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Bristol bucket list: the two towers, part 2

To many, the Wills Memorial Building IS Bristol University. Sitting at the top of Park Street, its tower dominates the area, and locals are always tripping over tourists desperately trying to snap the great building. In reality, unless you study Law or Earth Sciences, most students only visit this building a handful of times -for exams, careers/open unit fairs, and *gulp* graduation.

Lottie wasn’t pleased to find that a lamp post was taller than the Wills Building

A team from the university’s Estates Services has been running tours of the building for some time, and though it was high on my Bristol bucket list to join one of the tours, it took a long time to get round to it. Tours run on the first Saturday and Wednesday of each month, so when the first week of June came and went, I thought I’d missed my chance to visit before graduation. Thankfully, I spotted a tweet offering the chance to join a private tour, so on Saturday, Beth and I got up bright and early to go and visit the building we’ve walked past almost every day.

Our tour was conducted by Dave Skelhorne, who has worked at the university for years and knows the building and its history inside out. Dave ran us through a brief -but fascinating- history of the building and the university, before marching us off to various areas to spot grotesques, point out secret doors and head to the top.




Odd to think that the next time we're in this hall will be for graduation

Odd to think that the next time we’re in this hall will be for graduation

Despite our fears that the poor June drizzle would ensure that the tower would be covered in fog, the views from the top were outstanding. At 215 ft (68 metres), Wills is the taller of the two towers, and the views reflect this. It really is amazing what you can see from here -we managed to spot Park St (which looks flat from above), the Clifton Suspension Bridge hiding behind other buildings, and we could even see as far as Dower House (aka the big yellow house on the hill by the M32 leaving Bristol).

Park Street from Wills

Park Street from Wills

Cabot Tower from Wills Tower

People on Cabot Tower. We tried waving but they didn't see

People on Cabot Tower. We tried waving but they didn’t see

Clifton Suspension Bridge hidden in Clifton

Clifton Suspension Bridge hidden in Clifton

That tiny yellow dot in the centre of the horizon?...

That tiny yellow dot in the centre of the horizon?…

...It's Dower House on the M32

…It’s Dower House on the M32

Once we’d made sure that we’d got at least one photo from every viewing point on the top of the tower (as well as some of us posing), we descended the winding staircase and headed for the belfry to meet Great George. For those of you not familiar with George, he is the 9.5 tonne bell, who runs the funniest Twitter account in Bristol.

We were lucky enough to hear the great bell chime in 11 o’clock.


Great George in the houseThis tour was probably the best £3 I’ve spent while at Bristol. Not only are the guides nice, the views brilliant and the access unparalleled, but half the profits from the tours go towards Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital -so far the tours have raised over £11,000 for the charity!

Although tours are only organised for the beginning of each month, it’s possible to arrange for group tours (like the one we crashed) so it’d be great for family reunions/society trips etc. Dave also mentioned that they are keen to take on another guide (preferably female) so if you live in Bristol, get in touch via the link below.

Tickets cost £4, or £3 for students over the age of 11, senior citizens and members of the university. Our tour lasted about an hour and a half. There’s quite a lot of stairs to climb on the tour, so this probably isn’t the best thing to do with grandparents or small children. If you really struggle with small spaces (like lifts or spiral staircases) and/or heights, you should also give the trip up to the top a miss (although I managed fine -I didn’t even get jelly legs at the top!).

For more info, head to the website here. You can also follow them on Twitter here (handy for finding out about last minute tours) and on Facebook here.

We noticed that quite a few naughty visitors to the tower had left their mark, including Mavis in 1948!

Tut tut Mavis

Tut tut, Mavis

Check out part 1 of the two towers trip here.


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Filed under Adventures, History, Outings

The BRIT Awards and the Age of Beige

January is a funny old month for music. Following on from the turgid Christmas songs and end of year lists that December brings, January presents a confusing mix of ‘ones to watch’ lists and award ceremonies. Earlier this month, the nominations were announced for the 32nd BRIT awards. What was originally created to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee by recognising the best of British music during her reign, has now evolved to become one of the biggest nights in the British entertainment calendar. From Jarvis Cocker’s legendary stage invasion during Michael Jackson’s performance of ‘Earth Song’, to the ongoing feud between Robbie Williams and the Gallagher brothers, the BRIT Awards are now as much about celebrity tiffs as they are about music.

The 2012 nominees suggest that this year’s awards are even less concerned with the music. Rather than celebrating the cream of British music, this year’s nominees list reads like a who’s who of what the Guardian’s Peter Robinson called ‘The New Boring’, citing Adele’s performance of ‘Someone Like You’ at last year’s awards ceremony as the beginning of the age of beige.
This year’s ceremony looks to be more ginger than beige, with Ron Weasley doppelganger Ed Sheeran leading the pack with four nominations, closely followed by last year’s Critics’ Choice winner Jessie J who is up for three awards. The winners are supposedly decided by a panel of a thousand industry experts, however this year it could be argued they simply consulted the Trending Topics on Twitter and picked the most popular artists at that time. While mainstream pop acts such as Adele and JLS dominate the list, there has been an attempt to include more credible acts like Mercury award winner PJ Harvey and music veteran Kate Bush in the proceedings. While this is admirable at a time when reality shows are consistently churning out manufactured acts, it has also highlighted the ignorance of those involved; Wisconsin indie-folk group Bon Iver may be wondering why they’re up against acts such as Bruno Mars and David Guetta in the International Male Solo Artist category.

Perhaps the only way to shake proceedings up this year is for David Cameron to duet with Ed Sheeran on a Big Society rap.

A potted history of the BRITs

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-from Issue 245 of Epigram

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