Great news – back on the streets next week
Over the years, whenever the stench of corruption, lies and thievery of Bristol’s wealthy and powerful became so sickening that something had to be done, a paper called The Bristolian has appeared to shine a light on the shadowy back room deals.
Once again, that time has come. Investigative journalism has almost disappeared from print in Bristol as newspaper cartels have bought up all the independent press. The Evening Post and Western Daily Press are a sad joke, now just tools for moulding public opinion in the interests of big business. We are left with internet conspiracy theorists who need to get out more, or kow-towing journalists who write stories off the web from posh cafés in Clifton. Meanwhile, the rich avoid paying tax, flaunt their stolen wealth and are laughing into their caviar as their political allies in the City Council slash public spending for the young, the old and the disabled.
It’s a Bristol that James Acland would have recognised a hundred and eighty-six years ago. It was then, in 1827, that the radical journalist Acland launched the West Country’s first daily newspaper. He called it The Bristolian. Undercutting the advertising rates of existing weekly papers, conducting a lively letter column and breaking the law by publishing at one and a half pence without paying the newspaper stamp tax, Acland’s publication was a muck-raking popular radical paper for the working classes. The paper concentrated on exposing the abuses both of the unreformed Corporation which ran Bristol and of the Courts, and was spiced up with demands for an overhaul of the national political system. Acland was imprisoned in 1829 but not before he had fanned the flames of popular revolt. Two years later, in 1831, the city exploded with the Reform Act riots which frightened the undemocratic wealthy elite targeted by the rioters and helped bring the vote to Britain.
Fast forward nearly two centuries, and bent, rich bastards were still running the show in Bristol. To counter this a ‘new’ Bristolian was launched in 2001 as a scandal sheet offering “independent news from Bristol that the other papers won’t touch”. Distributed for free in the bars and pubs of Bristol, it soon proved a vital conduit for whistleblowers across the city to spill the beans on corruption, mismanagement and stupidity, whether in the council, the private sector or the quangos. Readers were hungry for it, and circulation ratcheted up to more than 10,000 per week.
In 2003, the success of The Bristolian paper led to the Bristolian Party, which stood in the local elections in an attempt to mobilise widespread discontent with Bristol City Council’s policies. On election day a total of 2,560 people voted for the Bristolian Party, gaining an 8% share of the vote within the 12 wards it contested. In 2005 The Bristolian was runner-up for the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, though not long after it ceased publication, only to be relaunched in 2008-10.
So that’s three separate versions of The Bristolian, all with the same purpose. Well, The Bristolian is fighting fit and ready for round four. So rich bastards and corrupt politicians beware, because we are back and we smell your blood….
The Committee for Public Safety