‘…it is the city itself that continues to fuel me.’ Jon’s Bristol

Jon talks about what makes the city the perfect platform for a creative person.


In his first post for Rife magazine, Jon Aitken takes us to the arty side of life.

Last year I moved away from Bristol for 6 months, most of which I spent working out how I could return here.  Clearly, this city has an undeniable pull for me.

Having spent 3 years studying and making Fine Art – ranging from sculpture to drag – I have come to realize that being creative is more than just a trait of mine; it’s a sometimes-frustrating necessity, and Bristol itself suits that perfectly.  While the presence of big name galleries like Arnolfini and Spike Island provide a great insight into the art world, it is the city itself that continues to fuel me.

Since coming here nearly 4 years ago I have come to see Bristol as a land of opportunity, with a generous dose of heavenly light shining on it – though I could be imagining that part.  The empty shops around the city and various other spaces are perfect for student-led art shows; cheap, only slightly dirty and always full of character — they are perfect for any artist to test out their fledgling practice, but also for those more established than the average student trying to make art out of anything they can get for free or steal.

To describe a city as ‘vibrant’ feels like such a cliché yet I can see why so many have done so; Bristol seems to evoke passion within people that inevitably leads to creative success.  As a stranger I found my new home friendly and encouraging – and the people I met were actually proud of their city, something that I hadn’t previously realised was so important and makes such a difference to everyone’s happiness.

Again, it pains me to apply this word but ‘diverse’ also feels apt.  I don’t need to go into a lengthy spiel about Park Street or the merits of getting the bus to the top of Gloucester Road and crawling your way back down to the centre via every open pub, but the variety of experiences this place has to offer is incredible.

Above all – concerning my creativity – I have this, thing, when sometimes I just need to spend time away from other humans and work on ideas alone, and Bristol makes that convenient for me.  I’ve always lived in the south of the city, which has meant that the relative solitude of Ashton Court on a Sunday morning has always been close by, disturbed only by the other lone runners I see in the distance (and usually attempt to overtake, trying to appear like I’m not about to collapse from exhaustion).

There is an emphasis here on trying out new things, and there are big supportive networks in place to help you along the way – ideas are always met with enthusiasm and a willingness to collaborate or guide, and success is celebrated by more than just those involved.

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Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

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