My day was put out when I spent ten minutes waiting for a bus outside Somerfield on Gloucester Rd before I realised that all the busses had been diverted – the road through Stokes Croft was closed due to some kind of ruckus. So, only slightly miffed as it was such a sunny day, I set off to walk into town. As I got into Stokes Croft I thought there had been some horrific accident. The scene was chaotic. Police vans, a cherry picker, a lot of noise, and a couple of TV camera crews… and what was all this chaos about? ‘The Say No to Tesco’ campaign.
Squatters had taken over the site (previously Jesters comedy club which is due to be turned into the new Tesco) and ingeniously cemented themselves into barrels and super-glued themselves to poles in protest. The obvious way to encourage change I‘m sure you’ll agree. The street below was full of the usual crusties who turn up at demonstrations shouting at police about ‘behaving themselves because they have an audience’, about ‘the residents right to defend their area from the evils of capitalism’, and an array of chants, music and generally irritating noise blaring from a loudspeaker which was probably having the biggest effect on the neighbours who must have been hoping the police could get the lot of them moved on asap, whatever their views on Tesco.
The first thing that occurred to me was the massive police presence. Who was watching the rest of Bristol, and ensuring no proper crime was taking place? I’m sure the police were happy to get out of the office and out in the sunshine in any case. The prospect of another Tesco popping up in a rough area like Stokes Croft is firstly, surprising, and secondly, something which will undoubtedly damage business in what is currently a famously independent and vibrantly characteristic area. However, all this being said, is cementing yourself in a barrel on a roof top with your mates the best way to go about changing the minds of the chaps who grant planning permission? I doubt it. And, yes, they received a lot of attention, and given the sunshine, a lot of supporters who were more than happy to while away an otherwise boring Tuesday milling about to see if the bloke was successfully dislodged from the bucket. But sorry guys, despite the fuss and the general disruption, I fear your efforts wont amount to diddly squat in the way of persuading the powers that be to change their plans.
I agree that another Tesco is going to be damaging to local independent business. It’s also unnecessary – there are more than enough in the area already. It’s also great that people are willing to stand up for their beliefs, making themselves (blaringly) heard over the ever dominant soulless behemoth corporations that invade every corner of modern life . But focus your energies at the right people. Yes dipping your limbs in cement shows dedication, but this, like all other hippie type protests about all manner of other concerns will be forgotten this time next week, and the evil and mightily powerful Tesco will continue its plans to take over the consumer market and capitalise on everything, one little area at a time.
Appeal the bad decisions. You’re much more likely to get somewhere, and it looks a bit more professional. It also means you don’t have to spend most of the day stuck in a barrel of concrete or sitting in the road waiting to get removed one by one by the old bill. If you’re going to do that, at least exhaust other avenues of complaint first. Wait till the day they start building. Even the mighty Tesco doesn’t have the brass balls to concrete over you, even if you’re quite happy to concrete over yourself. Although they probably would if they could get away with it. What’s the slogan again? Every little man crushed on the road to total market domination helps. Or something similar.