Ten years of @Shitchester

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Most people know the story by now, if you don’t, here goes.

In the simpler world of 2013, my good friend Jennie set up @Shitchester as a joke. After a few months of posting pictures of derelict buildings, amusing signs and graffiti I assumed sole control in the autumn of that year. A few weeks later the then leader of the Council, Mike Jones accused me of “driving away investment” and that I should be “ashamed” of the name of the account. The twitter

row backfired leading to local media coverage and the cult appeal of the account was established, with a rapidly rising follower count and T shirts going on sale. Although set up via a random stroke of genius, I soon realised the potential as a forum for discussion of Chester matters , tapping into the deep frustration felt by many who felt the city was in terminal decline ( some still do). Early activism from the account focused on the hideously unfit for purpose yellow bus shelters the council lumbered us with ( see one outside the toilets in the new Market), coverage of the anti fracking campaign in Upton, as well as a campaign to catch the graffiti vandal know as Daka/Jaka. Throw in some retro Chester Member berries, the repeated question about best Indian takeaway, jumbled up with pictures of sunsets, pictures captured with melancholy song lyrics, it was decent mixture for success, and a way of filling a personal void. Timely circumstances and scandals added to the volume of twitter exchanges- Our Zoo on the BBC , plus the Twin Towers fancy dress incident to name just two.

After ten years of covering all the Chester tropes from races to parking charges, Russ Abbot and Hollyoaks, repeatedly telling people that the Council don’t set the business rates ( 2022 version is the market/foodhall “debate”) , I have positioned myself as a defender of the city against those who would repeatedly bring it down. This made the title of the account even more ironic. There are no shops here people say, everything is awful people say. Whilst I probably got into too many arguments, I strived to show that whilst Chester had its bleak spots, there was lots to smile about. Culturally, the Chester scene had been slammed, but I made many friendships from an early meet with Chester Fringe (ending up as official photographer when no one from the press turned up), Chester Writer’s group, and attended many memorable Tip Top productions performances in the basement of the old Gateway.

In 2014 this blog was set up and I moved towards a more journalistic approach, attending and covering local events and eventually being seen as a news source to rival the professionals. This new phase went to the next level with coverage of the 2015 council and parliamentary elections, via a friend knowing a council press officer. You start off interviewing local politicians, you end up face to face with Farage and being escorted out of a Brexit party rally for the crime of tweeting.

Slowly integrating myself, and the shamefully named account into the political and civic life of the city took time, but allowed for a privileged position- I was able to chart the development of cultural jewel Storyhouse from a tour of the old Odeon , right up to opening night. Then you had the new bus station, less spectacularly the Frodsham street shared space of potential doom , and now the Northgate development. The frail insecure ego dictated that I had to amongst the first to ride a bus around the new interchange, as well as the first customer at the Cathedral’s now defunct Falconry centre. The journalism pretensions, boosted by a love of Louis Theroux saw myself and some loyal friends reach out to covering relatively unknown Chester sub cultures- this began with a visit to a “Death cafe” in an early blog, culminating in our feature on the Flat Earth movement- and being shouted at by a man who believes there is no oxygen in the air.

Coverage of charities and working with charities via the Lego display in the market (discussed elsewhere) has also been a privilege. Lego charities, including SPACE, The Samaritans and Chester Women’s Aid provided a real insight into the fantastic work being done across the city, often operating under the radar. The growth of SHARE was also great to cover, as well as an evening visit to one of the council’s homeless shelters. Kidsbank, another amazing example. People who care passionately about helping other people.

Someone someday will write a book about the last decade of change in Chester- we can look back and say how much we miss Browns, and BHS, and people may eventually move on from going on about the old old market. We might have learned to accept that Chester can never be perfect, no more than a life can be perfect. We might stop harking back to an idealised past and embrace what we have and believe in ourselves more. I know theres lots of people who feel the same and are all doing their bit to improve their home city.

The main reason I’ve written this is note all the connections made on so many personal and professional levels. I’ve met people whom I now consider amongst my best friends from running this account, people who would never have had a reason to speak to me otherwise. A poignant meeting with Terry Wogan, a tour of Storyhouse with lifelong icon Steve Coogan, Elvis Costello outside the Liverpool shop. More importantly, my friends, and you all know who you are. Its the support of the community that made this random dream snowball. People who’ve been following from the start, new people, people who gave up, friends who turned out to be enemies and vice versa, people who quit twitter following Musk’s mental takeover etc.

A decade on after being accused of driving away investment I was asked to feature in a Chester BID promotion reel championing investing in the city. The irony of coming full circle and the X Factor style “journey” is oddly pleasing. Shitchester has grown up, and I hope along the way I’ve done some good. To everyone who’s followed and supported and listened and engaged over the last decade, thank you. Thanks for this supporting this “angelic troublemaker”.


Main pic: Mark Carline

13 Replies to “Ten years of @Shitchester”

  1. Congratulations on 10 years 🎉 By reading your blog and tweets I always feel fully engaged and a part of Chester, despite just working here. Always informative, often entertaining ;⁠) Here’s to many more years of tweets! X

  2. Well I didn’t know a lot of that. I was only vaguely aware of Shitchester until last year when you kindly commented on the market carpark murals. It was the first stuff I’d done that was on view to the general public so the feedback was very much appreciated
    All the best

  3. Should have used the 10 year date to change from @ShitChester to @CH1TChester. I know you hold it as a bade of honour but it’ll continue to close more doors than it opens.

  4. Congratulations and 10 years to celebrate. I grew up in Chester (well, Saughall) and regularly visited until my mum died in 2019. Less so now. Your blog helps me feel connected to a city that I continue to have the strongest bond with, even though I lived for a number of years in Newcastle upon Tyne and now in Farnham (Surrey). and sorry. What do I get from your blog that helps me feel connected, across the years and miles? I think you skilfully blend serious journalism, information, humour, curiosity, honesty, and measured criticism, always with integrity and a clear commitment to the city. It’s a wonderful achievement, the more so to have reached 10 years.

  5. I remember Gary Usher telling me in 2018 when we were opening our first shop in Chester that you were the man to follow if I wanted to know what was going on in Chester and he was right! I’ve been enjoying you for 5 years and really appreciate the support you have given CHIP’D and everything you do to big up Chester and help all of us indies stay open and grow. Keep being shit! xx

  6. Another stunning blog and milestone from one of the most positive guy I have had the pleasure to meet. Your efforts to see and articulate the best parts of Chester, despite the disparaging comments from the naysayers is nothing short of amazing. Thank you for your support in continuing to promote the new market and ALL the traders, the Lego display is stunning and still growing and changing. Here’s to another ten glorious Sh*t years in Chester!

  7. If you ever need help, advice, or have something interesting to say in Chester just tag @shitchester and watch the responses you get… one of my very first accounts to follow and I’ve never been disappointed so pleased you’re here ready willing and able to help … thank you 💕

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