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The case against homeopathy in Bristol

In a recent report by Buzzfeed on NHS funded homeopathic care in the UK, Bristol and London were revealed to be the last two places patients could receive homeopathy from the National Health Service.

Bristol and London are the two hold-outs in the entire UK, after Wirral Clinical Commisioning Group voted to end its funding this month after a public consultation showed overwhelming that the public agreed that homeopathy shouldn’t be funded by the NHS.

You may remember that in October last year, Bristol’s Homeopathic Hospital ceased offering homeopathic services. This was, in part, thanks to Good Thinking Society’s campaign to end all NHS funded homeopathic treatments in the UK. Previously the annual spend at the Homeopathic Hospital exceeded £250,000, but in 2015 the referral rate from doctors decreased meaning the total spend amounted to £32,324. A big drop, but still over 200 patients were referred by their medical doctors to a pseudoscientific center.

Bristol still funds homeopathic treatment though. Since the Homeopathic Hospital closed, the NHS passed the contract onto Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine. The PCIM describes itself as “an employee-owned social enterprise, combining the best of conventional and complementary healthcare”. Offering a mixture of private and public services, this is the place Bristol residents will go if they are offered/ask for homeopathic treatment.

The problem with homeopathy

There is overwhelming evidence that homeopathy is not as affective as conventional medicine. In 2010, a House of Commons report found that homeopathy works no better than a placebo. It also mentioned that principles on which homeopathy is based on, which is diluting agents until there are no molecules left, is “scientifically implausible”.

In fact, a few years ago an event run by the Merseyside Skeptics called the 10:23 challenge sought to prove how useless homeopathic medicine was by publically attempting to overdose on it. I’m happy to say that all participants felt no adverse effects from the challenge, in the fact they felt no effects at all.

So if we accept that homeopathy is unscientific, useless and provides no benefit to anyone. Why is the NHS still funding it, why is Bristol one of the last cities to realise what the rest of the UK clearly realised a long time ago?

The Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine has a very interesting statement on their website, “We are pleased to be able to continue to deliver the NHS Homeopathic Service, which has been part of Bristol’s healthcare for over half a century.” One of the reasons people give for maintaining homeopathy, not just as an NHS funded exercise, but as also a staple in mainstream western society – is that it’s been around for such a long time, it’s not doing any harm?

If something is earth based, plant based, has the words ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ doesn’t necessarily make it better than something that isn’t anything of those things.

When I’m taking antibiotics for an infection in my tooth, I’m not sure I care that much about it being ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ – I mostly want to my face to stop feeling like a demon is trying to rip off my jaw. But I can also see someone would opt for something ‘natural, chemical-free, soil based’ if I was feeling mildly anxious and I was concerned about the side of affects of an anti-anxiety or I couldn’t wait to see an NHS counsellor – it’s totally understandable.

The problem lies in that the treatment may make you feel better, but it’s has been proven time and time again that the placebo affect also works. It’s even a page on the NHS website about complementary medicine and the placebo affect. So instead of having acupuncture, or being given lavender balm to rub on your elbows, a sugar pill would have sufficed to take away whatever was ailing you.

Unless it was something that needed real treatment, then you may have prolonged your own suffering or possibly made something minor, into something major. Do you want to take that risk? By taking something that has no reward? The harm comes when you may have opted for something that sounded nicer, rather than undergo treatment that would have helped you in the long run.

Another issue that comes up when people discuss homeopathy and its benefits is that there are lots of structures that legitimise homeopathy. There are lots of practices people don’t consider homeopathy such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatment – even though these are listed as complementary treatments by the NHS. I recently wrote an entire blog about how Chiropractors are legitimised by society, even though there is no robust evidence to prove its effectiveness over conventional treatment. Even though there are structures holding up homeopathy as a legitimate medical option, there is probably double the amount of damning actual evidence to the contrary:

• There are currently no universities that offer homeopathy as a course.

There is no legal regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no qualifications or experience.

• Homeopaths cannot advertise that any of their practices actually treat any medical conditions including social media, websites etc.

So why are we still holding out? Why are still propping up ancient institutions that don’t help people with their conditions, or if they do it’s as affective as a sugar pill? When we discovered the world wasn’t flat, did we persist in funding treatment for those who felt anxious about falling off it?

The simple answer is anecdotal evidence. All my reports, studies and quotes from people far smarter won’t change the opinion of someone whose taken holistic medicine or has seen others taken it and improved. No matter how many times you scream, “correlation doesn’t equal causation” or “the placebo effect is real” – if someone truly believes in something, it will take a lot more than facts an evidence to change their opinion.

