Preview: Joseph, Christ’s Super Step Dad

17 12 2010

A Nativity for non-believers is taking place at the Old Fire Station next week. Joseph, Christ’s Super Step Dad will feature a cast and crew made up of Invisible Circus regulars, including ringmaster Doug Francis as Father Christmas. Other characters include the Pope, Easter Bunny and Voice of God.

Joseph, Christ’s Super Step Dad is written and directed by Dave Lovatt, produced by Katie Dunn, with music from David Taylor (best known for his Pip’s Jukebox at Carny Ville) who also plays Joseph..

The show takes place at the Old Fire Station on December 20, 21 and 22. Tickets cost £10 or £8 and are available from the Bristol Ticket Shop.


14 12 2010

Three nights of unique and eclectic performances are coming to the Old Vic later this week. Ausform is “a Bristol-based performance platform that strives to promote and encourage knowledge, appreciation, practise and conservation of performance”. Expect one-off evenings of puppetry, performance art, films, circus and physical theatre.

The programme for Ausform is different on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, but what is always promised in each show are treats and surprises.

Performers include Paper Cinema, which “exists in the meeting of live music and moving drawings”; Soup Soup Theatre; Little Ray’s Puppets; and Kings of England, a father-son performance company whose performance “will most certainly be a rant about something beautiful”.

Each show starts at 10pm on December 16, 17 and 18. Tickets cost £8.

For more details visit

Best Bristol events 2010

10 12 2010

One of the best things about December is the chance to look back at the year gone by and come up with lots of lists. Newspapers and magazines in the coming weeks will be full of such lists, and we are no different, with lists to come of Bristol’s best gigs and plays of the year, Bristol’s best restaurants and cafes and our pick of 2010’s best films.

But first we start with the odds and sods, the events that cannot be categorised anywhere else but have made up a typically diverse year of Bristol festivals, events and one-off spectacles:

1) Bristol Cycle Festival

The Bristol Cycle Festival was a two-week celebration in September of all things bike. Some wonderful events were organised from bicycle polo to a drive-in cinema on the Pill cycle path. The undoubted highlight was the carnival parade, a riot of colour and noise. We are also including August’s bike film festival Cyclescreen within the Bristol Cycle Festival, a brilliant few days at the Watershed of movies, documentaries and talks.

2) Carny Ville

October’s Carny Ville could have been the Invisible Circus’ last hurrah in Bristol, but if it was, boy have they gone out with a bang. As usual there was a dazzling array of street performance, art, circus skills and music. The incredible climax happened above our heads in the central courtyard as performers juggled fire and danced synchronised routines dangling from wires.

3) 2.8 Hours Later

2.8 Hours Later was the highlight of the third annual Interesting Games Festival, or igfest. Over a weekend in September, igfest featured such diverse games as locating the wearer of a GPS-enabled bowler hat and coffin racing. For 2.8 Hours Later, 200 people gathered in St Nicholas Street to await instruction. Wearing orange armbands to differentiate ourselves from bemused civilians, the streets of Bristol then became the setting for the zombie apocalypse.

4) Cloak and Dinner

We are counting January’s guerilla dining experience in Quay Head House on the centre as an event, because it was just that. And it was the precursor to many other event-style dining experiences in Bristol this year. None, however, were quite like this. All diners were told was to make their way to the red door opposite the war memorial. What followed was an amazing evening of anarchic charm, never to be repeated.

5) Ignite Bristol

All three Ignite Bristols this year have fulfilled their simple premise, “enlighten us, but keep it quick”. Speakers at Ignite have five minutes to talk about any subject they wish as a slide changes behind them every 15 seconds. We have learnt about such diverse topics as toxins in your sex toys to a history and demonstration of the lindy hop (right). It’s always fascinating and always great fun.

Christmas at the Colston Hall

7 12 2010

I am writing this using the free wi-fi at the Colston Hall, so I thought it would be fitting to repay their kindness and write about what’s going on here this month in the lead-up to Christmas. Highlights include Bristol Choral Society’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah and two Made in Bristol gift fairs.

The performance of Handel’s Messiah by Bristol Choral Society on the Saturday before Christmas is a tradition dating back to 1892. This year, there is a new addition to this tradition, a ‘Mini Messiah’ afternoon concert aimed at families as an introduction to the famous work.

As well as experiencing some of the musical gems, conductor Adrian Partington will unwrap Messiah and explain how Handel put together one of the world’s best-loved pieces.

