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View over Bristol - Tryers, creativity and a civic imaginary

Sobers, Shawn; Dovey, Jonathan; Agusita, Emma


Shawn Sobers
Associate Professor - Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice

Jon Dovey
Research Centre Director DCRC/ Professor

Emma Agusita
Senior Lecturer in Cultural Industries


Ahmet Atay

Jay Brower


"Bristol has a culture of tryers, lots of people trying but because there’s a lack of accessibility. Because there is a lack of exits, naturally there are loads of people trying to get out… it is full of people who are trying because they can't grab what they are trying for. That feeds the notion of *South Blessed which is to exploit people who want to manifest... It is an equivalent of whatever they are trying for."

These are the words of a young male in Bristol, UK - an aspiring singer, producer, actor and media producer, Black British, full of talent and ‘looking for the exit’ to make his mark on the world. *South Blessed, is a local media operation founded by Vince Baidoo, a peer of the young person who gave this quote. The South Blessed network produces DIY music videos, documentaries, graphic novels, fashion, making culture rather than relying on things made by others. To date it has 254 self-made videos on YouTube, ranging from music videos, discussion programmes, interviews with the city's elected mayor, comedies, and on-the-spot material at the scene of the city's riots. South Blessed, (a Jamaican play on ‘South West’), is very much a Bristol operation, and this chapter will look at the city through the eyes of the network. This chapter will tell the story of the city’s tryers, dreamers and doers, exploring and offering challenging perspectives on Bristol as a leading creative industries city. Using ethnographic methods such as interviewing, participant observation, media content analysis and interpretation, and also cultural geography methods such as asset mapping and ‘walkshops’, as a way of gathering data with key participants.

Results show the South Blessed network are not inward looking or parochial. A media content analysis of ‘place’ showed references to other UK cities and countries, however there was a tendency to bring external references back to a Bristol narrative. The results showed a local/global dimension of community media outputs, expressing in this context a phenomenon of community ‘we-ness’ (Dahlgren, 2009); ‘communities expressing civic commonality and embodying group loyalty, based on the learning of shared skills’ (Couldry et al., 2014: 8) and an outward-looking discourse of connectedness to places further afield, through a shared sense of ideology and politics (Anderson, 2006; Hall, 1996).

This chapter stems from research undertaken for a three year AHRC Connected Communities project, 'Media, Community and the Creative Citizen'. The research set out to investigate the impacts of social media on civic engagement. In this case the research focused on the impacts of social media on the informal creative economy of the city. This chapter will tell the story of a city and the aspirations and identities of a dynamic group of its citizens in a unique way, offering a glimpse seldom heard, carried in the often creative outputs of a city's tryers, produced in the margins of civic society.

Anderson, B. (2006) Imagined Communities. Verso, London
Dahlgren, P. (2009). Media and Political Engagement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Couldry, N. Stephansen, H. Fotopoulou, A. MacDonald, R. Clark W. Dickens, L (2014): Digital citizenship? Narrative exchange and the changing terms of civic culture, Citizenship Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2013.865903
Hall, S. (1996) The Global, the Local, and the Return of Ethnicity. In: Lemert, C. (Ed.) (1999) Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classical Readings. Westview, Colorado. P.p. 626 - 633

Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title Communication, Culture, and Making Meaning in the City: Ethnographic Engagements in Urban Environments
ISBN 9781498531931
APA6 Citation Sobers, S., Dovey, J., & Agusita, E. (2017). View over Bristol - Tryers, creativity and a civic imaginary. In A. Atay, & J. Brower (Eds.), Communication, Culture, and Making Meaning in the City: Ethnographic Engagements in Urban EnvironmentsLexington Books
Keywords city, community media, cultural value, tryers, creativity, creative economy, ethnography
Publisher URL