And that’s fine; you can believe that sticking needles into your chakra will stop your migraines, or that clicking your neck will somehow stop you back pain. The difference is that I don’t want to pay for it, and Bristol shouldn’t have to pay for your indulgence because that’s really what ‘complementary medicine’ means – it means its not really needed.

 

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Your Chiropractor isn’t Helping You

When I was around 14, I went to see a chiropractor.

I had back pain for many reasons. I was very well-endowed when I was a young girl, whilst my frame wasn’t small; I had also developed a bad habit of hunching my shoulders to hide my secret busty shame. The awful school stools we were forced to sit on in science lessons didn’t help this habit. Long story short, by the time I got to the chiropractor I had thrown out my back a few times and was turning into The Hunchback of Whitchurch.

After seeing my chiropractor they had determined that one of my legs was too short, my pelvis was tilted and that due to my hunching over I had caused my own pain and I needed to see them for 6 weeks. 6 weeks at £45 a go, wasn’t cheap but my mother being the saint that she is, agreed to it immediately.

Around week five, my appointment was a bit delayed so I was flipping through some reading material in the waiting room. In the book, it described how chiropractic was at odds with the scientific community since its inception due to its founding principles that the body has an ‘innate intelligence’ and that ‘vertebral subluxation complex’ contributed to the health of internal

Breaking this down a tad, basically it meant that chiropractors thought that by clicking your back it would help the health of internal organs.

“What the fuck?” I thought sitting in my blue hospital gown, this guy isn’t a doctor? I looked around at the plaques on the wall and saw that none of people who worked in the clinic had any medical qualifications, it was then I wondered why I wasn’t getting this done on the NHS? Why were their pictures of spines with Latin words next to them? I mean did these guys even fucking speak Latin? Why did this cost so much? Isn’t back pain the most common problem for most humans? Eh?

An Introduction to Chiropractic

No, you read that right. Chiropractors are awful in lots of ways, having ‘chiropractic’ as their collective term for their discipline is another way they are dickholes.

So what is chiropractic anyway? My knowledge base went as far as an Eddie Izzard routine and the fact that if you vaguely mentioning feeling stiff someone from your office would scream from across the room “GO SEE MY CHIROPRACTOR HE’S GREAT”

To be impartial, I’m going to use the NHS description of what chiropractic technique is. It’s fair and balanced and sums it up nicely without getting into the nitty-gritty.

“According to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), chiropractic is “a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health”.

Chiropractors (practitioners of chiropractic) use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles, and joints. Treatments that involve using the hands in this way are called “manual therapies”.

Chiropractors use a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine.

They may also offer advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle, and rehabilitation programmes that involve exercises to do in your own time. Some chiropractors may also offer other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.

Chiropractic is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), meaning that it is different from treatments that are part of conventional western medicine.

Some uses of chiropractic treatments are based on ideas and an “evidence base” not recognised by the majority of scientists.”

Simple right? They click your back, tell you your pelvis is wonky and then charge you £45 a visit. This isn’t medical or scientific in any way, it’s based on nothing and they may even offer you more nonsense therapies like acupuncture and the majority of scientists think it’s bollocks based on years and years of research and studies.

Except it isn’t simple. Chiropractors are thought of like physiotherapists or opticians.

However, it’s the equivalent of someone saying, “you can’t see very well anymore? Here I bought you this quartz crystal, wave it at the full moon this Sunday, that’ll be £45, cheers bud.”

Actually, there is a teeny bit of consensus amongst the scientific community about chronic lower back pain can be eased with chiropractic treatment. However, they say it’s on par with doing yoga, stretching generally or taking ibuprofen. You know, that costs 50p not £50.

Risk vs. Benefit

However, it goes even further than that. Chiropractic technique not only is not effective, it also harms patients. If had back pain and wanted to wave a crystal at the moon to fix it, sure, go right ahead, you’re not hurting anyone but your back is probably still going to hurt.

The main tenant of chiropractic is to push joints further than they can be naturally moved, therefore it doesn’t seem crazy that there could be adverse effects to violently popping your joints.

They also claim that it could help headaches, sinus pain and menstrual pain. Which is just…ridiculous.

Wikipedia even states it may be harmful in the opening paragraph on the entry about Chiropractic:

“There is not sufficient data to establish the safety of chiropractic manipulations. The rate of adverse events is unknown as they are under–reported. It is frequently associated with mild to moderate adverse effects, and serious or fatal complications, which can lead to permanent disability or death whose incidence is probably low. There is controversy regarding the degree of risk of vertebral artery dissection, which can lead to stroke and death, from cervical manipulation. Several deaths have been associated with this technique and it has been suggested that the relationship is causative, but this is disputed by many chiropractors who believe it is unproven.”

