After being “trashed” in the early hours of Good Friday 22 April, Tesco re-opened on the 24 May following a neighbourhood meeting the night before.
Monday 23 May 6.30pm: St Paul’s Unlimited neighbourhood meeting.
People with complaints against the police (“Why was extreme force used? Why was my arm broken by thugs in police uniform and three dogs attacked me?” asked one man).
The police was represented by Chief Superintendent, John Stratford, who listened well. Clearly, he was not a riot-type with batons and adrenaline-pumping, lashing-out fear.
Someone in the audience who’d been a policeman for 30 years – now an artist with a studio in Stokes Croft – said he was holding a riot shield in the St Paul’s 1981 riot. And scared.
A woman describing herself as a “lone voice” showed support for Tesco. Sadly, she mixed-up the riot with the campaign to stop Tesco opening. Not true.
As Ashley ward’s first Green Party councillor, Gus Hoyt, (pictured) has said the media has framed the debate: Against the riot = For Tesco. It’s more bigger-picture than that and why he is calling for independent public inquiry.
At the meeting, I heard about a move to make it harder for squatters to squat legally.
Harder for people with no home – and no hope of a home – to make a temporary home in one lying empty.
Homes lying empty, as I learnt at the meeting, so they can increase in value for their owner. Such as Westmoreland House. “A death trap” someone called it.
One of the Bristol City Council representatives told us the council had asked the government for retail classification A1 to be changed. Currently the same classification applies to both a supermarket chain and a one-off local shop.
Eric Pickles, the Conservative minister, replied with no. “…Not its role to restrict competition.”
Ha. It’s supermarkets that restrict competition. They buy cheap, sell cheap. They only need to take a small percentage of a local shop’s business to sink it.
The profit a small shop makes is tiny.
But is economic power the only measure of success? Local independent shops create community. They support wholesalers and the local economy.
However, it does not take long for local shops to wither. Look at Tesco on Golden Hill. A row of small shops closed and Tesco’s promises broken: not to open on a Sunday; not to have a cafe.
Head of Property Communications, Michael Kissman, arrived late at the neighbourhood meeting.
Pity. He did not hear the majority of the Stokes Croft audience eloquently voice love for their local community – without a Tesco, thank you.
(One said: “We don’t want Tesco. And we don’t want the police protecting Tesco.”)
However Tesco’s Michael Kissman did hear people after the meeting asking him for Tesco’s support for impoverished local groups.
And at least I got an answer to my question: Where did the figure of 3,000 people, that Tesco claimed walked through Tesco, Cheltenham Road in Stokes Croft store in its first weeks of trading, come from?
Answering my question via the chair, Tesco’s Michael Kissman, said these 3,000 customers were, in fact: “3,000 transactions”. O.
No mention was made at the neighbourhood meeting of Tesco reopening the following morning. But open it did at 7 am on the 24 May.
Lot of media interest, I gave three interviews that day, including to Radio Bristol (1:40 mins in, after Michael Kissman, who was given the final word.)
Looked pretty empty when I took the pic at 3pm.
Tesco can afford to stay half-empty (like the Tesco five minutes away in the Gloucester Road), playing the waiting game while local shops close.
On a more positive note, there may be another chance to review the planning process concerning Tesco’s traffic impact on Cheltenham Road. The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign has won the right to appeal against the decision to not grant a Judicial Review (the rejection came coincidentally after Good Friday).
We plan a fluffy good-humoured self-contained lawful protest in front of Tesco’s before we set off on Wednesday 15 June for the 2 pm hearing in Cardiff .
And the Stokes Croft People’s Supermarket readies itself in the wings.
I’ll drink a glass of homemade foraged elderflower cordial to that.
Homemade elderflower cordial
A revelation. I did not realise how easy it is to make.
You soak the elderflower blossom in water with sugar for two days, covered with a lid. Then strain through muslin or a sieve. Then pour into clean bottles.
Second revelation: how the scent fills a room. Light fresh notes, as I snip the blossoms off their stems into a vat of hot sugared water.
Elderflower blossom is plentiful now.
Mike picked a plastic bag-full.
We added two pots of organic pear preserve – as the Elemental Sanctuary’s Carole Fofana advised. I have some brown muscavado sugar. About 500g.
We estimate six pints of water. Mounds of elderflower blossom take up most of the room in the pan. I reckon our version has more blossom and less sugar than most recipes (hence its deliciousness).
The only technical bit is straining it through a sieve covered with muslin (organic muslin £2 from Born).
For more precision, see the Self-Sufficient-ish elderflower cordial recipe.
Lemon juice will preserve it but requires more sugar to sweeten the taste. We do not use lemons (or citric acid) or lots of sugar, and the cordial is not too sweet and has the heady taste of nature.
Third revelation: homemade elderflower cordial tastes amazing.
I am drinking some now.
It tastes how elderflower blossom smells. And somehow feels substantial – nourishing.
Elderflowers are nutrient-rich and immune-boosting.
Not nutrients added artificially, or over-processed thus inneffective.
I often dream of going into a bar and ordering a health-giving revitalising drink.
Homemade elderflower cordial is that dream-drink: it has natural vitality.
(To think Coca-Cola had the cheek to call itself: The Real Thing).
I glimpse the satisfaction of foraging. It’s unmediated.
Nothing between me and something growing on a tree.