A brief pause, and an exciting project…

Dear Stokes Croftians, Bristolians and other readers…

This blog is on a temporary hiatus while we work on developing and launching an exciting new digital project for the area.

The vision is to create an online community hub where people can submit their own news, photos and videos alongside in-depth features and information about the area and it’s goings-on.

It will also boast features such as an interactive calender that users can post events to and gain a comprehensive idea of everything happening in the area.

We hope that the site will make the community more inclusive, bring together everyone living in the vicinity, promote all the amazing projects and events happening here and provide a voice for everyone.

We are currently looking for anyone interested in getting involved and any potential commercial partners interested in sponsorship.

If you would like to get involved then please email stokescroftnews@gmail.com

Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Stokes Croft squat raids continue: The Emporium and Classics Free Shop face eviction

Following last week’s raid on Telepathic Heights another of Stokes Croft’s longest-standing squats, the Classics Free Shop and Emporium art gallery, are today facing eviction.

The buildings have been occupied since August 2008, with Classics hosting a free charity shop which has become an essential resource to the local homeless community, as well as artist studios and a community gym, and The Emporium providing a free gallery space for local artists to curate and use as they wish.

Estate agents Maggs & Allen launched a repossession bid in November 2010 and the occupiers were told they would face eviction following a trial this April.

Although the police presence on Stokes Croft has now died down the atmosphere in the area remains tense as the community warily hopes a repeat of the previous two weeks’ violence doesn’t erupt. Let’s hope the eviction of these iconic and dearly-loved community projects remains peaceful.

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Bristol riots: 37 arrested and nine charged in connection with violence

Police have arrested 37 people in connection with the Stokes Croft riots, with nine charged so far.

Several people have appeared in front of magistrates, including a 17-year-old male – originally arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a policeman – charged with GBH on a policeman, and a 15-year-old girl charged with violent disorder.

She was granted bail on the conditions that she does not leave the Stokes Croft area, lives at a set address and complies with a bail supervision programme.

David Foster, 22, of Jamaica Street, is charged with violent disorder in connection with the riots and a separate racially aggravated public order offence relating to an incident in January.

Student Gulnawaz Khan, 18, is charged with stealing cigarettes from the Tesco on Cheltenham Road and Stephen Carroll, 32, is charged with assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.

Avon and Somerset police have issued a statement insisting that there are more arrests to follow, and that they intend to identify and arrest everyone who was present.

This has caused concern among some members of the community, who worry that those who were attempting to stop the violence, or who simply caught up by accident on their way home, may be unfairly targetted.

A ‘Police beat surgery’ has been organised for 4pm on Friday 6 May at the Polish Church on Cheltenham Road for anyone worried about the current situation.

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Bristol riots: Police tactics questioned after second night of violence in Stokes Croft

Questions are being asked as to why a peaceful protest descended into violence on Thursday night in Stokes Croft.

The boarded-up Tesco which was vandalised during last week's riots. Image courtesy of Jonathan Taphouse

From around 9pm onwards crowds had gathered for a previously-cancelled protest against alleged police brutality during the riots a week earlier before violence broke out at around 1am.

Protesters stood outside the Telepathic Heights squat – the scene of a police raid which sparked last week’s violence – playing music while several police vans waited cautiously nearby.

According to police reports, mounted officers and riot police moved in at around 1am after a small group began throwing bottles at officers.

Witnesses saw police on horseback charge along Stokes Croft and Cheltenham Road, knocking protesters to the ground, before the area was sealed off.

But officers failed to contain the outburst and it appears that rioters unconnected with the original protest soon joined in, throwing bottles and concrete at police.

They have also been accused of using violent tactics, with one witness telling the BBC he needed hospital treatment after receiving blows to his head and legs.

Officers were previously accused of heavy-handedness during last week’s riots and also earlier in the week when they stopped a film screening taking place in Mina Road Park, St Werburgh’s.

Organisers of The Occasional Cinema, a non-regular event putting on outdoor film screenings, had been planning to show a short film made up of citizen footage from the riots when they claim police confiscated their screen.

Attendees also claim that, as they moved to a nearby private address to watch the film, police attempted to block the surrounding roads and informed passers by they couldn’t get through because the event was a ‘rave’.