You can see from this quote that these words have been chosen very, very carefully. The chiropractor community have been quick to dispute the claims that violently pushing someone’s neck could lead to a stroke, cause nobody wants to hear about that right?

If we think chiropractic treatment is harmless, even though we know that it increases a risk of stroke and other ailments. Are we just going ignore when it’s being carried out on babies and practitioners accidently break babies necks? Science Based Medicine is an excellent resource and covered this story back in 2013, Steven Novella host of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe and practicing clinical neurologist at Yale University concluded that chiropractic treatment should be held to the classic ‘risk vs. benefit analysis’ that babies shouldn’t have any chiropractic treatment.

“What evidence we do have suggests that there is not a single legitimate indication for chiropractic manipulation of children or infants, which is sufficient to condemn the practice. There is also evidence of potential harm, and even if rare, any harm resulting from a worthless intervention results in an unfavourable risk vs. benefit.”

Uhm, this looks like a fucking nightmare come to life.

Dr. Steven Novella took a look at the chiropractic industry as whole in a series of posts where he broke down the risks, benefits and science of the modern chiropractic industry. Reading through it you can see that whilst modern chiropractors put on the façade of dropping some of the older, antiquated ideas it was attached to in its inception – they still practice and believe the majority of them.

It’s practices like these that explains why even though seeing a modern chiropractor may hold as much scientific theory as seeing a medium, because there are images of spines with Latin terms on it and a waiting room that smells like a dentist’s office, people are willing to believe they are receiving evidence-based medical treatment.

It also explains why the chiropractic community get a bit ‘scientology-esque’ when the media or journalists question their back-clicking chops.

Chiropractors, media, and science

You may have heard about the 2008 libel case brought against physicist and popular science writer Simon Singh and the Guardian newspaper by the British Chiropractic Association. It was made famous due to it being instance of free speech commentary rather than factual statement – even though Singh’s article was scientifically correct. The article was written to promote Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst’s book Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, a book that looked at the mainstream holistic movement. The most damning statement and the one contested in court sums up my main point in this article, luckily I’m just some chump and this isn’t the Guardian so I’m unlikely to be sued (calm down Mum).

“You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.” Simon Singh, 2008.

Whilst initially, the court sided with the BCA as the quote ‘happily promotes bogus treatments’ could be construed as fact, rather than opinion but later when this decision was appealed the BCA withdrew their case. It seems that chiropractic organisations have a long history with defending their practice, rather than modernising from the outside in. Eventually, the BCA had to actually withdraw any information on any of their members sites, leaflets etc. that alluded they could cure colic, bed-wetting, ear infections of asthma with chiropractic treatment. One in four chiropractors in the UK were under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority for false information by the end of debacle.

If chiropractors as an organization are so insecure about their scientific grounding, then why do so many intelligent, sane and scientifically aware people still go to the chiropractor and even defend them?

Talking to People

As you can tell by the 1500 words previous to this, I have some pretty strong opinions on chiropractors. Below is a list for some of those strong opinions, briefly summarized:

Scientific evidence

  • The risk outweighs the benefits of seeing a chiropractor; you are more likely to gain a new injury than fixing a previous one.
  • They claim to be able to cure ailments that they do not have any proof for, extending the suffering and pain of their patients.
  • They are expensive, typically not covered by the NHS and people may end up seeing them for years due to them feeling better after a session and then feeling awful the day after.

However, this doesn’t mean shit when you talk to someone who says seeing a chiropractor helping them. I’ve had this conversation many times “My shoulder hurt and I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for years, it’s the only thing that helps.” Or “My mum had back pain for years and walked out of a chiropractic clinic in perfect help.” This is anecdotal evidence, and if the prevalence of anti-vax, crystals and ghost stories can tell you, it is the most powerful evidence when it comes to influencing people.

What are you supposed to do? Call someone a liar? Tell them they are stupid? No, none of that is helpful and it’s not true. They’ve been deceived by an industry that has been legitimized and validated by lots of respectable people, however, that doesn’t meant that it’s true.

So if anecdotal evidence is what convinces people then here goes:

  • I saw a chiropractor for years and my back never felt better.
  • Yoga, swimming and stretching everyday fixed my constant back pain.
  • When I had bad neck pain and referred pain that was agony for years, I went a physiotherapist once, he fixed it and it was free.
  • I’ve been pain free for one year.

If nothing has convinced you I’ll leave you with this:

Chiropractic treatment has been proven to provide little relief for any of conditions it claims to treat, it actually increases your risk of stroke, paralysis or death and it costs a fucking fortune.

Go see your physio on the NHS, it’s free. Or at least, don’t let them adjust your neck for the love of God.

 

Is terrible journalism ruining Bristol?

As I looked up at the wreckage of King Street, I smiled sipping my obviously brand sponsored excellent delicious superb Thatcher’s Gold. I had finally got what I wanted. Every craft beer pub, microbrewery and pub that had even vaguely thought about stocking a Blue Moon had been torn to ground. The readers of my debut Bristol24/7 column had been so moved that they felt compelled to stand up and shout out of their windows: “FOUR POUNDS IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE AMOUNT FOR A PINT,” before laying waste to the popular pub-laden cobbled street.

So impressed by my Harvard references and my qualitative and quantitative data that after the fire had burnt out, they handed me my Pulitzer Prize with tears in their eyes, whispering “Thank you, thank you. Owen Jones is a shit-show compared to you.”

 

Now, obviously, all of that was a fantasy. Don’t go wandering down King Street feeling confused that it’s still standing, that happy pub goers are still frequenting not burnt down craft beer pubs. If you’ve read the first paragraph and feel the urge to comment ‘OH now she’s making fun of BUILDINGS BEING BURNT DOWN, this is SICK, I’m OUTRAGED’ – just chill for a moment.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, feel free to go back and read my controversial article, Are craft beer pubs ruining Bristol?

King Street – the heart of Bristol’s ‘Beermuda Triangle’

Did you read it? Did you briefly think about organising an angry mob? Awesome. Welcome back.

The article stemmed from me being dragged far too many times to pubs where I had to straight up leave because they didn’t serve anything that:

1. I liked. I like cider that is under 7 per cent so I don’t get pissed immediately and I don’t like cider that’s got something added to it like sage, or basil or ginger or whatever.

2. Could afford. I class anything over £4 as too much.

The pubs that seemed to be the biggest offenders were the ones who also served drinks in mason jars, who saw no problem serving ‘the tears of sperm whales that have been listening to math rock cider’ that no one bought because they liked that it was organic, independent and made with love. Nothing wrong with that right? No, of course not – managers and brewers are allowed to do whatever they want – but it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to pull a face and go, ‘Nah I’m alright mate, this is dogshit and your bar is making me sad.”

 

Some people took this as a slight to specific bars, to specific brewers and oddly enough lots of people thought I was attacking hipsters. A friend of mine recently mentioned that the word ‘hipster’ gained popularity on sites like Pitchfork and MySpace in the mid-2000s to reflect a certain New York/LA mentality towards music and fashion. An elitism that typically resulted in writing on an Underwood typewriter rather than a computer or buying vinyl when you didn’t own a vinyl player.

The word ‘hipster’ can now refer to many different subgroups, but the one that seemed to think it was being picked on was the beard-having, bike-driving and, more often than not, craft-beer-drinking male crowd. Lads, I’m sorry to inform you that this plaid-wearing look is old as sin. It’s not really so much as ‘hipster’ anymore as it is ‘normal human man’.

If I was attacking the sub-culture of trendy wankers than I’d complain about the rising trend of choker wearing Gothy teenage girls who are rocking black Adidas sport coats, but who look like they would cut you if you asked them to play a quick round of netball. If I did complain about them though, it would be highly hypocritical because obviously I’m desperately trying to emulate them with my own black Adidas sport coat and 90s chokers and desperate attempts to be young.

Nick Parker really nicely summarised the ‘craft’ trend in this LinkedIn article. In it he talks about the rise of ‘authentic marketing’, that brands are using language, which is directly lifted from independent businesses rhetoric.

“It’s been drawing closer for a few years, obviously: from micro-breweries to craft gins to small batch bakeries, we’ve wholeheartedly embraced a new generation of high-quality products and artisan entrepreneurs — and big brands haven’t been slow to jump on the artisan bandwagon.”

He also makes the point that a few years ago this was Innocent smoothie trend. Innocent smoothie has a lovely twee, sincere and humorous tone-of-voice that makes you feel like you’re being chatted to by a friend. Then suddenly all brands wanted to be your mate, but like, weird brands, like your bank or a funeral home. Now the tone-of-voice that brands want to replicate is the authentic, independent, organic, home-made, craft, created with love that typically have come from a revival of all things singular and standalone.

“Innocent smoothie has a lovely twee, sincere and humorous tone-of-voice that makes you feel like you’re being chatted to by a friend. Then suddenly all brands wanted to be your mate, but like, weird brands, like your bank or a funeral home.”

Tesco drew major backlash when it launched its ‘farm range’ that wasn’t actually from lovely farms in Herefordshire or Wales, but actually from wherever the hell they got spinach from before they created this charade. I never really thought about it that much, as long as it didn’t say like, ‘This spinach was told it was a piece of shit before it was plucked from the earth’. I didn’t really care. I also didn’t really care when they started putting tractors on the packaging and telling me it was from a farm, I’m still going to buy it regardless.

If you really, really care where your beer comes from, shouldn’t you apply that to everything? Telling me I’m a corporate shill for liking mainstream brewers over independent ones is hypocritical if you’re not buying everything with the Bristol Pound and never buying anything owned by Unilever or Coke.

All that sincerity can make a cynical asshole like me feel pretty ill every time I hear about how someone harping about how much effort and love went into something. Are you buying products and are we ingesting them based on their vibe or whether the product is quality and generally well liked? There’s an insincerity that is at the heart of all of it. It’s cool to tell me that everyone in your bar deeply cares from your brand (because you are a brand a the end of the day) but if I tell you I don’t like what you’re selling, is this lovely tweed beer hippy pretense going to be dropped and will I be met with hostility for being other?

Real journalism as seen in All The President’s Men

One of the most interesting things about the comments and backlash against my article was that people were complaining to Bristol24/7 for even letting it go up. Hopefully, Bristol24/7 has some integrity and wouldn’t let an article go up without considering whether they would back it up – not the opinion, but the right of its author to have an opinion.

Writing an article that could possibly offend your advertisers, the primary source of income for the majority of online media outlets, is a massive risk. But then do you only publish articles that praise your advertisers? Isn’t that biased? Isn’t that controlling the press to some extent? Even if it isn’t The Times but a regional independent web/print magazine, it’s still considered unethical to threaten to pull a magazine from distribution in your shop if you disagree with its content, right?

I could have just written an article about how super duper Bristol is and how great everything is and how every restaurant is great and I would have gotten a few likes and people would have commented going ‘I agree!’ No one seemed to care when that Secret Places in Bristol article from Buzzfeed was actually an advertorial paid by THATCHERS of all companies. We all just slapped each other on the back going, ‘yeah I am a fucking great person for being in this city’. Maybe I would have even gotten some free drinks and free food from some local venues if I had written an ode to craft beer or to sourdough pizza. Maybe after that I would have written more articles about how great those places were, maybe I would get more free stuff, maybe this shit goes on all the time and it’s gross as hell.

I’m not going to throw around the word ‘free speech’ because gross people tout it out too often so they can say horrible shit and get a free pass from criticism. This isn’t what I’m doing either.

Feel free to criticise my article, call it clickbait (it’s not), say it’s badly written (yeah probs), tell me that I’m bad journalist (I only got a 2:1 mate) but maybe don’t send me messages on Facebook telling me I’m a cunt, or screenshot my profile (it’s weird).

I’m not comparing it to The Blacklist or anything that’s been happening in regards to no-platforming, but people who probably disagree with those things in principle, shouldn’t tell the editor or myself that my opinion is so out-of-whack with popular culture that it shouldn’t even be written down online – because that’s mental.

My opinion is my opinion, some things are backed up with facts, some things are played for laughs and the majority is observational based on me being a pubgoer in Bristol. If you don’t get that then please comment below irately until your fingers bleed or feel free to email me at butts@butts.com.

Originally published on Bristol 24/7.

Are craft beer pubs ruining Bristol?

When I bought my first pint in London, it was 2009. Nu-rave was actually considered a genre of music, having a Tumblr account was still considered fairly underground and you could still get phone contracts with unlimited data.

“£2.50 is actually pretty cheap for a pint, even if it’s Strongbow. I thought London was insanely expensive for drinks?” I said to my new university friends. I was in the Student Union of the University of Westminster, Harrow campus. They chuckled as they informed me that:

  1. Harrow is technically Brent, we weren’t even in London.

  2. This is a SU, of course it’s cheap you crazy person.

My new found friends fizzled fast, but my shocked outraged expression grew stronger every time I went to bars in London, asked what cider they had, was informed it was only Strongbow or Rekorderlig and both were £4 a pint.

As a Bristolian who grew up with lots of different cider choices, ordering Strongbow at a bar is a gigantic bummer. To be honest, ordering Rekorderlig, Bulmers, Magners or any incredibly generic cider is a bit of a bummer because they’re all terrible. It’s just adding insult to injury when you hand a £5 over to a bartender and you get back a few pennies in change.

