What I’ve learnt from living in Clifton Village
Aggie shares her perspective on living in Clifton Village
I moved back to Clifton after leaving London in the summer of 2019. After living near the busy streets of Brixton I was looking forward to some peace and quiet in Clifton Village. Having found a shared household on Royal York Crescent with a decent rental price I felt incredibly blessed to have this peaceful space when I needed it the most. A year later, and now looking to move to a different area in Bristol, I want to share my perspective on living in Clifton Village.
For the first part of my year here, I worked at a cafe round the corner from my flat. Having worked in the hospitality sector for a while, I was already used to an underlying class tone that goes alongside working in a cafe. People often assume that if you work in hospitality you’re either: a student, not privileged, or that you’re not smart enough to get a different job.
While working in Clifton, however, I mostly felt accepted by the customers. I made some great friends there and became friendly with the regulars. They passed through the doors on the daily, revealing snippets of their lives. I have fond memories of the lady that would come in with her beautiful dog Peggy; the academic at Bristol University that just wanted to be your friend; and the successful chef that wore a different fabulous coat each day of the week, and told tales of working at sea on a cruise ship. Amongst many other lovely souls, they made the experience enjoyable overall.
There were, however, also times when I was reminded of the drastic difference in lifestyle some of these people were leading compared to my own. There was the businessman that would share poached eggs with his sausage dog every morning before jetting off somewhere across the world for a meeting. And there was the less than pleasant interaction with an older man that liked to come in and demand tea before telling me he was a self-made millionaire by the time he was my age, and that he had to rush – he needed to catch his flight to his orchard in France.
There were, however, also times when I was reminded of the drastic difference in lifestyle some of these people were leading compared to my own.
Thanks to occasional unpleasant interactions, I found myself mistakenly judging someone’s cold demeanor as arrogance, class, or wealth–related superiority, only later to find out that that person was going through a divorce, or that their heart had been broken from losing a loved one. Coming from a working–class background where money was a point of contention, it was too easy for me to judge individuals that didn’t recognise their own comfort. Living here has helped me to gain a more balanced perspective as I watched wealthy people grapple with their own universal struggles.
It also confirmed an opinion of mine which I had suspected to be true – that money doesn’t necessarily make you happier. In fact, I felt a lot of people in Clifton Village seemed much more unhappy in comparison to people in poorer communities I had lived in. If you spend your whole life chasing wealth as a way to mend your heart, you will realise it is time wasted. That in itself must be heartbreaking – to realise you’ve bought into the lie of capitalist fulfilment.
It also confirmed an opinion of mine which I had suspected to be true – that money doesn’t necessarily make you happier.
What I do believe to be a massive contributor to an area’s overall happiness is community, and that is something that I do think Clifton village is lacking. The architectural and structural design of the buildings create a closed and at times intimidating feeling to the area. The tall blocks of flats and houses situated on wide and peaceful streets send a message to me that privacy is valued over human connection. In my experience, conversation between strangers doesn’t flow as naturally as it does elsewhere in the city.
To me, community means diversity. Diversity to me means including people in spaces that are of all genders or non-binary, are of different financial backgrounds, of different races, are of different cultural and religious practices, different sexual and romantic relationships… It means learning from people that don’t look or sound like you, that don’t act like you, from people that have been all over the world, and people that have never left home. It means exploration and celebration. It means growth and respect.
Clifton Village also feels detached geographically. It is situated on a hill, which could be seen as implying a degree of superiority to the rest of the city. I researched the slave-owners that used to live here, and my street is recorded as a spot where slave traders used to live, as are many spots around the city.
Clifton Village geographically feels detached. It is situated on a hill, which could be seen as implying a degree of superiority to the rest of the city.
After I went to the Black Lives Matter protest in the centre of Bristol, it saddened me to return to this space in the city where not as many placards were being displayed. Where I lived felt detached from the movement, which both surprised me and it didn’t. It surprised me because of the chorusing which sung out through my street during lockdown to support NHS workers, and with a large number of key workers being black or Asian, you would assume the chorusing was for them too. But given the dark history of Bristol’s wealth and its connection to the slave trade, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the atmosphere was not the same in this wealthier area during the BLM protest. Would it be because of white guilt? Geographical disconnect? I do not know without asking everyone that lives here.
It saddens me to walk outside of my flat every day and only see people that reflect my skin tone. I am of course white myself and am therefore part of the problem. I am trying to educate myself on what it means to be privileged as a white person, asking myself why it is easier for me to move to Clifton Village than it is for someone that is black or Asian. And I am now coming to grips with the fact that Bristol is quite racially segregated as a city, and this is something which I would like to see change over the years to come – and that I need to be an active part of that change.
What do you think of Aggie’s views on Clifton? Let us know.
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