The Mini Messiah concert on Saturday, December 18 will start at 4.30pm and last under an hour. The choir will also perform their renowned complete Messiah as usual at 7.30pm.

The Made in Bristol Gift Fair takes place in the foyer on Saturday the 11th and 18th, featuring the best in regional crafts including ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery and furniture.

Music this month includes the Bootleg Beatles playing tomorrow, Wednesday the 8th; The Salvation Army Band on Sunday the 12th; the Evening Post carol concert on Tuesday the 14th; Christmas with the Rat Pack on Wednesday the 15th; Only Men Aloud, winners of BBC talent show Last Choir Standing, and the Bristol Folk Festival Christmas Ceilidh, on Friday the 17th; and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Viennese Gala on New Year’s Eve.

Visit for full details of all these shows and events.

Inbetween Time Festival

30 11 2010

“An international celebration of real eccentricity and defiance, artistic bravery and audience openness” arrives in Bristol tomorrow. The Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art and Intrigue has a splendidly diverse programme of more than 75 events by artists from across the globe. Expect a breakneck programme of live, digital, sound, sculptural, architectural, dance, theatre and guerrilla works across five days.

Events include Condensation Box by UK performance artist Jordan McKensie, whose head will be contained within a glass cube at the Arnolfini and the sound of his breathing amplified; a wave machine on College Green created by two American performers using large blue tarpaulins; and a three-hour performance installation at Circomedia by a German and British duo, during which the entwined bodies of a naked woman and a slaughtered pig are sealed together with gold leaf (below).

Many more events could be described here, but they are the kind of things that need to be seen to be believed. Visit for full details of the festival.

Limited £75 festival passes are available for the five days of the festival. Individual event tickets are also on sale from the Arnolfini Box Office. Prices range from £2 to £11.

Ground vs Green debate

29 11 2010

It was billed as the Ground vs Green debate, organised by BBC Radio Bristol and the Evening Post and hosted in the Oasis Academy John Williams in Hengrove. But what we got tonight was theatre, pantomime even, complete with heroes to loudly cheer and villains to loudly boo.

Representing the good guys and 110 per cent in favour of a new stadium in Ashton Vale were Bristol City FC development director Guy Price, deputy Bristol City Council leader Simon Cook and Evening Post editor Mike Norton.

And representing the forces of evil, opposed to building a new 30,000-seat stadium on green belt land, were Steve Micklewright of Avon Wildlife Trust, Charles Cave of Long Ashton Parish Council and Ron Morton of the Save Our Green Spaces Campaign Alliance.

In front of an outrageously biased audience (whose overwhelming allegiance could be guessed at by the first audience member walking in wearing a red Bristol City shirt), battle commenced, adjudicated by ringmaster and our host for the evening, BBC Radio Bristol (or “Radio Breastful” as he was introduced by warm-up act Peter Rowell) breakfast presenter Steve Le Fevre.

If there was a people’s champion, it was Price from the football club, whose every utterance was cheered. The principal boo boy was Morton from Save Our Green Spaces, who seemed to revel in provoking the partisan crowd with his viewpoints, not that outrageous if you consider that planning permission has been granted to build on precious green belt land and a 270-page report by an independent inspector after a nine-day public hearing deemed that this land deserved town green status.

The man of reason was Micklewright, the only panel member to eloquently talk of compromise. Why shouldn’t half of the 42-acre site be given over to the stadium and much-needed arena which could sit alongside it, while the remainder be turned into a wetlands area for wildlife including otters and watervoles?

Evening Post editor Norton also made the same point. He and the newspaper are resolutely committed to supporting the new stadium, “standing up and being counted” he told us for the case for a stadium which overweighs the need for a town green. The Post tried to get a game of cricket played on the recently-designated town green land, but were unable to due to health and safety concerns.

The likelihood of a stadium being built at Ashton Vale and ergo whether World Cup games come to Bristol in 2018 if England in three days time is chosen to host the competition, boils down to whether a backbench group of councillors can rule against the independent ruling that Ashton Vale deserves town green status.

Town green expert Leslie Blohm QC was in the audience to tell us exactly what town green status is based on, namely that an area has to have been used by a significant number of local inhabitants over the last 20 years. The crucial thing here is the ambiguity of the word “significant”, which is not defined in terms of a definite number.

The law has been “misused and abused”, opined Price, a slick operator, who said that the town green bid “must fail” and be overturned by the obscure Public Rights of Way Committee, more used to deciding on footpaths than a new stadium (below), which if built has been estimated to bring up to £90 million of private investment to Bristol.