So imagine my joy when I moved back in Bristol in late 2014, after five years in London I was excited to get back to my adopted hometown. I wanted drinking in parks I didn’t have to travel an hour on a tube to get to, I wanted to hang out by the waterfront when it got sunny, I wanted indifferent bus drivers – but most of all I wanted good cider.

However, in the weekends and summer trips back to visit my friends and family in Bristol, I noticed things had changed. Not particularly drastically, but things were changing. It never worried me too much. I understood that Bristol is an undeniably cool city and people investing in it by opening up new shops, restaurants, pubs and bars is a great sign for a thriving economy.

“Hey what cider do you have?”

“Uh, this is a craft beer pub, we don’t have any”

It was distressing to receive this response in a few new pubs and bars that had opened in Bristol, it was even more annoying when you were met with mocking laughter for even asking. There are a few cider pubs in Bristol, The Apple to name one. If you don’t like cider then they have a few beers and wines for the non-cider drinkers amongst us. Why not have the same policies?

I also stopped myself from firing back to a mocking bartender: “I’M ALSO IN BRISTOL MATE, IT’S NOT CRAZY TO ASSUME YOU HAVE CIDER.”

Some craft beer pubs had one cider on tap, which was great. But typically it was a ‘craft cider’. Whilst I’m not opposed to independent cider manufacturers, I am opposed to being smashed after one pint because the only cider you serve is seven per cent.

Craft beer pubs in Bristol seem to only cater to hipsters who probably secretly really love Foster. They’re undeniably overpriced and thus have driven up the prices of all the pubs surrounding them, because it makes sense that if the pub next to you is charging £4.20 for an IPA then you’re going to charge £3.90 for a Carlsberg.

Who is this craft revival for? Who’s celebrating the different palettes on offer to the discerning pub goer? Unlike people who say they’re ‘into wine’ people who say they’re ‘into beer’ usually just means they’re a functioning alcoholic – not that they’re a connoisseur of the craft.

Getting a pint for under £3.50 is now considered a personal achievement; I punch the air when I discover a pub that gives me pounds for change when I hand over a £5.

Have we turned into London? Where we’re paying for the aesthetics of a pub, the ‘vibe’ of a place and typically a pub that has a ‘vibe’ usually means that they’re only selling chilli and ginger cider – I mean seriously, who WANTS that.

It’s cutting out certain types of people out of the city center of Bristol, even though the rise of these pubs have pushed up the prices there is a still a large discrepancy between standard pub prices and craft beer pubs. The décor of a typical pub is going along with it, hardwood floors and unvarnished stools with fairy lights warming your £4.30 pint is replacing carpets, chips in baskets and promotional beer mats.

There has been a documented backlash against the rise of hipster restaurants. Buzzfeed constantly makes reference to restaurants that present food in new and pretentious ways. The Cereal Killer café sparked a row about gentrification and hipster culture in London.

What’s ridiculous is that it’s not like the people visiting these places in London even live near there. They’ve travelled to go these hipster havens because no one can afford to live in that certain postcode anymore, ironically because of the types of places they’ve just visited.

It’s a vicious circle and one that Bristol that needs to be wary of being dragged into. If you’re trying to buy a house for the first time in the place you grew up in and you can’t afford it. But you walked 10 minutes to a craft beer pub, paid £5 for an imported American beer then you’ve answered why you cannot afford to live where you grew up anymore.

To tie this into a neat little bow, not all craft beers pubs are ruining Bristol but some are only set up to serve a middle class clientele that are unaware they are running themselves out of the town they live in. You know what would help? If they served a cheap cider and beer option from a mainstream manufacturer, so they weren’t only serving a certain demographic of the drinking public.

FYI, that cider should be Thatchers Gold, cheers.

Originally posted on Bristol 24/7.

Why does Marvin Rees hate strippers?

On International Women’s Day 2016 Marvin Rees, Labour’s mayoral candidate in the upcoming election, announced that he would do two things for women in Bristol.

Two things. That’s right ladies, we’re THAT special.

  1. Close the gender pay gap
  2. Shut down strip clubs in Bristol

Two policies, which seem a bit at odds with other. The first one wants to stop the systematic of discrimination against all women when it comes to the pay gap. The second one want’s to make women jobless. Closing down strip clubs will negatively the main people who profit from such establishments. So, obviously, that’ll be the women who work in them.

“Wait, why?” you may ask.

According to Martin, strip clubs are a “real concern” and pondered if Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEV’s) “feed into wider inequalities that are faced by women”. He concluded by talking to nobody and asking “Is the price paid by wider Bristol very, very high for this?”

