Category Archives: Bristol

Week 6: Eye Contact vs Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion

Airship300 Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion is published by Wizard’s Tower Press who also produced the tribute Colinthology. They are a curious publisher who specialise in science fiction and fantasy but don’t want submissions and won’t read them if you send any. This isn’t the only reason they have become a firm favourite, they are also very friendly and are big fans of the south west.

The short stories in the current Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall edited work are Bristolian from title to end. The title is a play on the phrase ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, a term dating from 1840 when talking about the treachorous port of Bristol. Its very high tidal range of 13m meant that if things weren’t tied down they would end up overboard.

Not only is the time period fitting to these stories but their genre seems surprisingly apt. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.” It all makes for a very respectful tribute to this city. The following quotation from the introduction says it quite nicely:

Take a walk around Bristol, and history seeps from the walls. The city can claim more than its fair share of firsts, including the first iron-hulled steamship, the first female doctor, the first chocolate bar and the first use of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic, the invention of the Plimsoll line, the first undersea telegraph cable, the world’s first test tube baby and the first transplant organ grown from stem cells, and a large share of the world’s first supersonic airliner. Now, from this fertile ground comes an anthology charting other realities and alternate histories, in a collection as rich and varied as the true history of this great British city.

— Gareth L. Powell

“Not bad for a little city” said Bristol Culture editor, Martin Booth,  when I read the above to him and he would add that Bristol is where Ribena was invented too.

Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous aspects of the city such as its slavery connections and the tobacco industry but all is included in a rich Bristol setting.

Two excellent stories from its collection are Joanne Hall’s Brass and Bone which is based in Clifton and touches on the use of the Suspension Bridge in both folklore and local awareness.

The Girl with Red Hair, by Myfanwy Rodman is written so beautifully and hauntingly while making sure to use Bristol to its most picturesque best, never losing sight of its story. Not all the stories are as strong but all are true to their setting.

eyecontact Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill on the other hand is a debut novel published by the same company that has published Stephen King. They are big and they have money to spare. McNeill’s work is about a serial killer whose method of choosing victims is in the title.

It starts on Severn Beach with a body and then begins from the serial killer’s perspective in Clifton. There is a subtitle in parentheses – DI Harland Book I and it has a sequel, published in 2013, with its follow-up title DI Harland Book II.

As all slickly published and promoted books, these days, there is a trailer.

Eye Contact is set in Bristol but it has no love of the city. At least none more than a passing acquaintance because of the fact that it is set here. Clifton Down, Whiteladies and Starbucks feature prominently in the beginning and even after a walk up to the Clifton Observatory, and the obligatory mention of the Suspension Bridge there is no sense that these characters are part of their setting.

Clifton is an obvious choice of a setting for tourists and casual Bristolians but when a character in Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion visits a pawnbroker on Hobbs Lane then you know you’re reading someone who knows their city.

Eye Contact could be set anywhere without the story changing. The depth of the characters doesn’t go far enough to touch anything more than a curiosity about the plot. The writing is smooth, it’s slick and it’s glib. If you like Peter James then you’ll like Fergus McNeill, and if you love Jeffrey Archer then you’re in for a treat.

For the purposes of this tournament however, there is only one choice for the work that is shipshape and Bristol fashion and it’s the collection of short stories which references many airships. Not bad for a little publisher, who certainly outshone Hodder & Stoughton on this occasion.

Week 5: the Fair Fight vs the Accidental Proposal

Once again I got it wrong in the case of a book’s setting. The Accidental Proposal is set in Brighton, not Bristol. It wouldn’t have fared well against Freeman anyway so I won’t say any more about it.

The Fair Fight is Anna Freeman’s debut novel after completing her BA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and then her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is now a creative writing lecturer at Bath Spa University (where Nathan Filer also lectures).

Bristol, 1799. In Frog Lane, right in the city centre, is a brothel called the Convent and that’s where plain and unremarkable Ruth is born and raised. Destined to follow the profession of those around her she instead catches the eye of Mr Dryer, local merchant and boxing enthusiast.

Dryer takes Ruth under his wing and she soon makes a life as a female boxer – a pugilist – dropping more than her fair share of blood in the sawdust at the infamous Hatchett inn, where in modern times Freeman worked for six years.

On the other side of the class divide is genteel, rich, pockmarked and angry Charlotte, Dryer’s wife. She has lost most of her family to small pox, all except for her bullying brother who hides from the world and spends most of his time staring at the bottom of a bottle.

