Last year I was comissioned to write something for BBC Introducing In The West, as they ran a project to celebrate Massive Attack’s return to Bristol for their big show on the downs. We were invited to write a re-interpretation of a song from Blue Lines, and I went for ‘Five Man Army’ which always felt to me like a celebration of being young and excited and skint and creative and having a crew that you love making stuff with.
I worked in Cosies (a bar in St Pauls in Bristol) for more than six years in my twenties. Its a place that has held such a significant place in the music scene in Bristol over the years, but is also a litte tiny underground dive that you could walk past without noticing, surrounded by grand georgian buildings most likely built with merchant money from the slave trade. Bristol is a complex and confronting place comprehend when you start thinking about its history, and how much of its current vibe it owns to the immigrant communties that have made it the incredible and multi-layered and beautiful place it is today. The battle continues. Gentrification continues. I am gentrification.
But I was also a skint artist trying to get by working in a bar, and was so grateful for the traces of beauty left behind by all the skint artists that had started their fires in St Pauls before me. Massive Attack being an obvious example. So this piece is an attempt to distill at this, plus my adoration of St Pauls, plus all the passion and heartbreak of my early twenties, plus my ongoing (unsuccessful) attempts to learn Somali, plus an homage to the Bristol poetry and music scenes (past and present) all in one piece. Simple eh?
Its not perfect, at all. But it was a rewarding and thought provoking experience to write. And I did an OK job of reading it out in the end. And I only just found out they’d made a video of it! So, here it is: