Trump Blues: the View from Stokes Croft

A few thoughts on Trump and Bristol’s radical heritage

The Trump/Boris Johnson mural that appeared on Stokes Croft last summer

I was really hoping that I might be able to avoid writing about anything too heavy this week. In the course of keeping this blog running over the past few months, I’ve interviewed people inside and outside of Hamilton House on subjects ranging from sexual violence, the refugee crisis, and gentrification — all conversations about some of the problems and issues happening around us and what local people are doing about them.

I wanted to write something a bit more cheerful and celebratory; I was hoping I might get to write about music (which I spend quite a bit of time doing when I’m not working here). But none of the people I tried to contact for an interview got back to me in time and I found myself sat in front of my screen, clicking on things idly, scribbling notes and not knowing what to do.

Then a certain political calamity happened across the pond, and it’s been difficult not to feel like we’ve suddenly woken up inside an episode of Black Mirror. It’s a feeling that’s been heightened by the fact I spend a fair chunk of my day sat in front of social media feeds, watching a long string of people’s opinions and rants.

I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb to say that most of us working around Hamilton House, and Stokes Croft, are feeling pretty shell-shocked. Trump’s victory seems to be a vindication of all the forces Coexist, (and much of Bristol) stands against: xenophobia, nationalism, misogyny, white supremacy.

I will leave it to the Twittersphere to decipher how all this could have happened. But I couldn’t help noticing that within hours of the election result being called, Bristol had already responded in its own way. Returning from my lunch break, ‘F%ck Trump!’ tags were already scrawled on the walls of the Bearpit; a US flag was seen flying at half-mast above the Tobacco Factory on North Street, and a No to Trump, No to Racism demo had been called at The Fountains for this Friday.

Bristol is not without its problems: social and racial inequalities run deep here, and you only have to spend a couple of minutes walking around the centre to see the way the housing crisis and a lack of sufficient services is affecting vulnerable people in the city. We’ve got plenty of work to do to make sure the vile sentiments expressed by Trump are kept at bay.

But it’s maybe worth taking a minute to remember why so many of us have been drawn here from other places, and to reaffirm what we stand for. Resistance to authoritarianism and racism has always been a significant part of the city’s political culture, and cross-cultural pollination has nourished the art and music scene (like the work of the Young Echo crew, above) for decades. Bristolians know how to put up a fight, and the city is filled with people experimenting and seeking inclusive alternatives to the status quo, however flawed and wonky those alternatives might sometimes be.

These are scary times, without a doubt. But we can be reassured that we live in a city where the forces that Trump represents will always be resisted.


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