Freeman provides not only a level of emotional depth to her characters that makes them believable but her research adds some details which while not well-known ring true because they are based in reality.

She was inspired to write The Fair Fight after reading one of her nieces Horrible Histories books. She says “I had no idea that it happened but female prize-fighters used to write challenges to each other in newspapers. I read about Elizabeth Stokes who, in one example, answered Ann Field’s taunt with: “I, Elizabeth Stokes, of the City of London… Do assure her … that the blows I shall present her with will be more difficult to digest than any she ever gave her asses.”

Most women fighters were either prostitutes or suffering in poverty and while they may have made names for themselves in the ring, they had little value outside it.

Freeman’s research also encompassed reading diaries of Georgian women. “There are all these extracts from the diaries of spinsters and loads of them are so bitter and angry.”

There is an examination of injustice and personal power in the Fair Fight and quite a comprehensive look at the Bristol of the times. From schooling at St Michael’s Hill to the poverty in the dirty centre by the docks and the rich houses and families at Queen Square, there is a great sense that this take could not have taken place anywhere else. There is even a festival by the Harbourside which seems the ancestor of our current Harbour Festival.

The Fair Fight is not only a great Bristol novel but also one of the best books of the year.

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on August 28.

Week 4: Bristol Bells vs Where’s My Money?

In front of a low, old house, opposite St Mary Redcliffe and tall business buildings, there sat a thoughtful effigy of Bristol’s best known literary figure, the boy poet Thomas Chatterton. This figure is hidden whilst the house is being repaired but a plaque still helps identify the location.

Feeling disgruntled and under appreciated in his home town of Bristol, Chatterton left for London in 1770. Finding no luck there either his life came to a sad end by the time he was 24.

Since I have not included poets in this tournament, however, I would have had no need to mention him were it not for Emma Marshall.

Marshall, author in 1890 of Bristol Bells, and of over 200 more stories in her lifetime, liked to base her works around a famous figure and in this case it was Chatterton.

The story is also about Bryda, the beautiful and refined granddaughter of a farmer, who wants to follow the sound of the Bristol bells and leave her house in Dundry. When an old debt needs to be repaid she has no choice but to gain employment as a servant in the same house where Chatterton is apprenticed to a lawyer.

Marshall clearly, and fittingly to the story, outlines what is known of Chatterton’s sad and short life. Bristol Bells is a pleasant and short read with two stories running parallel. It is informative of one of the great literary figures of Bristol as she includes bits and pieces of his life and snippets if his poetry along with biographical information.

Much of the story takes place between Corn Street and Dowry Square with ventures to Hot Wells and St Vincent’s Rocks. There is a villain and a love interest, suspense and intrigue and a delightful introduction to the Bristol of 250 years ago.

Power of expression: 6/10
Bristol content: 11/15
Bristol integration: 9/15
Characterisation: 6/10
Total: 32/50

Mike Manson’s Where’s My Money, on the other hand, is a classic in contemporary Bristol fiction and as the cover suggests, it will indeed make you laugh out loud.

Max Redcliffe joins the Ministry of Work at the unemployment office on Union Street after having been on the other side of the counter for quite a while. His colleagues include Lee Woods and Ashley Hill and if you don’t recognise a couple of these names then you’re obviously not a Bristolian.

There is a wicked charm to Redcliffe’s story of his adventures in the unemployment office which while failing to deliver much of a narrative arc does provide lots of entertainment and information about the south west city.

From cider to slavery, tobacco to chocolate, the Downs and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, there is so much Bristol in its pages that this story could not have taken place anywhere else and yet the book does not feel overburdened with facts.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, hanging by a thread across a vertiginous gorge, is one of the world’s most fabulous bridges, and it goes nowhere. There’s nothing on the other side of the bridge apart from a few big houses and a wood. The bridge is an expensive conceit. And rightly so. This golden gateway frames the Avon Gorge – transforming the landscape of grey cliffs and hornbeam woods into a sublime vision of grandeur.

Set in the 70s, it is funny and consistently Bristolian and manages to cover the decade pretty well too. The only thing that seems to have changed in 40 years is that we now have some great places for coffee. Three in fact. Oh and that the Bristol sound is no longer jazz.

