Tonight, on the remnants of Filton Airfield where once flew great aircraft, like the mighty Concorde, there is a gig by Massive Attack which will prove two things. Firstly, it will prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that Bristol needs an arena and secondly, I suspect it will prove, due to the likely travel chaos that will ensue, that an arena cannot possibly be built at Filton. Which means it probably will be.
I recently wrote a piece that was reposted on the excellent Bristol 24/7 website in which I criticised Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees on his decision to scrap the proposed arena near Temple Meads. I stand by that criticism because, very obviously, this was the ideal location for an arena. I have since come to learn some of the more unpalatable facts of funding cuts to Bristol City Council made by the Conservative government and whilst I cannot bring myself to change my mind on the mayor’s decision, I have nothing but contempt for those Tory councillors who, in typical populist style, seized on what I wrote and used it as stick with which to beat the mayor. If Mayor Rees has blown a golden opportunity to build the arena Bristol so badly needs, then these Tories deserve a metaphorical kicking, too, perhaps even more so. It is the austerity the Tory party imposed on cities like Bristol that got us in this mess. They have no answers, other than year on year, to make things worse. Marvin might not be very marvellous but the Tory group on Bristol City Council are clueless and useless.
Despite the introduction of the excellent Metrobus (I am not making this up, or being sarcastic), Bristol’s traffic system, such as it is, remains chaotic, even on a good day. The vast bulk of people heading to Filton tonight will be either be driving or paying for overpriced bus transport. Combine this with the usual Friday gridlock, there is every chance the city will grind to a complete halt tonight. This, I assure you, is not an argument for not having tonight’s show because I can’t wait to finally see Massive Attack play their magnificent Mezzanine album live and in person. I am merely expressing my concern at what will happen. And what will happen virtually every day if a new arena is actually built at Filton. Given the sheer volume of road transport, together with the vast new estate to be built on the site of the airfield, gridlock will become permanent, almost 24/7.
The site by Temple Meads was nearly perfect. Provided it was served by public transport, no one would have needed to drive. It would have created lots of good jobs, everyone would have been happy. Instead, we make do with a temporary venue on an old airfield runway which by Sunday morning will be redundant.
As with so many things in our great city, once again we are asked not to accept second best, but several levels below that. Massive Attack will give a great show tonight. Next week, we’ll be back to normal with no arena and no clue as to when, or rather if, we will get one.