Obviously, Marvin has conducted extensive data on this. He must have looked at academic papers and seen that SEV’s are the one of the main proponents of gender equality. He must have seen that women get treated awfully in these establishments. He must have seen that crime rates around these areas include the sexual assault and harassment of women. OBVIOUSLY, HE CAN’T BE JUST BASING IT ON NOTHING GUYS.

I don’t know if you picked up on it, but I was being heavily sarcastic in the previous paragraph.

It’s also pretty well known that Marvin Rees is a pretty socially conservative Labour MP, he even wrote to Bristol Churches asking them to write a manifesto about what they thought “a good Bristol looks like”. Something out of step with a modern Bristol, where under half of the population self identifies as Christian. So perhaps he’s basing on his good Christian moral compass instead of actual data.

When Marvin Rees announced this policy, there was backlash. Which is pretty great because I imagine a few years ago this type of policy may have slipped under the radar.

Esme Worrell whose been a stripper for 8 years in Bristol spoke to Radio Bristol and called Marvin Rees attempt to ban SEV’s as “patronizing” and said that if nobody should be policing consenting adults sexual behavior.

Tuesday Laveau, a stripper/burlesque dancer wrote an op-ed for Bristol 24/7 titled ‘Sex Work is Work’ where she stated “Firstly, I do not believe Mr Rees consulted with any dancers currently working in Bristol’s strip clubs or sexual entertainment venues. If he did, he would find grown women with agency, foresight and a knowledge of what field of work is most suited, convenient and advantageous for them. He would very quickly find that the assessment of strip clubs, as exclusively a place of exploitation would be incorrect.”

Two women who actually work in the industry have managed to cover the main points of why banning SEV’s is dumb as fuck.

  1. It’s patronising and essentially misogynistic to have a man tell women what to do with their bodies.
  2. This is especially backwards when it appears he’s not even spoken to any women in the sex work/sexual entertainment industry.
  3. Policing anybody’s sexual practices when it’s between consenting adults is pretty 1984, and we live in a society where people scream McCarthyism whenever the word ‘safe spaces’ is mentioned.

So by now you may be thinking, okay so I’ve heard from the people who work in SEV’s and they’ve made great points. Surely, this is a feminist issue as well. Aren’t Bristol Feminist organisations helping make these naturally unheard women heard by a wider audience?

Well, you’d be exactly like me a few weeks ago when I submitted a question to the Bristol Women’s Voice mayoral hustings, as I couldn’t attend. I was pretty bummed when I looked at the hashtag and realised that the majority of Bristol feminist groups like Bristol Women’s Voice and the Bristol Fawcett Society are anti-sex work and were delighted at the idea of women loosing their jobs.

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Sex work is work. Closing down SEV’s won’t stop inequality, it won’t stop women getting groped, it won’t stop the police not believing them, it won’t stop them not getting senior positions at work and it won’t stop them loosing money every month because of their gender.

If you truly believe that women are exploited if they work at strip clubs, then I’d invite you to work for a few hours at a call centre or bar for minimum wage and I’ll ask you after if you felt exploited – should we ban shitty jobs too?

Vote with your feet and don’t vote for Marvin Rees. Because if he bases one policy on no data, no information from the people it affects and only does it to get headlines from women whose feminism is stuck in the 1970’s with Germaine Greer – then chances are he’ll be a crappy politician.

I’m not a sex worker and I’ve never been one, and with most things like this, we should listen to the people who work in the industry instead of drawing our own conclusions.

Bristol vs. London: Let’s not fight

Bristol has been in the press a little bit recently.

The coverage wasn’t that fucking Independent article that gets shared every now and then on my Facebook because no one noticed it was published in 2014. No, two pieces of content touched on the South West city this week.

One by the Metro citing Bristol as the ‘kindest’ city in the UK in a typical marketing tactic where a company pays for a survey and then pitch it to every newspaper going to flog a holiday or a toothbrush or what-the-fuck-ever. That one went mostly unnoticed, although I’d invite the people who voted in that poll to look under any of the Avon and Somerset Police Facebook statuses, which usually say ‘BRING BACK HANGING’ when anyone’s been arrested for stealing berries from a hedge in St.George.

The second piece of press was a Vice article written by Anna Tehabsimby who’s currently serving as the Deputy Editor of Crack magazine. A very eloquently written article, which was basically a love letter to Bristol talking mostly about it’s burgeoning and diverse music scene and the hippyish community that inexplicably still exists in a large city like Bristol. Anna’s main point was to invite Londoners to throw off the shackles of big city living and move to the gentle covered-in-fucking-hills South West gem.

