|Best of the bunch|
Forget yer Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys. Roll out the red carpet, squeeze yourself into your ball gown or tux – and join us now for the awards that really matter… Celebrating the best of everything that the West’s had to offer this year, it’s Venue’s Top Bananas for 2010…
1 Ian Holloway
2 Stokes Croft
3= Margot Boyd
3= Amy Williams
Ian Holloway bags top spot this year for services to football and the English language. Bristol born and bred, 'Ollie' once played for Bristol Rovers, then went into management and became right famous for his witty and occasionally left-field pronouncements on matters of football and philosophy.
He spent a year out of the game a short while ago, acquiring chickens and building the coops himself. In 2009 he became manager of Blackpool, saying at the time: “I love Blackpool. We're very similar. We both look better in the dark.”
Earlier this year he was in charge when Blackpool made the Premiership, and was there on the open-top bus that paraded through the town watched by over 100,000 people. Of the team he said: “These boys will be immortal now, people will be talking about them in 40 years. That is all I wanted.”
Holloway is a true-blue Bristolian, working-class background (his mum still lives in the council house he grew up in). He married his childhood sweetheart, he’s devoted to his kids, does lots of work for charity. He is a diamond geezer, an inspirational leader, and if he was the boss of us, we would gladly follow him into the mouth of Hell itself. Wonder if he’d be interested in the elected mayor of Bristol job?
Not just the People's Republic, not just Hamilton House, not just the artists and the squats and the free clothes shop... Our silver medal award goes to the whole of Stokes Croft. This year, the area continued to be an inspiration, and one of the city's main creative hubs, nurturing hungry talent that works for little or nothing at all, and drawing national attention to Bristol. Again. It's not just about art, though; this is where all sorts of new ideas and new ways of doing things are being incubated. Everything from social business and performance spaces to even perfectly sensible, level-headed talk of creating a free city-wide bus service. And it all started with vandals spraying paint on walls.
Over in Bath, a successful sporting year saw cash-strapped Bath City FC gaffer Adie Britton marshal his part-time troops into a promotion-winning force to be reckoned with, elevating themselves to the conference premier for the first time. But it was really the photogenic Amy Williams who caught the attention; the first British individual to win a gold medal at the winter Olympics in 30 years (the last one being Robin Cousins, who is also from round these parts). More to the point, she has proved to a generation of local kids that going down a snow-covered hill on a tea-tray isn't reckless or daft, but a possible career move.
Also in the Heritage City, a posthumous award for the late Margot Boyd, veteran actress, long-serving ‘Archers’ mainstay and former Bath resident whose financial gift to the Theatre Royal enabled one of the most community-activating, glorious celebrations of collective human endeavour we’ve ever seen when the year-long, entirely amateur ‘Ben Hur’ project took to the main stage in October. Many shall remember the gesture until their dying days.
TOP BANANA SKIN
1 Bristol City FC
2 Bristol City Council
3 Somerset County Council
No, look, no, seriously, no stoppit, no... It's all going pear-shaped for Bristol City at the moment. They're not playing terribly good football, but that's the least of it. There was/is the whole saga of the new stadium, knocked for six by a planning inspector's decision to declare that the 42 acres of wasteland it was to be built on is in fact a town green. This despite uncritical support in the local media, not to mention an army of passionate supporters ready to lend their inarticulate support on the message boards. England's ignominious failure to secure the 2018 World Cup means a critical leg of civic support for the new ground has now been knocked away. Then it was revealed in the spring that club chairman loves the old place so much that he now lives in permanent tax exile in Jersey. Nice. And then there's the whole business of Steve Coppell's brief spell as manager, and his abrupt and mysterious resignation, saying his heart wasn't in the job any more. "Enigmatic" was what all the sports reporters said. Hell, not even the signing of celebrity goalkeeper David James went right, as he let in three goals to Millwall in his first game.
In the interests of balance, we would here like to point out that Bristol Rovers are also shit. In fact, if anything, they're worse.
It wouldn't be the annual Banana Skin award without an appearance from Bristol City Council somewhere. In 2010 it was for the unholy mess they made of the general and local elections in May. Voting cards not sent out, postal votes sent to the wrong places, council election counts horribly delayed... An independent inspector is satisfied the results in the end were accurate, but if they make another dog's breakfast of it like this again, they might not be. Nobody has been sacked, disciplined or demoted.
