My Britain: Bristol

Two Bristolians share why their city is an absolute must-visit

Alright my lover? At the heart of the West Country, the city of Bristol is known for its outgoing, friendly residents, vibrant music and food scene and, of course, its most famous son—the anonymous but prolific graffiti artist Banksy. 

The name of the city derives from the Old English Brycgstow, which means "place at the bridge", and suitably enough, today the Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the city's best known landmarks, providing a spectacular backdrop for the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, in which hundreds of hot air balloons from around the world take off across the city. 

Bristol is also known as a media hub and is home to the BBC Natural History Unit, producing such beloved shows as David Attenborough's Life On Earth, Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Aardman Animations—the studio behind Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep—are also based out of Bristol, making the city a must-visit for stop-animation fans. 

"The name of the city derives from the Old English Brycgstow which means 'place at the bridge'"

John Nation

Known as the "Godfather of graffiti" and Banksy's mentor, John Nation narrates a new self-guided tour as part of Where the Wall for the ultimate COVID-secure street art experience, accessed by smart phone.

What do I love about Bristol? Where do I begin? There are so many reasons. Firstly the people. It's cosmopolitan, multicultural, vibrant, free-spirited, full of rich history, great architecture, diverse art and it's very political. I love the Bristolian accent too. 

Banksy, the world famous artist who hails from the city once painted over an official traffic sign on the M32 as you approach the outskirts of the city with the words: "Welcome to the West Country, Please don't laugh at our accent." 

We sound like farmers to many, but it's just another part of Bristol that makes me smile. People ask, "What does it mean to be Bristolian?" Well, that depends on the individual you ask. For me, it's a sense of pride coming from this city. I'm a born and bred Bristol lad. It's in my heart and soul. The Bristolian spirit is one of free-thinking, about knowing right from wrong, about fairness, humility and equality. 

"It's cosmopolitan, multicultural, vibrant, free-spirited, full of rich history, great architecture, diverse art and it's very political"

Bristol has become internationally recognised as a city known for its great street art and graffiti. It's important not to confuse the two—Bristol has had a well-respected graffiti scene since the 1980s, well before street art was even a thing. They are two separate cultures. Then, of course, you have the Banksy factor and the globally recognised artist that he is. 

We have four decades of history—the artists, the Vanguard, alternative culture and contemporary art that make this city one of the most vibrant and colourful in the world. 

Obviously graffiti is not to everyone's liking in the city, but there's no denying that it has had a huge impact in shaping the city's identity both at home and internationally. That's why I'm a street art tour guide for Where the Wall. I love to walk the painted streets of Bristol and share my passion and knowledge with visitors to the city from around the world. It's my dream job. 

People always ask me what my favourite piece of art in the city is. It's such a hard question for me to answer because there's just so much great diverse art in the city. But if I had to choose just one piece, then it would have to be the iconic Banksy piece, The Mild Mild West. 

This piece was painted in 1999 in the Stokes Croft area and is the final piece that I show at the end of the guided graffiti tour. Why this one? For me, The Mild Mild West is Banksy's signature piece. It's like an alternative greeting,"You are now in Bristol, The West Country". For me it has everything and it's probably the most known and photographed work of Banksy's in the city. It is iconic. 

Briony May Williams

Briony May Williams is a baker and TV presenter born and raised in Bristol. In 2018 she appeared on Channel 4's much loved baking contest, The Great British Bake Off.

I am a born and bred Bristolian and I am very proud of that fact! I grew up here and decided to settle in Bristol  after moving away for my university years. Bristol is my home and I love it 
so much. All my family are here and lots of my friends. It’s a wonderful place to bring up a family, as there is so much to see and do here. 

There's so much that I adore about Bristol. I love how friendly everybody is here, and the city itself is so beautiful from the architecture to the green spaces. We also have an amazing food scene, which my family and I love to explore. Bristol has a wonderful vibe to it and I can see why people come here and never leave!

In the time that I've lived in Bristol, I think that the city has expanded in all the best ways. We have so many more amazing restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes now, for example. Over the years, Bristol has maintained its stellar reputation for supporting independent businesses which I think says a lot about the city and the people here. The shopping, the food, the open spaces… I think everything has improved over time. It has been amazing to witness how Bristol has grown and flourished while still feeling like a close-knit place and community. 

"It has been amazing to witness how Bristol has grown and flourished while still feeling like a close-knit place and community"

For me, being a Bristolian is about being down to earth, friendly and always up for a chat! The Bristolian spirit is warm and welcoming; all my friends who come to visit me here remark upon how nice and friendly Bristolian people are, and I couldn't agree more.

When I appeared on The Great British Bake Off [Briony reached the semi-finals of the Channel 4 baking competition in 2018] I felt so much love from my fellow Bristolians! People would stop me in the street and say how proud they were of me and how I was representing Bristol really well. I was then and remain so grateful for the support from Bristol, it meant the world to me.

To plan a future visit to Bristol, go to Visit Bristol. Briony also runs cooking classes which are available to book at Yuup.

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