Yesterday, while a clear-up was in place, bailiffs moved in and evicted the occupants of Telepathic Heights. The windows of the vibrant graffiti-covered building are now boarded shut and its doors sealed tight.

The move appeared to be in accordance with a nationwide crackdown on squatted properties, with buildings in Brighton and London also raided earlier in the week.

An uneasy calm has now returned to Stokes Croft, with police officers still on the streets but no further outbreaks of violence as yet.

The Cheltenham Road Tesco, which was badly damagaed during last week’s riots, remains boarded up while the council stay tight-lipped over its future.

A meeting has been called tomorrow afternoon (01/05/2011) at the Polish Church for members of the community to discuss what to do about the situation.

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Bristol riots: Protest cancelled while council ponders decision on Tesco

A planned protest against alleged police brutality during last week’s Stokes Croft Riots has been cancelled.

Organisers released a statement today explaining their concerns that the ‘Stokes Croft Party’ – originally scheduled for Thursday 28 April – would attract larger numberS than originally expected and potentially get out of hand.

Spokesperson Oli posted the following message on Bristol Indymedia:

“As organiser of the Stokes Croft protest I wanted to make a statement about what I saw last Thursday, and my reasons for now cancelling the action.

“I felt that the police brutality inflicted upon the people of the area was gross and unacceptable. The operation was, in my view, handled atrociously by a police force who provoked the riot. I had also wanted to associate the protest with Tesco because following the riot I had become even more aware of the negative impact the store would have on the local area.

“I wanted to organise a protest that would show the area for what it is – an artistic, vibrant and creative community. The most important emphasis was to be, in my view, the peaceful nature of the people. The amount of support for the protest was unbelievable – we hit over 650 confirmed attendees, and the number looked set to spiral.

“But with this great number I began to realise that the sheer scale of the protest could tip the protest from something peaceful into something unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Even though I believe that all those attending would strive to keep the peace at the protest, I believe that a strong police presence could again incite something undesirable.”

Meanwhile Bristol City Council yesterday met with Tesco representatives to discuss the future of the Cheltenham Road store, although no decision appears to have yet been made.

Chief Executive Jan Ormindroyd has called for dialogue between the community and authorities following last week’s violence, although the decision to hold the Tesco meeting in private has been criticised.

Protest organiser Oli urged locals to wait until the Council has come to a decision on the store’s fate before deciding what action to take next.

He explained: “There are some very progressive discussions taking place regarding Tesco that could see a victory for the people.

“I suggest that we wait until this decison has been made regarding Tesco before any action is taken – and if they do refuse to leave then we should certainly move towards further action.

“It is important to remember that this has shown the massive viral power social networks have in bringing people with a shared view together.”

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Stokes Croft Bristol riots: Photos, video and analysis

A massive clean-up operation is under way this morning after the eviction of the Stokes Croft Telepathic Heights squat last night descended into violence.

The controversial Cheltenham Road Tesco was smashed by rioters, with the cycle shop next door also damaged.

Witnesses reported seeing police beating protesters with truncheons, as rioters threw broken bottles and bricks and set fire to bins in the street.

Members of the public chronicled the events on Twitter, with many reporting that later in the night drunken passers by joined in the fighting, changing the atmosphere and fuelling the violence.

Today many questions are being asked as to why the riot was able to ignite in the first place. On learning that police raided Telepathic Heights at 9.15 PM, MP Kerry McCarthy tweeted: “If you were going to evict squatters, why not do it in the morning? How many riots happen at 7am?”

Avon and Somerset Police claimed they raided the property after hearing reports that residents had been making petrol bombs.

Supt Ian Wylie said: “There have been several significant incidents in this building during the past few days, which have caused serious concerns to police and local residents.

“The safety of the public is paramount in a situation of this kind and we took the decision to carry out a robust and swift operation, following intelligence received about the criminal intentions of those who were occupying the building.”

This morning, volunteers from the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft were helping council workers clean up the mess on Cheltenham Road.

Most local businesses are trading as normal, but many are nervous about the impact last night’s events will have on business.

