to Bristol with a great degree of success.
Bristol is for cyclists, foodists (not foodies), theatre-goers, balloonists, mixologists, circus-ists and classisists. There is no one thing about Bristol. We are all tribes in its belly and that diversity makes it the friendliest, warm and most laidback places in the country.
Where’s your favourite places to eat there?
There’s a small takeaway restaurant in Kingsdown that makes food like my mum used to make. It makes home cooked Gujarati food, the people there have been my link to the Gujarati community. They make an excellent khichdi and they treat me like a prodigal son.
I also like The Runcible Spoon, sustainable, ethically-sourced delicious food, cheap, and freshly-made with a changing menu. It represents everything I love about Bristol – every day a new experience and a community-vibe. Also, the Old Bookshop on North Street has a delicious tapas menu and some cool décor. Chandeliers made of brass instruments and typewriters adorning the walls… it’s like being in a bar Hemingway would have frequented.
And the best places to go out?
I’m past my raving days so I’m a fan of kooky gastro-pubs that have local ales on tap and a warbly acoustic troubadour whining in the corner. I like The Gallimaufry, The Bell and The Crofters Rights – all in the general Stokes Croft/Gloucester Road area, for just that. They also do good food.
Decent bands are always on at Start the Bus and The Birdcage. There are loads of interesting venues too like The Island - which is an old Police Station. It's one of the venues for October's Simple Things festival (www.simplethingsfestival.co.uk/) - I'll be there to see Jon Hopkins and Nicolas Jaar amongst others. I’m also partial to a quirky cinema immersive experience, courtesy of The Cube.
For someone about to come to the city for the first time, what are the three things they must do before the year is out in the city?
Hit up the indie shops for records, books and clothes.
Stand atop Cabot Tower and look out at the countryside that Bristol hides in the middle of.
Challenge me to a game of ping-pong on College Green.
What’s the city’s greatest hidden secret?
It is the street party capital of Europe, which means every weekend, there is a local festival, fete, local art trail or market going on in the city. You just have to find it.
And finally, what one bit of advice would you give someone hitting the city for the first time?
Stay in the centre. Everywhere is walkable. And you will find a different experience either side of the river so take the time to venture out from beyond the centre. If you wanted an immediate excuse to visit - take our Bristol Music Challenge Facebook quiz to win 3 pairs of tickets to the upcoming Simple Things festival here: http://a.pgtb.me/3K2d3J
Check out our Insider’s Guide feature here with our editor Jimmy Coultas discussing Liverpool.
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