In future histories of the great crash and spending cuts of the early noughties, Tory-run Somerset County Council will always have a well-deserved footnote as the council that was so vindictive, so short-sighted and so block-headedly, egregiously stupid that it cut its arts funding. All of it. All one hundred percent of it. That's £158,000 out of a total council budget of £350 million. Oh yes, the Tories are back in power.
2 Pride Bristol
3 Bath Fringe
Honourable mentions: Cycle Fest, Dot to Dot, Bristol Jam, BrisFest, MayFest
Fling a careless dart at your trusty Venue year planner and wherever it thwunks home, the chances are there’ll be some festival or other happening round these parts. Picking out even half a dozen for banana-themed trophies would be a tall order – but just three?
So, with apologies to the omitted legions equally worthy of praise, we give honourable mention to the freewheelin’ Bristol Cycle Festival, to another ace line-up at Dot to Dot, to the improv lunacy of Bristol Jam, the ongoing community triumph that is BrisFest and the theatrical feast of Mayfest.
In third place on the Musa acuminata podium is Bath Fringe – still flying by the seat of its excellent pants, still pulling out a startling array on a shoestring. We salute them. In second, a new arrival: Bristol’s first ever Pride festival. Packing in eight days of film, comedy, theatre and thought-provoking fringe stuff – plus plenty of partying, it threw a long overdue rainbow of celebration onto Bristol’s burgeoning LGBT scene. The top spot goes – controversially perhaps, if you’re not a clubber – to In:Motion, the self-styled ‘Bristol Underground Music Season’. On and on it shimmied, laying on dancefloor monster after turntable wizard after hip-hop heavyweight, week after week after week for three months. The bendy yellow fruit of glory is surely theirs.
FILM OF THE YEAR
1 ‘Four Lions’
3 ‘Toy Story 3’
It's a safe bet that Christopher Nolan's ‘Inception’ is going to top many end-of-year lists for proving that it is possible to make a blockbuster that becomes a box-office hit without treating its audience like morons. Who could not have been cheered when this emerged triumphant over all the cynical, brainless shite that stank out multiplexes over the summer? Similarly, Pixar pulled off an extraordinary feat with ‘Toy Story 3’ by producing a threequel that easily matched the quality of its predecessors. But we're giving the award to a man with plenty of local connections. Chris Morris's brave, relentlessly hilarious ‘Four Lions’ treated British-born Islamist terrorists with the ridicule they so richly deserve. Also keeping the Bristol flag flying were Banksy with ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ and Chris Smith with his best film to date, ‘Black Death’. The finest foreign language film of the year, ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’, only got a small local release initially, but was brought back by popular demand thanks to the Watershed's new flexible booking policy.
1 The Chequers
2 The Royal Oak
3 The Raven
It was bound to be good news when The Chequers came under the wing of the team behind The Marlborough Tavern and Justin and Joe didn’t disappoint. Stripping back the décor to a smart simplicity, they’ve brought a predictably crisp deliciousness to the menu but, more importantly, made the place a casually comfortable hang-out for a drink with your mates. Which is what’s always made The Royal Oak such a reliable classic – that and the excellent real ale selection, rivalled only by CAMRA fave The Raven providing an oasis of proper pints in the heart of the city.
1 Quinton House
2 Lazy Dog
3 The Royal Oak
As it’s tucked away just off the Triangle, it would be easy to overlook Quinton House but it’s just that unassuming diffidence which makes it such a fine pub. One year on from a tasteful refurb and the one-bar place has settled back nicely into the landscape: tiny it may be but there’s always room for a whole heap of hospitality. It’s been a bumper year for Horfield residents, too, with the both The Lazy Dog and The Royal Oak emerging from previous identities to make their mark as excellent examples of a modern take on the classic properties of a proper pub.
2 Common Room
With wintry weather outside, it’s hard to remember how excited we all got about chilling out in the remarkable ice bar in Celsius last summer but, happily, that was only one of the place’s many attractions. Its other, warmer bars have sizzled with quality DJ sets and this place remains funkily unique. There’s nothing frosty about The Common Room, however – a splendid nightspot that combines late-night drinking with comfy sofas while 1453 has given the previous Beaubar a sophisticated upgrade without losing the friendliness that made it so popular.