One worker at The Social cafe, three doors down from Tesco, explained: “It’s such a shame because everyone who comes in here tells us how much they love the area and how up and coming it is.

“We get a lot of mums and babies come in here, and I just feel that after last night people will start becoming intimidated by the area again.”

Another witness, who did not want to be named, added: “I feel it’s undone the hard work lots of people have put in to the area.”

Video: Rioters attack Tesco in Stokes Croft

Images courtesy of Ross Oliver Harrison

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Stokes Croft Easter Riots: Tension in Bristol explodes

Riots exploded on Stokes Croft, Bristol, earlier this evening after a police attempt to evict the iconic Telepathic Heights squat on Cheltenham Road turned violent.

Tensions had been running high in the area this week since the controversial Tesco – greatly opposed by most of the community – opened its doors across the road.

We should have some pictures up soon (Friday morning, hopefully). Meanwhile you can get a full lowdown from MP Kerry McCarthy’s tweets and watch a livestream here.

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Tesco Stokes Croft open for business

The Stokes Croft Tesco finally opened its much-maligned doors to the public last Friday.

Almost immediately protestors set up a stall handing out free cakes to customers and playing music.

The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign group have been calling for a boycott of the newly-opened store, following strong opposition from the local community.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Taphouse

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Coexist Community Kitchen hopes to transform Stokes Croft’s eating habits

Since transforming the derelict Hamilton House in to a vibrant hub of art and culture, Coexist have helped bring the local Stokes Croft community together and shaped the area into one of Bristol’s most interesting neighbourhoods.

Hamilton House, Stokes Croft

Now the collective are hoping to offer a little more to those living in the vicinity with the launch of the Coexist Community kitchen, a social enterprise offering low-cost cookery lessons and education on food and nutrition to the public.

Given that the area is one of the most deprived in Bristol, and home to most of the city’s homeless shelters and rehabilitation projects, this a scheme which could really make a difference to the health and wellbeing of people in the area.

It could also help empower vulnerable local people by equipping them with new skills and improving their confidence.

The kitchen is the first in a series of schemes which Coexist hopes to launch tackling aspects of community living, including the environment, transport, energy, business and health.

But first enough money needs to be raised for the enterprise to work. If you would like to make a donation them please visit the group’s indiegogo page here.

Watch the video from Coexist explaining their plans for the kitchen:

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Stokes Croft artists launch Light Box: The Happiness Project

A new interactive arts project aiming to promote happiness and wellbeing is coming to Bristol courtesy of Stokes Croft-based artists Lucy Barfoot and Lucy Duggan.

Light Box: The Happiness Project is a series of arts-based workshops which aim to help stimulate participants’ creativity, help them think more positively and up their ‘happiness levels’.

The two Lucys stumbled upon the idea soon after first becoming friends.

Lucy B explains: “We worked on an exhibition together and clicked because we are both really happy, resilient people. We both noticed these character traits in each other and began chatting about what we thought made us that way.

“Lucy D has suffered from Bi-Polar disorder and her techniques of dealing with it and overcoming it have made her how she is.

“As for me, I have a really supportive family who have always encouraged me to think positively.”

Working together, the pair both identified behaviours of their own which they believe help them to stay upbeat, such as “getting up early in the mornings, taking lots of fun, group-based exercise and appreciating and telling people around us that we are grateful for them.”

Combining Lucy D’s knowledge as a sociology graduate, Lucy B’s artistic skills and the works of various psychologists, they decided to try and create ways of inspiring similar positive feelings and attitudes in others.

The final result is a set of ten workshops based around themes such as Confidence, Gratitude, Vitality and Appreciation of Beauty.

Activities include creating ‘gratitude books’, and blind drawing – drawing whilst blindfolded – to inspire confidence and banish those “I can’t draw” assumptions many of us have.

The pair ran a pilot last year and the overwhelming response they received from the public spurred them on to pursue their project.

“We wanted to road-test it and it went really well,” explains Lucy B.

“We loved the amazing reactions from people. 100 per cent of people who came to the workshops said they would recommend them to a friend, and I think they also really appreciated that they were free.”

Light Box: The Happiness Project will run from 1 April – 30 June at The Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol. To read the full programme and book a place on one of the workshops please visit their website.

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