Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Bright Idea For Bristol's Broadmead

I was in Broadmead, the shopping centre of Bristol, the other day. If you live in Bristol I don't need to tell you that Broadmead currently looks horrible, with acres of empty shops. Since they built Cabot Circus there is clearly far too much retail space in Bristol City Centre. And far too few things that people actually like. If you don't want clothes or a mobile phone, you're onto a loser, frankly.

Anyway,  I went into the Body Shop, one of only two shops in a grim run-down string of shop-fronts, and got chatting to the lady behind the till. (I should point out, nobody else was buying anything.) And we started talking about this situation. I idly suggested that they should demolish the Galleries, the ugly 3-story 1980's Mall which cuts the centre of Broadmead off from the really rather nice park behind. 'You know what i think', she said. 'They should move St Nicks Market down there.'

Now, if you ask me, this is a piece of genius. Obviously you can't physically move St Nick's Market, which is a piece of historical architechture, but you get the idea. Imagine if we demolished the Galleries, and the nasty, multi-story carpark behind it, and had a market there instead. You could have things like, ooh, I dunno - fruit and vegetables! Sausages! Dusters and polish and knitting wool and bike spares and all kinds of things. That you can buy from market stalls and are actually useful and often only cost a pound or two. And some of them might even be sold by local people, rather than faceless chains. I realise that I am preaching economic sedition, here.

The second advantage would be that this would remove the massive barrier between the shopping centre and Castle Park, which backs onto the river, and is really very pleasant. You could thread your way up from outside Marks and Spencer, past the stalls, and wander straight into the park. You could see the poor ruined church with its faceless windows, that reminds you of Bristol's past. You could take your bacon buttie or sandwich and wander straight through to a part of the city that's really pleasant, instead of being blocked off by a huge car-park like a city wall.

At this point I should point out that St Nick's Market, unlike Broadmead, is chocker. There are no empty spaces whatsoever. And there is nowhere in the city centre to buy food, unless its Tesco's or Sainsbury's. So I really think they could do with the competition.

Putting a market in instead would benefit everybody. No, I take it back: it would benefit the city centre. It would benefit the local economy, and local people who ran businesses. It would benefit anybody who wanted to shop in Bristol. Clearly it wouldn't benefit the chain stores, or the greedy corporate landlords that charge massive rents in their shopping centres. So it won't happen.

Which is a shame really, 'cause I think we came up with a nice solution to the problems of Broadmead, me and the woman from the Body Shop. But hey, why listen to her suggestions? She's just shop assistant, and is the number of customers in there was an indication, she probably be out of a job soon.

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