Lovely right? Well it seems that based on the backlash on Vice’s Facebook and the comments under the original article that people did not appreciate Anna’s open invitation to come to the kindest city in the UK. In fact, people who currently live in the country’s kindest city, kindly invited Anna to fuck right off with her suggestion of Londoners moving to the South West.

Why such the backlash? The central theme of the comments seemed to stem with the fact that it’s been widely reported that Bristol is no longer becoming the secret haven for hipsters and that housing prices, drinks prices and everything in between are rocketing up.

It’s no secret if you live here that Bristol’s housing market is fucked if you don’t have a house, and going amazingly if you do own – basically if you’re over 45. Bristol’s rent rose 18% in 2015, outstripped the national average rise of 4.9% handsomely only drawing with Brighton in the ‘LOL WHO EARNS THIS MUCH’ race. If you’re thinking about buying a house now then you better snap up that £200K gem in Easton which has 1 bedroom and looks like it’s been housing squatters for 40 years because that’s the best you’re going to get before the housing prices rise another 6% in 2016.

Simply put, people who live in Bristol are pissed that they’re being pushed out of their own city. It’s a relatively new idea that you may be priced out of the city you grew up in. Londoners have obviously been dealing with that reality for the past 30 years. However, it’s worth noting that it’s mostly white middle class hipsters that are pissed that Bristol has become gentrified to the point where they can’t even afford to take a yoga class or visit the newest gelato place (seriously why does Bristol suddenly have like 10 gelato places). Because anybody else who doesn’t fit in the ‘very middle class’ categories were already pushed out of Stokes Croft and North Street before long Meat Liquor or the North Street Standard opened.

A particularly poignant Facebook comment that accompanied the Vice article was “I bet the people who commented weren’t even born in Bristol.” A valid point; people who are commenting on a Vice article about Bristol were probably brought to this fair city because of UWE or the University of Bristol. Natives they are not, but does that give them less of a say in the gentrification of their adopted hometown?

I wasn’t born in Bristol; I was born in Windsor – where the fucking queen lives. I spent the first 10 years of my life in a small town called Shepperton, which is in Surrey, the whitest middle class county in all of England according to a survey by me “looking out of my eyes”. There is fuck all there, so I assume my mother thought “Why are we here, seriously.” And packed up to move to Bristol. I went from an Ofsted reviewed excellent school to a shit secondary school in Whitchurch where my clipped Surrey accent went down a treat and clashed horribly with my pre-teen gothic sensibilities.

I adapted though, I drank White Lightening in a park, I went to Lakota and didn’t do drugs because of scared, I went to the Black Swan and didn’t do drugs because of scared, I embraced my Bristolian lilt I attained once very smashed (only noticed by non-Bristolians, mind.) In my own mind, I’m from Bristol, if people ask I say ‘yeah, I’m from Bristol.’

The backlash of someone openly inviting Londoners to move to Bristol is misplaced. It’s not London’s fault that Bristol’s stocks are going up, it’s Bristol’s fault. You can’t be the cool well-reviewed club without someone spilling the beans and a bunch of normal people showing up and ruining the vibe. You created a successful night and now the entry prices have gone up and sometimes someone accidently spills a drink down your shirt. This metaphor got out of control a while back, but the point stands, Bristol had to grow, and to grow it usually costs.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t complain though, it’s bullshit that The Old Duke now charges £4.20 for a Thatchers Gold, but blame all the godawful craft beer pubs and microbreweries in the centre for fucking up your cheap drinks. Londoners didn’t cause that though, we saw the craft beer pubs and the southern BBQ’s and went ‘we want that’ and we got it, we just wanted it for a lesser cost.

If you’ve ever lived in London, you’re probably not that annoyed about Bristol’s rising stock. I lived in London for four years and fucking hated it, well okay, not hated it but I was pretty broke for a UK standard so living in London was just ridiculous. There are still things about Bristol that you could never get in London. You can still walk anywhere you want in Bristol; the whole city centre is around 4 miles across, and whilst the buses are awful it’s still £1.50 to get across town. Living in London you had to plan to get somewhere and leave maybe an hour to get there, possibly put down a small loan for the travelcard – it was an isolating and pretty unfriendly place to be because you never got used to it no matter what.

In Bristol, I feel like I’m in a giant village and to me it still feels like we’re all in this big secret about how great our city is. So complain away, but don’t blame London,

London is awful and we should invite those poor lost souls to our much greener pastures 😉

(THAT’S A WEED JOKE LOL 420 MAN)

 

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