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I've lived in Bristol for the past 16 years, and think it's the best city in the UK in which I could chose to live. Bristol is a creative, artistic, leftfield place, vibrant and laid back all at the same time. There are many statistics I've heard - most of which are probably true. We have more street parties than anywhere else in the country, more festivals, more graduates from the two universities who stay here and settle. But stats are dull, it's the experiences that I remember:
- The Cube Microplex - a volunteer run co-operative cinema & arts centre 52 weeks of the year.
- Carny-Ville - a mind blowing night of entertainment, performed by a cast and crew of two hundred people, all put together by a group of legal squatters
- IgFest - being chased by zombies across the streets of Bristol. Sport, theatre and technology converge. Huge fun, very silly, and yet an important signifier of what all organisations will be doing with the forthcoming Experience Economy.
I could go on and on - MayFest, Bristol Jam, Banksy - but I won't.
How did I find out about most of these? Venue magazine.
It was announced today that Venue, the weekly listings mag for Bristol and Bath, is to close after the next three issues. It's extremely sad news, for the journalists who are losing their jobs, and for the whole city. Bristol will be a poorer place without Venue. Venue was part of the virtuous circle of Bristol's cultural scene. It's existence was proof that Bristol had something special, and could support such a publication. Through existing it in turn helped the flourishing creativity of the city, bringing audiences to new events across the city.
I discovered the news through reading the Bristol Culture blog on my iPad. There's real irony in that - former Venue editor Tom Phillips explains "Sad truth is that, for whatever reason, the sums don't add up - print is on the way out but neither readers nor advertisers want to pay for the internet".
I did immediately run out and buy a copy of Venue - I do most weeks but hadn't in the last seven days. I'll buy two copies of tomorrow's edition (hey, it worked for 6Music).
Perhaps the freelancers and staff of Venue will somehow regroup and reinvent themselves as a monthly or on the net. Perhaps Bristol City Council could scrap the Our City freesheet and use that cash to prop up Venue. Perhaps Banksy or Steve Lansdown could fund it...
What has all this got to do with Bristol University? As universities fight harder to attract students paying up to £9000 a year, the quality of the student experience is becoming supremely important. I think the university increasingly recognises how important the experience of the whole city is within that. I'd like to see much closer links between the university, the council, and local enterprises to bolster this, and show the city at it's best to our students.
In a small way the MyMobileBristol with which I'm involved is looking to do exactly that - ideas like mobile guided walks of the city for university open days. Let's see what we can do...