Most weeks since I started last May, I‘ve heard tales of abuse, threats, indecent exposure, drug taking, robbery, and verbal and physical violence that is taken against Miriam of Bearpit Social, Simon (owner of Bearritos) and their staff, who moved into this space five years ago this month, to run their businesses here. These people are now my friends. They are the kind of people I really like – plucky action takers – they are trying to take the politics out of this space and turn into into a regenerated hub which thrives even more than they’ve managed to make it thrivealready.
Today I realised that, because I run my bootcamp down here, I am a stakeholder in what goes on. I’m only here an hour a week so I often feel like it’s not OK for me to express what I feel because I don’t live it day in, day out. But I care about the safety of those using the Bearpit to work in, travel through, eat or drink in, or exercise in. I care about the safety of the people working down here.
Homelessness is something I have always been shocked, saddened and made angry by, but particularly since moving to Bristol. I find it abhorrent that people living on the streets can be possible in society today. It is something I take personal steps to tackle in my own way – and in ways I don’t have to explain or justify here; but I feel it’s important to state that it’s not something I look down on or feel above. I don’t claim to understand the associated complexities of becoming homeless or indeed of trying to alleviate the issues of those who are homeless. I just don’t. I try my very best though. That’s all I can do.
This is where my understanding splits in two. I think working out how to tackle street drinking, drug-dealing, drug taking and resulting violence and anti-social behaviour may be interlinked to the homelessness discussion on some levels, but it’s not the same thing. It’s just not. Asking for a public space to be helped by the social constructs that exist around it (like the council, and the police) – asking for these organisations to support the removal of street drinkers, and drug takers is a hugely different thing to working on ways to support and re-homehomeless people. I don’t have all the answers – in fact, I probably don’t even have one. But I know these are different issues.
I don’t understand everything going on down at The Bearpit either. I’m a newcomer with little historical knowledge of the area, and so an admittedly basic view. But I’m allowed to express that view. And I am in support of changing this space to become an even more positive, social community area.
I’m a woman of action. So today, I’ve been asking myself – what can I do?
What can I encourage others to do?
I will be personally devastated if Bearpit Social and Bearritos leave The Bearpit over the coming months. I can’t believe this is the choice they’re facing through a continued political roadblocking.
So I’m asking you – this week – (and every week) if you feel how I feel, then hear me out. I want to ask you from the bottom of my heart to show as much support as possible to what’s trying to be created down at The Bearpit. Maybe that won’t solve it, but it’s something. It’s an action we can take, right now.
Maybe I’m still a naive newbie to Bristol. Well then I’ll accept that label. This is who I am, and this is what I think. So, here’s a naive newbie, imploring you to support this space – online, yes, but in person, too.
I led around 2,000 of us on the Women’s March last year (yep I’m still banging on about that). It took my one shaky little voice to rally many voices, in only 72 hours. Let’s be that voice when it comes to The Bearpit.
Be that person in your office or your household who comes down to The Bearpit and supports the businesses, and their wider aims…. And, as the businesses down here have their make or break discussions with the authorities this week, and tackle the politics and legalities behind the space, I feel like this is what we can do, right now, if we care.