2 Bank of Stokes Croft
3 Beeses Riverside Bar
1 Bistro 507
3 Loch Fyne
Thousands of people pass by the door of Bistro 507 every day but the lucky few who get inside the Saltford restaurant can expect immaculately prepared contemporary English cuisine with the friendly intimacy of someone’s dining room. Excellent sourcing of ingredients for unfussy dishes make for a riot of flavours without pretension. There’s an element of surprise about Banglo, too – an unprepossessing wooden building housing a cosmopolitan eaterie on the Lower Bristol Rd with a wide-ranging menu, while our reviewer rediscovered the simple pleasures of excellent fish intelligently cooked at Loch Fyne – altogether irresistible.
1 Flinty Red
2 Three Coqs
It’s all about having it all, these days, and Flinty Red’s compact menu of small intense plates and intriguing selection of wines by the glass burst onto the Bristol scene offering just that. The tiny place was on the foodies’ radar within weeks of opening and has remained there ever since, as has the larger Three Coqs, blessed with a superb wine list and a trio of ambitious chefs working in the open kitchen also happy to feed you small plates. And then there’s the Sanchez-Iglesias brothers at Casamia – Michelin love them, the AA love them, even F-ing Gordon loves them, so how could we not?
TOP INTERNET THING
1 Venue (www.venue.co.uk)
2 Enemies of Reason (enemiesofreason.co.uk)
3 Bristol Indymedia (bristol.indymedia.org)
Yes! It's true. In the completely independent and unbiased view of our panel of judges, the new, improved Venue website is the best internet thing to happen around here not just in 2010, but for ever. We have no hesitation in awarding www.venue.co.uk (which is new and improved) this much-coveted accolade, and we would like to thank our manager, our stylist, our life coach, all you little people out there and, most of all, Jesus, for this tremendous honour that we have honoured ourselves with. We think we're going to cry.
You might already be a fan. If you've never heard of it, give Enemies of Reason a try. It's a blog run by Bristol-based "Anton Vowl" who this year outed himself as a former Post & Press journalist named Steve Baxter. His blog is essential reading, dealing elegantly and intelligently with whatever media sensation the red-tops have manufactured today. He's not a big fan of the Daily Mail.
In the ten years it's been going Bristol Indymedia has rarely been the by-the-people-for-the-people independent news service it was meant to be as few normal folks want to post alongside all the Trots, conspiracy theory lunatics, trustafarian eco-warriors and ill-informed undergraduate activists.
In the last couple of years, though, something very interesting has happened. Editorial policy has been tightened to block out the nutters and trolls, and there's an implicit assumption that it's not neutral, it is oppositional. Now there's a lot of stuff worth reading on it (look out particularly for bristol_citizen's weekly 'Cutz' bulletin) and of course if you want to keep abreast of anti-cuts action, this is where to look. As the police regularly do.
1 ‘Bristol’s 100 Best Buildings’ Mike Jenner and Stephen Morris (Redcliffe Press)
2 ‘The Naked Guide to Cider’ James Russell (Tangent Books)
3 'My Life on Mars' Professor Colin Pillinger (British Interplanetary Society)
Narrowly goes to veteran architecture expert Jenner and his snapper Morris for the fabulous photos. It's a nice-looking book to have lying on your coffee table, but will also satisfy your curiosity on a number of scores. James Russell's book on the traditional local tipple is well-researched, up-to-date and very readable. Prof Pillinger, you'll remember is the bloke with the big whiskers and the broad Bristol accent who organised the ill-fated British Mars probe Beagle. Turns out he tells a good story, too, of this very British space programme, complete with amateur enthusiasm and bureaucratic hurdles.
