The best of times

“A packed weekend for the city, Burger off, Pride, the marathon . Compared to only a few short years ago, there is so much going on now. When the anonymous street artist/vandal sprayed “we need more shit” on a forlorn Frodsham St wall, they might have been speaking for many dissatisfied Cestrians. And now, with more going on than ever, and many plans in place, real changes happening, the people have delivered. .”

Time for some positive words. When @ShitChester was started as a joke between two bored friends it was never intended to mean anything , or supposed to be any judgement on the city. But looking back it does feel like a period of grim inactivity, with the odd outright disaster in the mix (the yellow bus shacks for example). Now, Chester seems so much more alive to me. I’ve said before how running the account has been a voyage of discovery, and as a former ally once said to me. “it made me fall in love with the city again”.  We can now see the strong shoots of recovery, of culture blossoming and communities coming together.  We all read the negative posts on the Chronicle facebook page of people who hate Chester so much but never leave… “Nothing ever happens”. Look at all the great shows from Tip Top productions, Theatre in the Quarter, Chester theatre Club, the fantastic and atmospheric open air theatre that graces the Park in the summer… For me, the independent spirit is also strong, with countless open mic nights and performances from local bands, Chester fringe, and a loose alliance of local bloggers, activists like Soul Kitchen, tweeters and  people who care coming together for the good of the city. “Chester’s not shit is it?” laughed Bonnie Langford to me after noticing my T-shirt outside the stage door of a London theatre back in 2014. No.. it’s not. (Les Dennis was not impressed with  the T-shirt however).

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This,.. is .. Chester

After the election fever passed, it was another summer of parades, social media debate about busking and homeless provision and the visit of several TV crews. I met Wogan and witnessed the Siege of Chester, and was force-fed a chicken style nugget by Heather Mills. Chester unlocked produced “Hoot’s Root” and some unseen relics of the past were displayed in shops all over the city. Typical of all the great events that have taken place was Saturday’s Chester Pride.  Walking through the streets , the atmosphere was electric, with Mayor Hugo leading the parade celebrating diversity equality and love. A marching band played “Dancing Queen” to the crowds that lined the rows and streets.

David Redpath-Smith Chair of Pride told me that the organisers of the event are all volunteers, and “until the day we don’t know how Chester Pride will be received and how
many people will come out to show their support. This year as in  previous years we have been blown away with the support from the people  of Chester.”
Jenna Pickin-Jones Director and organiser of the parade said ‘We were  overwhelmed by the support for Chester Pride this year.  We had more  organisations, businesses and charities taking part in our parade, with  entries more colourful and vibrant than ever before. We have already received so much positive feedback from parade spectators.’
Later that day, another community event , “Burger off” was taking place in Hoole. With Hoole already in the news for being shortlisted for best high street in the UK, it was just another example of the community coming together. Due to work commitments I was unable to take up the offer of a place on the judging panel. Organisers Kash Bar told me “it was a great day. Hundreds attended. We sold out of both food and beer by 9pm. As for competitions, Joseph Benjamin was crowned King of Burgers, much to the delight of its chef, and Luke Thomas, of Luke’s Eating House, won the Freestyle competition with a Christmas themed burger”
BURGER
Burger off Judges. Pic: Meg Chester

Russ Hughes who attended:”It was great to see The Lord & Lady Mayor supporting Hoole and a very good turnout showing how strong Hoole as a community is and how much the residents connect with each other and do all they can to promote the area, great community spirit! It was also nice to see that although the burger off competition was taken seriously when it came to the winners, the obvious respect and camaraderie between the bar and restaurant chefs was fantastic to see”

MARATHON2

Sunday was Chester Marathon. A chance for me to network with my new establishment friends and drink tea in the VIP tent. Joking aside, another great annual event for the city. Marathon organiser Chris Hulse: “it’s about encouraging people to run who normally wouldn’t run, you don’t have to be an elite runner. We have got nearly 5000 runners across three events. It’s the 6th year of the MBNA marathon. Chester’s an amazing city and attracts a lot of visitors, but in terms of what it does for Chester, the runners themselves are doing it for their own reasons, lots of them are doing it for charity. we reckon the runners today will raise over 700,000 for charity. On top of that the amount of money they spend in Chester we reckon will be around one and a half million pounds, its good for business and good for morale!”

… Also at the weekend it was the Last night of the Proms at the Cathedral, and the Addams family musical was playing to rave reviews at St Marys Centre. And Chester beat Wrexham…

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Bright future?

Chester was recently voted both the  “5th happiest place to live” , and the “best place to live”. Chester is no utopia, and debate continues about the “world-class bus station”, the spread of student housing, the cost /lack of parking, the threat of out-of-town shopping areas, the (mis?)management of our historic assets, the Northgate uncertainty. ..

But I do believe we are moving in the right direction. The zoo continues to thrive and grow and in a years time we’ll have the theatre we’ve been waiting for.

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City of dreams

Experience the atmosphere in the city on a parade day, see the smiles on the faces of the people entertained by a busker, get drunk at the races, tour the 17 Costas, have a walk on the meadows, stage a political protest, waste all your free time making a detailed lego model of the city, write a letter of complaint, shop in a discount store, spend £10k on a painting from a trendy gallery.

I love Chester.

Spelling and grammar complaints to usual address

 
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