As the 200-strong crowd filed out of the auditorium, a few broke into a chant of “City, we love you”. Their allegiances and viewpoints were clear. It remains to be seen whether they will be shared by that all-important council committee.

Click here to listen again to the debate on the BBC iPlayer.

Totterdown Arts Trail 2010

19 11 2010

The 10th Totterdown Arts Trail – officially known as Front Room – starts today with a first night party at the Thunderbolt, and children’s workshops, music and live entertainment throughout the weekend which features 200 artists across 60 venues.

As well as the many homes taking part in the trail this year, art will also be displayed in the Bocabar, Shakespeare, Oxford, Star & Dove, Holy Nativity Church, Totterdown Baptist Church and A Capella.

For full details, visit

(Photograph of Vale Street, Totterdown, by Canis Major)

Folk House 90th birthday celebrations

18 11 2010

The Folk House on Park Street is celebrating its 90th birthday on Saturday with a day of free courses, workshops and live music. There is no need to book, just turn up and have a go, with no obligation to stay for the length of the session. But if there’s something that you’re particularly interested in, the Folk House advise you to double check times before the day.

11am – 11.45am: Line dancing with Chris Power

11am – 4pm: Felt making with Julie Roberts

11.45am – 2pm: Face painting with Aza Adlam

Midday – 1pm: Yoga with Jade Mellish

Midday – 2pm: Print making with Jenny Mizel

1pm – 2pm: Tai chi with Frank Pring

2pm – 3pm: Hula hooping with Emma Kerr

1pm – 3pm: Calligraphy with Elaine Guilding

1pm – 3pm: Cartooning with John Rea

3pm – 4pm: Salsa with Norma Daykin

The workshops are open to everyone aged 16 and over, no matter what experience you have.

The fundraising event then takes place in the evening featuring some of the best bands to have played on the Folk House stage in recent years, and also poet Byron Vincent.

Bands playing are The Dagger Brothers (featuring Folk House Cafe chef Oliver White), War Against Sleep, Liz Melia and The Hog Ranch.

The concert starts at 8pm on Saturday, November 20. Tickets costs £5 and are available from the Folk House or by calling 0117 926 2987.

Preview: Mapping the Nation

4 11 2010

It was only last week that I was admiring the Ordnance Survey map of Bristol in Mange Tout on Corn Street. I find old maps of Bristol endlessly compelling. The yellowing maps of the city on the balcony of the City Museum are fascinating, showing the development of Bristol in minute detail, but they were labours of love, often by individuals, and now look more like works of art than maps as we know them today. It was only when the Ordnance Survey came along that Bristol and the British Isles could see itself clearly for the first time.

On Monday evening, Rachel Hewitt, author of Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, will be coming to Bristol to talk at the Watershed as part of the Festival of Ideas.

Her book tells the story of the creation of the Ordnance Survey map – the first complete, accurate, affordable map of the British Isles – and the men who dreamt and delivered it from its inception in 1791, right through to the OS MasterMap of the present day.

The Festival of Ideas website says that “the Ordnance Survey’s history is one of political revolutions, rebellions, and regional unions that altered the shape and identity of the United Kingdom over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It’s a deliciously readable account of a much-loved institution, of one of the great untold British adventure stories.”

Rachel Hewitt’s talk takes place at the Watershed on Monday, November 8 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £4 or £3 concessions. Visit for more information.

Absolut Limited Experience of a Lifetime

3 11 2010

To celebrate the release of a new limited edition bottle of Absolut Vodka, one of Bristol’s most historic but little-known buildings will be taken over by Absolut for one night only later this month for the Absolut Limited Edition Experience of a Lifetime.

Bristol and Exeter House (below), next to Temple Meads, was the original headquarters building of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. Designed by Bristol architect Samuel Fripp in Jacobean style, it was vacant for some time before being transformed into boutique office space.

On Thursday, November 11, it will play host to what could be a very special event to help celebrate the launch of Absolut Glimmer (right), a new limited edition bottle in crystal-shaped glass. I’m not entirely sure what is being planned, so will leave the description to the team at Absolut:

“We have collaborated with selected artists and visionaries to create an extraordinary journey where the ordinary will become extraordinary. Our guests will explore a unique maze in small groups and at times individually; they’ll dine at the one minute restaurant or add a word to the never ending story. Each event will include an exceptional Absolut drinks experience featuring the new Absolut Limited Edition and unique Absolut drinks.”

To find out more, visit