TOP FILM FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR
1 Compass of Lunacy
2 Bath Film Festival
They spoil us with excellent film festivals round these parts, making this one of the most difficult categories. This year, we decided that the small, volunteer-run Compass of Lunacy deserved our banana. The Compass folk have been around for a few years now with their themed multimedia festivals. But what really swung it for them was their creative use of a brand new space. The suitably spooky Old Coroner's Court was filled with splendid installations, including a padded cell and electric chair. Bath Film Festival enjoyed its most successful year yet thanks to a canny booking policy. Their exclusive preview of Oscar-bound 'The King's Speech' also set a record for the fastest sell-out in the festival's history. Encounters brought Andy Serkis and Tim Minchin to town and reminded us why it has become the nation's pre-eminent short film festival.
TOP MUSIC ACT
2 Call The Doctor
3 Bristol Reggae Orchestra
A very late run to the tape with both album and gigs fresh out the box, but Anika wins out with a sound that is chillingly cold, austere and utterly unignorable. Yes, that description applies equally to George Osborne; truly, the timing of Geoff Barrow’s latest collaboration is well met. Call The Doctor take their name from a Sleater-Kinney album and pick up that smart-girl-goes-rockingly-batso baton and run with equal surefootedness on both stage and studio. Bristol Reggae Orchestra, meanwhile, threaten to shift the connotation of community music project from “Worthy but dull” to “World-beatingly brilliant.”
1 The Heavy Thekla
2 Adrian Utley Guitar Orchestra St George’s Bristol
3 Jane Taylor St George’s Bristol
Given that David Letterman had been moved to award The Heavy a first ever encore on his show in New York only a fortnight earlier, it was hardly surprising that their funked-up rock-brewed soul gave Thekla its most revved-up, plimsoll line-threatening local show in aeons. The Adrian Utley Guitar Orchestra (plus organists Will ‘Goldfrapp’ Gregory and Charles ‘Pretty Much Everywhere’ Hazlewood) showcased Bristol improv at its most inspiredly thrilling in St George’s, while Jane Taylor quietly stormed the same venue with an ensemble cast to leave Our Man purring about a night “as grand a spectacle as it is a sound, the swell of voices inhabiting every nook of the sold-out hall”.
3 Jam Up Twist
Clubland was all about one thing in 2010, In:Motion – a hugely ambitious undertaking and the winner of our Top Event. But equally deserving of a gong, and getting one here, is Crazylegs – which bestrode the post-dubstep landscape with a razor-sharp booking policy and parties all over the shop. One of Bristol’s best-loved house nights Play picks up a posthumous second place in its eighth and final year, while history lessons have never been as fun as they are in the company of Andy Smith and his 40-year-old 45s at Jam Up Twist.
Parker has long been one of Venueland’s best jocks – and thanks to a well-placed bootleg or two, 2010 was the year the rest of the world discovered this technically brilliant, wildly eclectic jock. A thoroughly deserving winner. Elsewhere, the man known as both Headhunter and Addison Groove ploughed an unpredictable but unerringly fascinating furrow, ‘Footcrab’ a fixture on end-of-year lists across the globe. And while Redlight isn’t a resident of round-these-parts any more, we’d like to think his genre-bending brilliance owes more than a little to the way we do things out west.
1 Claudia Aurora ‘Silencio’
2 North Sea Navigator ‘Among The Dead City’
3 Katey Brooks ‘Proof of Life’
Bloody Portuguese, coming over here, playing sublime gigs, recording devastatingly brilliant albums. Thus, Claudia Aurora, who blessed us with the first batch of fado originals ever recorded in the country, ‘Silencio’ and sang them in a voice we summarised “as elementally strong as the tides of which she sings, and as imbued with ability to induce calm or awe”. The concept album gone good (the surveillance culture, control and collapse of East Germany), North Sea Navigator’s ‘Among The Dead City’ turned tapes spooling backwards and old radio propaganda into something thrillingly unsettling. The potential was always there, but Katey Brooks’s debut, ‘Proof of Life’, remains our most “Thought this would be good, but... blimey” moment of the year.
2 Qu Junktions
3 Ian Storror
The number of tribute bands was always overstated and the frequency of decent bookings underestimated, but let there be no doubt about: since The Blue Aeroplanes took the controls, the Fleece has been utterly transformed. Pick of the countless bunch so far? The no-greater-mutual-love between performer and crowd displayed at the Caitlin Rose gig. Roll on, 2011. Qu Junktions remain utterly peerless when it comes to pulling punters in to see acts you’ve never heard of but will never forget, while Our Jazzman gives his metaphorically beard-scratching nod to Ian Storror for “a solid series of the good, the great and the risky that’s put Jazz@FutureInns firmly on the map and into the jazz life of the region”.
