So its 2 years on from the creation of @ShitChester and what a ride it has been personally, and I suppose professionally with the growth of the account from jokey creation to being ” a major force in Chester” ( not my words, a former politician friend who blocked me for reasons unknown) Time to take stock then and reflect, as the block list grows higher, a period of introspection inspired by Monday night’s 3 hour twitter debate with a Chester resident who absolutely HATES Chester…
Ironically I found myself as defender of the city. This all started off with some comments about the food and drink festival being a rip off and nothing good compared to events in other cities… then it went onto a rant about the racecourse being immoral and how it should be closed down. Gradually other tweeters joined in, from community groups such as @nottinghoole, adult film actress Lexi Lou, journalist Rob Jeffries and numerous others. The old “Chester has no culture” argument was raised.. where are the open mics, the poetry, the theatre… I reeled off the list to little effect, I was taking it personally as the semi self appointed “spirit of Chester” Two years ago I admit, I did have a poor view of the city, either that or I didn’t really care about what went on. I didn’t understand the political process, I didn’t know who my local councillors were, all I had was a sense of frustration that things were apparently on the decline. Two years later after building up the network and talking to people from all walks of life, from politicians to press to coffee bar owners, town criers and artists. In two years .. list coming, I have engaged with Chester fringe, tiptop theatre, civil war tours, the parade community, Schotts list, Lache FM, the artists community, the independent shops, the civic trust, Chester performs and so on .I’ve learned that things are never as simple as they seem with so many shades of grey.
Chester is a city with a fascinating history and a place that I am proud to live in. I think that even now we take so much for granted, from the walls to the river etc etc… a lot of this was captured in the feature on my recent Lache FM show where I gathered positive and negative views about the city. Chester has its familiar problems,documented daily, pound shops, parking, lack of entertainment ( even the bowlings gone) and so on, but so much to be happy about. In the past I have been accused of “not being negative enough”.. and even as one of the most cynical people I can say that Chester is what you make of it. Yes, there’s no professional theatre, but there are so many good people doing work at grass roots level… I’m a regular attendee at the tip top in the bowels of the old gateway and have never been disappointed. There is always something going on in the city if you go and look for it. There must have been about 6 parades so far this year? After a quiet start to the year we had the Mercian regiment on show, international women’s day, Chester civil war tours have been out and about, the university graduation parade etc… Life is full, we’ve had the eclipse, the Dungeon quietly emerging on watergate st , with the costumed signholders…we’ve had the massive success of the Food and drink festival, Bill Oddie’s appearance ( had never been to Chester before he said), the Hoole Tesco planning debate, more fracking issues, the political drama of the election hustings at the university …. So there’s loads going on, and as we enter the election period and Summer, as well as the familiar Chester memes of drunk racegoers and complaints about C-Wac, broken walls etc, there is sure to be surprises along the way. I do believe that with the theatre under construction now, the business quarter being built, the Grosvenor centre (blocked) redevelopment, the new restaurants on pepper st etc.. the city is on the up. Sometimes if I say something positive I am shot down in flames, or told I am now part of the dreaded establishment… Of course things have changed, as a beloved friend said to me once, you don’t win influence and friends by shouting loudly and aggressively , but by seeking common ground and constructive criticism.
Consider the Mike Jones row, now a key part of SC lore… if anything Jones has emerged as one of the more useful members of cwac in twitter terms, normally theres a reply and other issues aside, I think that’s good. At least there is engagement and exchange of views!. There have been other rows with politicians, and I have often found myself gazing into the dark heart of local politics, feuds, power games etc.. follow/unfollow block… Theres been a fair amount of trolling, fall outs… who can forget the attack of the Brook st mafia over an innocent picture of their Christmas tree and the subsequent insults levelled at me. Facebook has made it worse with rows over cycling and the recent photo thefts by a well known Chester account… The inboxes, the hurtful comments.. yes I am an anonymous account but I’m still a real person….Being a regular twitter user , you do get to see the dark side of the internet on a regular basis, and bullying and abuse is rife. Without sounding completely out of touch, Chester is in my heart and the twitter account is now a massive extension of my own personality… the melancholic streak of my personality blended with the charms and failings of the city. Make no mistake, I have met some of the friends I have probably been searching for , for a long time through this adventure. All of this brings its own problems, from trying to stay out of local fall outs, people trying to drag me into this or that argument… its hard covering so much in Chester, as well as fitting in a full time job, blogging, community radio, lego etc… Keeping politically neutral is another headache, followers and contacts range from all sides of the political spectrum, I support no particular political party and a stray retweet doesn’t imply support for party XYZ. Shitchester is independent, I may have friends from the parties, but I try so hard to present a balanced view, represent as many shades of grey as possible.. and of course not everyone is going to agree with everything… I am a facilitator, an information provider, I am unsure of whether SC changes anything in the real world, that is for other people to say, but I know its helped spur on the Chester social media revolution. Let everyone know whats going on and let the people decide. The twitter account is my voice, whatever that is… but is it really me? Who is @shitchester… you’ve got me…the consquences are mind bending, from passing a cwac councillor in the street, or at an event, to getting attached to someone you have never spoken face to face to ( who doesn’t even know who you are) , from passing someone wearing one of your shirts, to the watershed moment of an SC shirt being worn inside the HQ building.
All this, along with the awkwardness and fear of being “exposed”, and yes, still a sense of bewilderment (shame?) that an account with such an (unintentionally) “offensive” name has achieved such success. On that score.. there wont be a name change because theres no real demand for it… yes I might get some more interactions from official accounts, but so what? That’s basically the rant, its hard being patient and positive all the time. I will continue to challenge the council and anyone else where appropriate while still trying to channel my own voice with a representative balance of opinion, but I cant take on every battle.. there is ONE person doing all of the tweets. I can’t make an account constantly slagging the council to the ground, its got to be positive , the light and the dark, the happy and the sad. I also wont be told what to think or do by anyone… I dont get paid for doing this and probably never will be, as someone who crosses the line from establishment to outsider from day to day, share your views with everyone, join in the debate, if you dont agree we can move onto the next row or celebration. Sometimes I will just present things and let people make their own minds up, and sometimes it will just be the same old Lego stuff.I can insert some more clichés here but I’m just saying that this can be a hard road at times, so thanks for the understanding. I’m just a soul whose intentions are good… thanks Chester
the road is long, see you on the flipside