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Beach Hut Culture Update: February 2019

I spent Christmas in Bristol at the end of last year, it's becoming an annual tradition as I housesit for relatives who migrate to warmer climes in Winter; personally, I don't see what's so festive about firepit cooked lobster on icing sugar beaches, surrounded by palms, turtles and emerald waters but to each their own.

Regardless, it's a great excuse for what is proving to be a much-needed annual break, in a city I hold a degree of nostalgia for having studied at Bristol University. Each time I’m reminded that four years ago when I graduated, I swore I would live nowhere else and was convinced that returning to Torbay and its distinctly slower pace, could only ever be a temporary situation. Each time I’m reminded of the vibrant cultural offer that I love the city for; its abundance of music venues, independent, artisan highstreets, high calibre museums and galleries, and mind-bending public artworks. Each time I’m reminded that it’s always a real struggle to leave…

Now I have the dog in tow, I’m even discovering Bristol has a comparable number of green spaces that pepper the city, softening what was already a reasonably tame urban environment for a Dartmoor lover like myself. It just about ticks every box.

Extending our Christmas break, we headed back to Bristol in the middle of January to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which is currently being hosted at M Shed. Flipping over my ticket as we queued for the crowd drawing gallery, I was surprised to see something I recognised: “Coming Soon to M Shed, Tattoo, British Tattoo Art Revealed”. The promotional image was immediately recognisable, having been so prominently seen around Torbay last year when the very same exhibition had been hosted at Torre Abbey. And soon it would be here, in the very gallery where we were about to enjoy what is perhaps the most prestigious photography awards series on the planet.

Seeing these two events sharing space on the same bit of card as I scanned my entry into the exhibition reaffirmed for me why I have chosen to stay in Torbay. I certainly didn’t take #TorbayTattooTales for granted when it was here; we visited the exhibition on several occasions during its stay at Torre Abbey, and raved about it to all who would listen, even then knowing this was a big deal for Torbay. But it’s rare to see so starkly how this significance sits in the bigger picture, that the very same show would go on to huge city venues where crowds are much easier to come by.

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect Torbay to compete with a city like Bristol, the two clearly operate on completely different scales. But there’s a part of me, the part that wakes up each morning excited to be working on the English Riviera, that thinks maybe in fact it’s not unreasonable at all and maybe we might have something that gives the big city a run for its money…



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