Power of expression: 8/10
Bristol content: 15/15
Bristol integration: 13/15
Characterisation: 8/10
Total: 44/5020140727-220433-79473448.jpg

Week 2: The Shock of the Fall vs The Choice

Pitting Susan Lewis against Nathan Filer is like making Tweetie bird fight Muhammad Ali and I just don’t have it in me. Well, I do but I’ll do my best to keep as bloodless as possible.

filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225a vs susan lewis_the choice

The Shock of the Fall describes the life of a boy from Bristol dealing with his grief at the death of his brother and experience of mental health care services for schizophrenia. The Choice is about a young girl (21, not 19 as the blurb says) who falls pregnant, falls out with her parents and then is confronted by a choice no parent should have to make.

Whereas Filer’s first book is sparse and clear, Lewis’s writing is filled with adjectives, adverbs and every possible type of description she could find.

There are mischievous eyes, eyes full of mischief and eyes of grey lead. Hearts surge, worried faces light up, voices soften with tenderness, or are husky with pride. Cliches fill the pages, serving no purpose other than to provide fodder for those who don’t have the time to turn on their television at midday and catch another made-for-TV-melodrama.

We don’t even find out what The Choice is until about 300 pages in to a 500 page novel and then every possible plot combination gets thrown in for good measure.

In direct contrast, Filer shows and never tells. As the writer he doesn’t presume anything about our understanding. Every word in the Shock of the Fall is direct and helps the story. He is a storyteller because he has a story to tell and nothing more. Lewis’s 26th* novel is an example of pulp publication where words are put in one after the other and spat out to people who just want to stay distracted for a few hours and aren’t too fussed about engaging and growing with their characters.

One thing Lewis does do well, however, is write about Bristol. It doesn’t matter whether the story requires it, and it seldom does, but if you read the Choice, you’ll find yourself finding out all about Brunel, Corn Street, Broadmead, the Banana bridge, the ss Great Britain, Southville, the Tobacco Factory and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. All are mentioned quite familiarly by the Bristol writer and are well written. They add nothing to the story, however. Lewis could just as easily have set her story somewhere else and it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The Shock of the Fall is not inherently Bristolian but unlike Lewis, Filer touches on location only where he has to. The occasional mention of Kingsdown in passing doesn’t have to mean much but when his protagonist talks to a homeless man on the corner of Jamaica Street and Stokes Croft (not Cheltenham Road as he writes) we Bristolians, know exactly what he’s talking about and why it’s easy to make that mistake. The area adds to the story, to the characters, it needs no further explanation.

One of the most poignant scenes takes a Bristolian landmark and misses it. The protagonist Matthew Homes’ mother, tells him of how she had tried to find the Clifton Suspension Bridge when she was younger and in despair about what to do wanted to jump off it but ended up circling around Clifton instead. Bristol is integrated into the story, not an aside, not a random description. Filer does it beautifully. The Shock of the Fall won Best First Novel and Book of the Year at the 2013 Costa Book Awards.

The winner this week, Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall, was never in doubt but it’s interesting to see that even though Lewis wrote pages and pages about Bristol, the snippets which Filer uses add more to a Bristolian sense of his work than constant references used as filler.

Bristol novel rankings

Group 1 – The Elites

  1. Filer, Nathan – The Shock of the Fall (2013)
  2. Freeman, Anna – The Fair Fight (2014)
  3. Benatar, Stephen – Wish Her Safe at Home (1982)
  4. Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger , Bovver (2002)
  5. Carter, Angela – ‘The Bristol Trilogy’ (link):Shadow Dance (1966), Several Perceptions (1968) and Love (1971) – Locarno Ballroom.
  6. Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money (2008)
  7. Wakling, Chris – The Devil’s Mask (2011)
  8. Burgess, Melvyn – Smack (or Junk) (2010)

Group 2 – Literary

  1. Barnes, Julian – The Sense of An Ending (2011)
  2. Byrne, Eugene – Things Unborn (2001)
  3. Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004)
  4. Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010)
  5. Butler, Paul – Cupids (2010)
  6. Trewavas, Ed – Shawnie (2006).
  7. Nicholson, Christopher – The Elephant Keeper (2009)
  8. Lee, Jonathan – Who is Mr Satoshi (2010)

Group 3 – Crime

  1. Wright, M.P. – Heartman (2014)
  2. McNeill, Fergus – Eye Contact (2012); Knife Edge (2013); Cut Out (2014)
  3. Carver, Caroline – Gone Without Trace (2007)
  4. English, Lucy – Selfish People (1998).
  5. Ferguson, Patricia – Peripheral Vision (2007); the Midwife’s Daughter (2012)
  6. Lewis,Robert – The Last Llanelli Train (2005)
  7. Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009)
  8. Prowse, Philip – Bristol Murder (2008)

