Yesterday I read the first draft of a new story at Bus Stop Tt on Redcliffe Way in Bristol. My audience was Beth Alden, producer of Missorts at Situations, the parked cars of Portwall Lane car park and, momentarily, a few people waiting for the number twenty bus. Although audience retention was low (one person appeared to run away before their bus even came), one hundred percent of the cars and a couple of pigeons sat through the whole reading. A success.
The story is being developed as part of Tony White‘s Missorts, a public art project commissioned by Situations for Bristol City Council. I am happy to be amongst a bunch of writers, artists, performers, curators and researchers excavating stories from cut-up documents, archival material, property deeds, OS maps, Piers Plowman and planning permission notices. By November, our accounts of a piecemeal Portwall will be available as a street-level app on Redcliffe Way. It is an intriguing project, but one that will sadly exclude my initial audience as pigeons don’t have smartphones. Some cars may be able to listen in.
My dig has been taking place in the Portwall Lane car park.
The car park opposite St. Mary Redcliffe was once a long, sweeping crescent, a pub, a schoolhouse but by 1949, Redcliffe Way had ploughed through the whole thing. Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place is a really great site for slipping through the layers of your street, your work place, your parking space:
And beyond the car park, a roundabout sprouts up a circle of trees.
This cut-off island has bubbled up out of the site of the old Saint John the Baptist’s Hospital and bobs about near to where the Great Ditch once diverted the River Frome along the Port Wall.
I spotted a little opening to the right, just by the sign announcing that the island is available for sponsorship.
I decided to follow the signs.