1 Bloomsbury & Co
2 Bees & Graves
3 Harvey Nichols
With two branches in Bath and one in Cabot Circus, local indie Bloomsbury punches well above its weight in a high street crowded with gift emporia. This is down to the exemplary good taste and imagination of its buyers, who scour the globe for cool, quirky, useful and often just damn beautiful stuff – and the drive of founder Richard Barson, who died in September aged just 46. Long may his vision endure. Props also to much-loved antique jewellery den Bees & Graves in Clifton village, and to Harvey Nicks for being to us what Tiffanys was to Holly Golightly.
1 Kate Yedigaroff
2 Hattie Naylor and Lee Lyford
3 Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
A broad church of people can take credit for helping to re-energise the Bristol theatre scene of late, but Kate Yedigaroff stands foremost among them. For one thing, she’s co-artistic director, with Matthew Austin, of the extraordinary three-week new-theatre smorgasbord Mayfest (whose eighth instalment this year was its biggest yet and one of whose shows, ‘Internal’, reduced half of Venue’s Editorial desk to a gibbering wreck for two working weeks). She’s also producer of ‘Ferment’, Bristol Old Vic’s brilliant artist development programme which has brought on, this year, new work by some of the city’s most promising writers and companies. Put simply, you can’t imagine the Bristol theatre scene being all that it is without Kate.
Racing into second come the dynamic, inventive Bath duo of Hattie Naylor (writer) and Lee Lyford (director), whose gripping, technicolour ensemble productions this year included a brilliant ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and an outstanding, 300-strong production of ‘Ben Hur’. Just a hair’s breadth behind in third place is Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for a string of beautiful, brilliant ensemble gems this year, including ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘Translations’, a harrowing ‘Crucible’ and a typically razor-sharp ‘Directors’ Cuts’ season.
1 ‘Kursk’ Bristol Old Vic
2 ‘Leaves of Glass’ Alma Tavern, Bristol
3 ‘The Good Soldier’ The Ustinov, Bath
‘Kursk’, Sound and Fury’s extraordinary, submarine-set slice of walkabout theatre was, simply, the best piece of theatre we saw all year. ‘Immersive’ is a word getting bandied around a little too readily of late (this year’s ‘blackly funny’, in fact), but this amazing tale of day-to-day life for a small British crew, miles from land, leagues under the sea and confronting a massive and urgent dilemma, merited the word on various levels. Gratifyingly, SoF have cast-iron Bristol connections: all three grew up here, composer Dan Jones is still Bristol-based and, he tells us, “we all consider Bristol our starting point and home turf”. The show was rehearsed at the boy’s old alma mater, Bristol Cathedral School, and opened at BOV before going on to stun audiences in Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow. “This award is a real feather in our cap,” says Dan. “It's great in so many ways to be getting a Bristol-based award, not least since theatre here is so increasingly vibrant; the field richer than ever with great ideas, artists and companies. It's humbling and very exciting to think that we caught your eye at such a busy and exciting time.” Second place goes to a remarkable production by a fledgling Bristol company at the pint-sized Alma Tavern. Room One’s adaptation of Philip Ridley’s ‘Leaves of Glass’ was gripping, very moving and featured, courtesy of Michael Fox and Chris Levens, two of the most subtle, gripping and lifelike character portraits we saw in a theatre all year. In the bronze position is The Ustinov’s brilliant in-house production of Ford Madox Ford’s tale of decades-long romantic deception, ‘The Good Soldier’. Moving, witty and nimble, it suffered from none of the stuffed-shirt formality so many period productions fall prey to. Honourable mentions go to The People of Bath’s brilliant ‘Ben Hur’, Andy Burden’s masterful, pared-down ‘Henry V, and Alan Ayckbourn’s latest slice-of-life comedy ‘My Wonderful Day’, which visited TRB in Feb.