Group 4 – Murder and Others

  1. Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013)
  2. Tessa Hadley – Clever Girl (2013)
  3. Hardy, Jules – Altered Land (2002)
  4. Hayder, Mo — Jack Caffery series – Birdman (2000); The Treatment (2002); Ritual (2008); Skin (2009); Gone (2010); Poppet (2012); Wolf (2014);
  5. Mason, Sarah – Playing James (2003)
  6. Moate, Jari – Paradise Now (2010)
  7. Johnson, Jeannie (pseudonym of Lizzie Lane) – A Penny for Tomorrow (2003).
  8. Gregory, Philippa – A Respectable Trade (1995)

Group 5 – Short Stories mostly

  1. Clarke, Roz and Hall, Joanne (Ed.)- Colinthology (2012)
  2. Clarke, Roz and Hall, Joanne (ed) – Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion (2014)
  3. Harvey, Colin – Future Bristol (Ed.) (2009)
  4. Harvey, Colin – Dark Spires(Ed.) (2010)
  5. White, Tony – Missorts Volume II (2013)
  6. Maughan, Tim – Paintwork(2011)
  7. Boyce, Lucienne – To the Fair Land (2012)
  8. Lewis, Susan – The Choice (2010)

Group 6 – Historical and sagas

  1. Marshall, Emma (1830-1899) – inc. Bristol Bells (the story of Chatterton), Under the Mendips, In Colston’s Days and Bristol Diamonds
  2. Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)
  3. Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island (1883)
  4. Burney, Fanny – Evelina (1778)
  5. Lane, Lizzie – Wartime Brides (2012)
  6. Steen,Marguerite – The Sun Is My Undoing (1941)
  7. Young, E.H. – The Misses Mallett (1922). William – A Novel ().
  8. Butler Hallett , Michelle – Deluded Your Sailors (2011)

Group 7 – Bits and Pieces

  1. Douglas, Louise – In Her Shadow (2012)
  2. Dunn, Matt – The Accidental Proposal (2011)
  3. Smith, Zadie – Martha and Hanwell(2005)
  4. Le Carre, John – Our Game (1995)
  5. Moggach, Deborah – These Foolish Things (2005), You must be sisters (1978)
  6. Godwin, John – Children of the Wave (2010)
  7. Mayhew, Daniel – Life and How to Live it (2004).
  8. Ames, Laurel – Castaway (1993)

Group 8 – the Unknowns

  1. Bouzane, Lillian – In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
  2. Random, Bert – Spannered (2011)
  3. Rowbotham, Michael – Shatter (2009)
  4. Sheers, Owen – Pink Mist (2013)
  5. Mitchell, Diane – Tainted Legacy (2012)
  6. O’Brien, Maureen – Dead Innocent (2004)
  7. Myles, Josephine – Pole Star (2012)
  8. Archer, Jeffrey – Only Time Will Tell (2011)

Order of play for the Bristol Book Tournament

The following table shows the order of play for the tournament.

Group 2 v Group 4
Group 7 v Group 1
Group 5 v Group 3
Group 8 v Group 6.

For the first month, for example, the books competing will be as follows:

  1. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending vs CJ Flood’s Infinite Sky;
  2. Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall vs Louise Dougas’ In Her Shadow;
  3. MP Wright’s Heartman vs Clark, Ros and Hall’s Colinthology;
  4. Marshall Emma v Bouzane, Lillian’s In the Hands of the Living God

Methodology:  I created eight columns and added the groups in order (Group 1 to 8). Then I created a random function which gives a number between 0 and 1 and sorted in ascending order. The following groups were selected.

