Bristol: Arts Highlights

Bristol ranks above London as England’s inspirational city

By Gemma Tadman

Think about the most inspirational city that you have ever had the pleasure to visit, or, the city that you would most like to visit. What is it about that city that makes it so great? Consider its art scene— street art, schools and galleries; the historical monuments and museums; the availability of performing arts; music and production; and the inspired creativity and romance. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed that Bristol ranked higher than London as one of the world’s most inspirational cities. In fact, Bristol was placed fourth in the 2016 Inspiring Cities Ranking, in a leading survey lead by travel company TravelBird, whilst London didn’t even make it into the top fifteen.

Bristol may not be the most obvious of cities to offer such innovation, but it is certainly deserving of its ranking. No other than the famous street artist Banksy was born and bred in Bristol, and marks of his time there are spread across the city. Visitors can go on organised Banksy walking trails, but, you’re sure to come across his masterpieces when exploring the many streets of shops and restaurants. Banksy’s art took over Bristol museum back in 2009, to transform the exhibition space into an eclectic assortment of Unnatural History— his famous sculpture, an Angel Bust with a leaking paint pot atop its head, is still on display today.

If street art interests you, take a walk down Nelson Street. In 2011 the formerly run down area became the world’s largest outdoor art exhibition: See No Evil, including murals from El Mac and Tats Cru. If you want more art, take a trip to Bristol Museum and Art gallery, or, Arnolfini Gallery along the harbourside— where you can experience contemporary exhibitions of art, performance pieces, and even live music acts.

If it’s architecture you’re after, walk down to Brandon Hill Nature park and climb the winding steps of Cabot Tower. Built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s discovery of America, the tower is free to enter, and allows spectacular views of the sprawling city. If heights are your thing, make sure to walk along the Clifton Suspension Bridge and cross the Avon Gorge, 75 metres above sea level. I highly recommend sitting on the hill next to Clifton Observatory, where you can take in panoramic views of the bridge in its full enormity.

I also recommend taking a trip to one of the local theatre houses. Currently showing at the Wardrobe Theatre is, ‘Rocky: A Horror Show’, a strange but entertaining combination of the 1976 hit film Rocky, and the 1975 musical comedy horror show, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The performance hits very near the mark, in terms of its jokes and its believability, with transvestite-boxer-aliens from a faraway planet, but it is sure to have you in guffaws of laughter.

For those visitors who prefer wide open spaces, just fifteen minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city centre sits Vassals park. The park offers long walks by the riverside to Snuff Mills and is the great spot for avid fishers. With so much on offer, it is really no wonder that Bristol welcomes more than 500,000 international tourists a year. Next time you’re thinking of a city visit, why not take a trip to the world’s fourth most inspirational city?


Gemma Tadman, Arts Editor

Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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