1 Bristol Brouhaha
2 Richard Herring ‘Hitler Moustache’
3 Mark Olver
The comedy gong goes to the Bristol Brouhaha comedyfest, whose second instalment this summer was a recession-defying, talent-crammed nine days of mirth and merriment. BB2 featured sets from Brendon Burns, Sarah Millican, Richard Herring and more of the comedy firmament’s brightest stars, alongside emergent acts like carrot-haired misanthrope Andrew Lawrence and pop pasticheurs Frisky & Mannish. Elsewhere, Cheddar-hailing Richard Herring delighted us with ‘Hitler Mosuarche’, his anatomy of contemporary iconography and facial hair, while Bristol comedy impresario Mark Olver continued, via nights at The Lanes, Metropolis and his ongoing Oppo Comedy showcases, to provide platforms for emerging comics from Bristol and beyond.
1 BV Studios Bedminster, Bristol
2 Bath Art Affair
3 ‘Dead Star Light’ exhibition, Arnolfini
Artist Penny Jones and developer/philanthropist Robert Anderson provided a huge addition to Bristol’s art scene this year. After a four-year development programme, Bemmie’s BV Studios was finally converted from its former existence (Wiltshire Print Works, where titles including Viz, 2000AD and The Big Issue were printed) to a vast studios complex with home for over 90 artists. The roster of artists already in residence is impressive, numbering RWA exhibitor Harriet White, Fourth Plinth nominee Mariele Neudecker and SONY award-winning snapper Tamany Baker among them. BV Studios will, we’re confident, make a big difference to the Bristol art scene long-term, enticing many more artists to put down roots in the city, as well as enlivening the scene south of the river. Second place goes to November’s citywide events and exhibitions fortnight Bath Art Affair, which has already galvanised the city’s contemporary art scene. Close behind comes Kerry Tribe’s extraordinary Dead Star Light exhibition at Arnolfini, a series of film pieces related to memory and forgetting that included portraits of a USSR astronaut largely forgotten in space while, back down on Earth, his country imploded.
TOP LESBIAN & GAY
2 Come to Daddy
Undoubtedly the biggest LGBT shindig of the year was Pride Bristol (see Top Event), but, although only open a few weeks, cabaret bar cum-diner Exposure deserves this accolade for bringing something new to Bristol’s gay scene and for being central to the reinvigoration of Frogmore Street’s strip. Dean, Dominic, Paul and the crew have a long association with the area and, with the launch of OMG and rebranding of the Queen’s Shilling Lounge, things are looking up for this part of town. Second place goes to Mitch and his Come to Daddy men’s night, principally for bullishly continuing despite innumerable knockbacks and enforced relocations. Finally, kudos to Mandalyn’s, Bath’s only gay venue: get out there and support ’em.
1 John Adams/LSO ‘Dr Atomic’
2 WNO ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’
3 Mozartfest at 20
The first visit of the LSO to the Colston Hall for nigh on a quarter of a century was always going to be a bit special – especially with the doyen of American composers at the helm. John Adams might have slipped on a few banana skins in Britten and Sibelius but his own Dr Atomic Symphony detonated powerful aftershocks for weeks to come. WNO’s ‘Meistersinger’ was undoubtedly the company’s Top Banana of the decade, but not seen in Bristol, the yellow glad-hand will have to go to an ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ cunningly directed and gilded by Sarah Connolly’s creamy composer. Over in Bath, Mozartfest turned 20 with a Rolls Royce line-up crowned by peerless quartet playing from the Belceas, and more-ish Monteverdi in the Abbey.
1 Joel Daniel and Wilkie Branson Champloo Dance Co
2 Helen Cole Director of Inbetween Time Productions
3 Ashley Russell Co-ordinator of the Harbourside Festival's Dance Village
Crossover urban dance duo Champloo take top slot this year – they've not only taken street dance to a whole new level but their highly successful youth troupe has won awards up and down the country. Some of the weirdest and most wonderful events happening in the city are down to one woman: Helen Cole, whose Inbetween Time Productions brings together a huge range of live art/dance/theatre/site specific/music/discussion events into a series of scintillating and stimulating festivals. And while it may seem boring to nominate the same people each year, there's no doubt that Ashley Russell's remarkable programming for the Harbour Festival's Dance Village gives the event a special kudos.
Copyright Venue Publishing 2010