I often struggle to describe what @ShitChester actually is… “Are you saying Chester is Shit? Why do you call yourself that ? Chester’s not shit is it ?” If we look back through “history” i.e. 3 inconsequential years, it all started as a private joke between 2 bored friends with the name being based on the observational humour of the popular @Shitlondon twitter account. In those early days, the account served as a beacon of opposition to the current council and also its leader , Mike Jones. This culminated in a twitter row with Mike accusing me of “driving away investment ” and being negative about the city. After this blaze of publicity the account evolved into a more positive look at the highs and lows of city life. Everyone knew Chester has its problems, but wasn’t there loads to be positive about as well?
I began the blog in 2014 and soon began documenting in more detail the events that I went to and the people that I met. It rang true to the message of “We need more shit” the infamous graffiti first sighted on Frodsham street in 2013. So now I take a broader view and try and cover as much as possible , and I make no apologies for the account being more positive.. an endless negative campaign is neither easy or enjoyable . After all I had started to realise that for all its well documented faults, Chester wasn’t that bad a place.
Hopefully I have tackled and beaten the view that Chester has neither culture or anything to do. My calendar of event invites is packed and the diary takes some managing around work commitments. Other accounts such as Chester Culture and Schotts List do an admirable job of telling people “whats on”.
I would still struggle to categorise the output of the twitter account, one day it may be pictures of the latest parade, one day an interview with a charity and then another day, a carrier bag stuck in a tree. Its been a privileged journey for me, I have been given access to nearly all levels of Chester life, have made great friends and have been enriched by all the stories I have listened to . Personal highs have included being given press access to the 2015 elections, being given a tour of the Storyhouse site, and being interviewed on the local radio. People have been kind and supportive in support of my vague but all encompassing goals. Such is the acceptance level now , that even the Holy Cathedral follows, and the headteacher of Queens Park High School will retweet. It took time and effort to emerge as a “respectable” champion of the city, becoming an accidental insider. Conversely being someone who appeared to be everywhere but was actually nowhere.
The account /I now has nearly 18,000 followers and the blog is generally well read , but there have been plenty of critics along the way.
Along the way, numerous voices have been raised, all of whom possibly haven’t taken in the fact that I undertake this unofficial role as “citizen journalist” for free. From a threat of physical violence, accusations of a lack of civic pride, photograph theft, harassing inboxes and tweets , to a huge and unnecessary row about a Christmas tree, to just general name calling, all of this can take its toll. People have fallen out with me, given up on me, been disappointed by me, snubbed me, or developed trivial personal feuds with me, the same as any “normal” person I suppose. I have never shied away from “the darkness” and my own issues with mental health. Being @ShitChester has given me a shield to get through things and provided a valuable goal in life, blurring some of my personal insecurities, learning and pursuing something I enjoy.
So what does the name actually mean ? Anything or nothing, but my own philosophy has always been that the name has no relevance on the content. Its a beautiful world, but a messed up one. A picturesque city centre where most of the new housing being built is for students passing through, the lovely quaint rows unique in the world, where empty shops proliferate. Is that negative enough ? A lot of the stuff goes without saying now, from races wankers to charity shops and the lack of parking. What I have realised is that positive discourse and investigation works a lot better than social media rants.
At the start of the year I was challenged for changing the name/header of the account and was accused of finally “succumbing” to unidentified outside pressure. “Be honest with us!” one insane tweeter ranted at me. Another claimed that the name was the reason I had accumulated so many followers. I like to think the actual content played more of a part. The twitter header had been changed several times before that and I didn’t see it as a big deal. My philosophy is, “its what inside that counts” not the label on the front. Branded stuff you buy from the pound shop is the same if you buy it from Waitrose. Chef David Mooney recently commented to me about the new “restaurant quarter” of chain restaurants on Pepper street that “it’s not the restaurant quarter! They can call it what they want, they can call it the “Egon Ronay memorial food court!”
The name of the blog changed because , due to its name it was blocked by many work place computers. Creating a more “politically correct ” name opened up my writing to a wider audience and encouraged more people to share. It’s easier to tell people you are writing for “The Chester blog” than it is “ShitChester”…Try explaining that to a room full of OAPS for example.
Thanks for listening and everyone who has supported me, both as a person and an “account” floating through the world of social media. Have I done some good in Chester ? Hopefully. Will it all matter in 5 years time? Probably not …
Signing off .. to a better future