Group 2 – Literary Group 4 Group 1 – The Elites Group 7 – Group 3 – Crime Group 5 – Short Stories mostly Group 6 – Historical and sagas Group 8 – the Unknowns
Barnes, Julian – The Sense of An Ending Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013) Filer, Nathan – The Shock of the Fall (2013) Douglas, Louise – In Her Shadow Wright, M.P. – Heartman Clarke, Roz and Hall, Joanne – Colinthology (Ed.) Marshall, Emma (1830-1899) – inc. Bristol Bells Bouzane, Lillian – In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
Byrne, Eugene – Things Unborn (2001) Tessa Hadley – Clever Girl Freeman, Anna – The Fair Fight (2014) Dunn, Matt – The Accidental Proposal McNeill, Fergus – Eye Contact (2012) Hall, Joanne (ed) – Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion (2014) Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker Random, Bert – Spannered (Feeder Road)
Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004) Hardy, Jules – Altered Land Benatar, Stephen – Wish Her Safe at Home Smith, Zadie – Hanwell in Hell (Park Street) Carver, Caroline – Gone Without Trace (2007) Harvey, Colin – Future Bristol (Ed.) Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island Rowbotham, Michael – Shatter
Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010) Hayder, Mo – Wolf; Skin; Gone; Ritual Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger , Bovver Le Carre, John – Our Game English, Lucy – Selfish People (1998). Harvey, Colin – Dark Spires(Ed.) Burney, Fanny – Evelina Sheers, Owen – Pink Mist
Butler, Paul – Cupids Mason, Sarah – Playing James Carter, Angela – ‘The Bristol Trilogy’ Moggach, Deborah – These Foolish Things Ferguson, Patricia – Peripheral Vision; the Midwife’s Daughter White, Tony – Missorts Volume II Lane, Lizzie – Wartime Brides (2012) Mitchell, Diane – Tainted Legacy
Trewavas, Ed – Shawnie (2006). Moate, Jari – Paradise Now Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money Godwin, John – Children of the Wave Lewis,Robert – The Last Llanelli Train (2005) Maughan, Tim – Paintwork(2011) Steen,Marguerite – The Sun Is My Undoing (1941) O’Brien, Maureen – Dead Innocent
Nicholson, Christopher – The Elephant Keeper Johnson, Jeannie (pseudonym of Lizzie Lane) – A Penny for Tomorrow (2003). Wakling, Chris – The Devil’s Mask Mayhew, Daniel – Life and How to Live it (2004). Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009) Boyce, Lucienne – To the Fair Land (2012) Young, E.H. – The Misses Mallett (1922). William – A Novel (). Myles, Josephine – Pole Star

What’s place got to do with it? Settings in fiction

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is not only the most prominent Bristolian landmark in tourism promotions but also a ubiquitous name-drop in Bristolian fiction. From Julian Barnes to MR Hall, it is a synonym for Bristol in a most dramatic way.

Yet, when I recently took part in the Bristol Central library’s literary walking tour from the centre to Clifton and back, we didn’t go to the bridge. Just a few hundred feet from Brunel’s design, we stopped at the little green next to Pro Cathedral Lane and near the Clifton Triangle while our narrator / actor read to us a scene from Nathan Filer’s the Shock of the Fall. The protagonist’s mother had tried to find the bridge to jump off but got lost and wandered around Clifton instead.

In Barnes’ Sense of an Ending we are told that the postcard perfect bridge is known for its suicides and in Hall’s the Coroner we are greeted with the sign from the Samaritans reaching out to anyone who may want to think again before taking their very final step.

Associating high bridges with suicide is not unique to Bristol, however, the two different meanings placed to the same landmark is interesting when you want to think about place as a space not only inhabited by its citizens but also created by us: “suicide spot” or “tourist destination” or “Brunel’s masterpiece” [explore]. There are three types of space: absolute space which is the physical presence around us; social space – the way we live in our surroundings; and conceived space – the space we create through art and representation. [The Production of Space]

The Bristol which writers create in their fiction inhabits this conceived space and all three spaces work together to create the actual city we know. But how well do we know fictional Bristol? When I first started searching for novels set in Bristol there were only a handful that would be offered as suggestions. These include Christopher Wakling’s the Devil’s Mask, Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade, Jeffrey Acher’s Clifton Trilogy, Angela Carter’s Bristol Trilogy, Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall which had just won the Costa fiction award, Hayder Mo’s grisly tales and Chris Brown’s Guilty Tiger.

A year later I have tracked down 64 novels or sets of novels that are Bristolian in some way. They help create the conceived space of Bristol and they don’t seem to be much acknowledged for this.

I will review them one against one in 32 initial bouts to eliminate half and then proceed in this manner to find the winner of the tournament: that most Bristol of novels. The benefit won’t be in just discovering the final triumphant selection but in exploring what fictional Bristol tells us and others about our city and what elements the authors have taken and used. This is an examination of how writers create Bristol.

I find this a fascinating endeavour and I hope you will gain something from it as well. Many readers of this blog have helped me identify a lot of these works and it is due to you that I can do this.

Thank you.

Absolute Bristol in images

 

The 7 best places to read in Bristol

In honour of World Book Day, which in my household is like saying we need to celebrate World Oxygen Day, I have been thinking of the best places to read around Bristol.

