Happy City’s been involved in a radio programme about Bristol’s cultural diversity and the City of Sanctuary movement
By Maxie Jost
Sometimes, an outside perspective yields not only new insights into the commonly known but also helps unfold connections completely unseen before. Sometimes, it takes a stranger visiting your community and pointing a finger at your local cultures, many and varied, to become aware of the richness right before your nose. And sometimes, when your guest drops a hint, you then realise there is more uniting rather than separating you from your closest neighbours.
This is the story of two Germans, one of whom is me, Maxie Jost. I started working with Happy City more than three months ago, but then, along with my friend Michael Dieminger, I took a step back to see the city of Bristol and its spirit anew. Why not try to play this fantastic mind game if you will, and pose yourself the question ‘What impression of the city would I have if I came here for the first time?’, or else ‘What is it about Bristol I would tell my friends who have never been to this place?’. What would you come up with?
For we two German visitors, it was the city’s diversity that struck us the most, which is why we decided to choose it as the headline for the English-language radio programme we were asked to produce for an Austrian show called ‘dérive – Radio for Urban Research’. For sure, there was also a bit of selfishness involved, as we both were evidently relishing all the amenities Bristol’s diversity brings with it: a terrific variety of food, music, languages, faces, clothes, customs etc. However, it also served as a good anchor point since we needed to frame the very different things we liked about the city in a way that made them understandable for an audience who had mostly not even heard of Bristol.
The idea for this radio programme arose from our long-lasting affiliation with ‘dérive’ (in German only), which is an urban research organisation, based in Vienna. Experienced in the zestful exploration of unknown cities, we made it our mission to find Bristol’s true champions of diversity and came across the ‘City of Sanctuary’ movement. In 2011, a coalition of different Bristolian civic groups, supported by the City Council as well as a number of local companies, succeeded in entering the nationwide Sanctuary network and has since kept on creating and promoting a culture of welcoming and peaceful togetherness. In this context, the organisation acknowledges the increased vulnerability of migrants, but is not selectively targeted towards them. Rather, the founding principle consists of a vision for the society as a whole and the gradual evolvement of cultural knowledge and skills. It is along the lines of ‘change through culture’ that City of Sanctuary and Happy City share some common characteristics that lie right at their respective cores, namely the impulse to challenge traditional mindsets and the cultivation of strong social relationships as the preconditions for possible alternatives.
Sure as the rain falls in England though, you’ve missed the first broadcast in Austria. However, we hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as you’ll find it on the Internet (http://cba.fro.at/262192). It is in English. Similarly, we hope you are eager to learn a lot more about your city, as well as about diversity, migration, hospitality and common humanity.
In this sense, please tune in!