1. On a sunny day, at the edge of the Floating Harbour, near where the ferry docks to take passengers to the other side for 80p.  Recommended reads: The Cider House Rules or A Prayer for Owen Meany, both by John Irving and perfectly crafted to shine a light on all that is beautiful in people’s lives.

2. On Brandon Hill, with an ice cream from Double Vee Moo. People love to talk about the amazing views but unless you climb to the top of Cabot Tower, the sights of south Bristol aren’t that exciting. Recommended reads: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer or Love by Angela Carter, two Bristol novels showcasing the seamier side of the people in our city and the madness within all of us.

3. At Castle Park just past the beginning of spring when the trees are full of white blossoms and the grass carpeted with lunchtime passersby. Recommended read: Be Here Now by Ram Dass – feel at one with nature while in direct contact with bugs and ants running around your feet.

4. At the Watershed where for the price of a green tea or Americano you can enjoy the spacious surroundings with little pressure to hurry and leave. Recommended read: The American by Martin Booth to suit your black coffee (or whiskey) and the stormy nights reflected on the water of the harbour outside your window. Sit near the window.

5. Small Street Espresso / Full Court Press / Didn’t You Do Well. The three best coffee shops in Bristol. You may not want to stay for hours because the excellent selections will bring in lots of people wanting your seat but that one coffee and a few pages will make it worthwhile. Recommended read: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey to honour the great, great notion that all three sets of cafe owners had in opening their splendid establishments.

6. Papadeli at the RWA or Alma Vale Road opposite the Sainsbury’s car park. Delicious worldwide treats and sublime cakes and sandwiches are a perfect accompaniment to something classical. Take War and Peace or something by Jane Austen.

7. Alma Tavern near Beshley’s Wool Shop. Browse the wool shop first for some crafting ideas and when you select your heart’s desire go sit in the spacious pub and accompany a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with Cupcakes and Kalsnikovs about female foreign correspondents or The Ashford book of dyeing.

Enjoy.

filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225a ramdass be here now cupcakes and kalashnikovs

Top five Christmas shows in Bristol, 2013

1. Super Sam and Mega Max save Christmas at the Brewery Theatre – until 5 January

A beat-boxing, breakdancing equivalent of the Hangover, for toddlers, with a Christmas theme. Lots of fun for little ones and adults.

2. Antarctica at the Bristol Old Vic – until 4 January

As beautiful as a wildlife documentary by David Attenborough but with thousands of bubbles and an owl-a-bear within touching distance. Wonderfully accessible for all ages. (Review)

3. The Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor at the Tobacco Factory – until 12 January

The adventures of Sinbad the Sailor who keeps getting shipwrecked. (Review)

4. Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome – until 5 January

This year’s pantomime brought to Bristol by the Hippodrome. Louis Spence, Suzanne Shaw and Andy Ford. Not loved by Bristol Culture but sounds lots of fun. (Review)

5. Se7en Dwarfs at the Wardrobe Theatre – until 22 December

The most brilliant satanic twist between Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Se7en. (Review)

super sam and mega max

Se7en Dwarfs, Wardrobe Theatre

se7en dwarfs“Sner” White has lived her whole life in the shadow of her Disney namesake who for generations let down feminism with her weak behaviour. Kicked out of home at 16 by an evil stepmother she became a sexy and strong police officer who is just a little overemotional. This weakness led to her dismissal from the force while investigating the “12 days of Christmas” murders and shooting the suspect. But now the murders have started again and Detective White is needed once more.

While you might think that a production based on Snow White crossed with cult film Se7en is probably not quite easy on the stomach, the irreverence and humour of Se7en Dwarfs is beyond what you can imagine. The creativity of the production is brilliantly fun and utterly surprising when you consider the tiny theatre in which they are performing. (It’s very small.)

Emma Keaveney-Roys as Detective White is colourful and brash while sounding like a cross between a northern truck driver and a beautiful deposed princess. Adam Blake as Detective Bramley could have possibly carried off the whole show on his own but it was nice that he had the others with him too. Vince Martin did a beautiful job as musician and mouse. Oh and corpse.

The play is riddled with Snow White puns and pulls off some great genre-jumping with its Raymond-Chandler-esque Noir, Christmas movies, Leslie Nielsen-like deadpan ridicule and nursery rhymes combined with fairy tales. Definitely one for Jasper Fforde fans and for Prince ones.

Don’t miss it. This is the one Christmas show that should have its own feature film.

Se7en Dwarfs is Playing at the Wardrobe Theatre until 22nd of December, 2013.