Ramblings

Helping the Homeless in Bristol

 

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I walk past this sleeping bag every day on my way to work and it’s becoming a more common sight

Homelessness across Britain has dramatically risen over the last few years and the city of Bristol is no different. People begging and sleeping on the streets is now a common sight in the city.

Homelessness charity Shelter recently reported that homelessness across the whole of Britain is increasing year on year with 320,000 people reported homeless in 2018. This is an increase of more than 13,000 compared to 2017. Bristol’s recent official rough sleeper count recorded 82 people living on the streets – this is four less than last year but this doesn’t account for those sleeping in unsafe buildings, vehicles or sofa-surfing.

There any many misconceptions surrounding the homeless, with assumptions sometimes made that those on the streets have brought their situation on themselves through addiction. While some rough sleepers do suffer from substance abuse, this cannot be said for all.

One man on the street that I spoke to, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was simply a case of losing his job and not being able to pay the “crippling” rents. Many of the homeless have moved to the area with a limited support network and so have no-one to turn to when they get into difficulty. Rising rents and a lack of affordable housing are some of the main issues that have contributed to the rising levels of homelessness in Bristol – the average house price is £300,000 with rents regularly pushing £1,000 a month.

I recently visited Help Bristol’s Homeless in Bedminster where founder Jasper Thompson is converting shipping containers into accommodation for the homeless. Bristol philanthropist Jasper, who works as a bodyguard in his spare time, has been developing an innovative way to help.

The charity, which was founded in 2017, renovates shipping containers to turn them into accommodation for the homeless. The site on Malago Road currently has seven people living on site who help maintain the containers, while rebuilding their lives. Thompson believes that providing people with a roof over their heads is the first step to helping the homeless .

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Some of the containers at Help Bristol’s Homeless

The containers, some of which are donated and others bought via fundraising, have been fitted out and look indistinguishable from the inside with a fully equipped kitchen, shower, toilet facilities and a bed. Those who live on site all help out with the refit with tradespeople offering electrical and plumbing services for free.

I spoke to Rob Earnshaw who has been living on the site since it opened in 2017 and now helps manage the site as well as doing the cooking. He became homeless after a combination of mental breakdowns and heavy drinking and calls the project “affirming” and “diversional therapy” from the situation he’s in. Earnshaw now intends to continue helping others with the night bus the charity is using to help get people off the street. The double-decker bus has been fitted with beds for 12 people and will allow users to access the toilet, shower and breakfast facilities at Malago Road. More information about the charity can be found here.

Below is a quick interview with Jasper Thompson.

 

Sonic Sunrise
Music

The day I met Sonic Sunrise

I was lucky enough to chat to Bristol based band Sonic Sunrise ahead of their Christmas gig on Thursday 21st December at The Fleece. Made up of Aaron, Tom, Matt and Joe, Sonic Sunrise are a regular face in the Bristol gigging circuit and I’ve been lucky enough to catch them a few times including in the summer when they supported Green Day tribute band Green Haze at the Exchange. In a break from rehearsing, I spoke to vocalist and frontman Aaron Potter.

So, Aaron, how did the band start?

It started as something to do for a musical secondary school talent show in 2009. There were only three band members at the time, and we enjoyed that first performance so much we thought we’d give it a go.

I’ve got to ask, where did the name Sonic Sunrise come from?

All I can remember is that it was Tom who came up with it. Whenever I ask him how he did though, he’s not sure. We’re all big gamers, so I suppose that’s where the “Sonic” connection could’ve come from, and as for the “Sunrise” part, everyone loves a bit of alliteration don’t they?

You call yourself cheesy indie rock. What do you mean by this? Are there any bands you would say you’re like?

Yeah so that may have changed a bit in recent years actually. I’m not sure if the “cheesy” description is appropriate anymore. The reasons that came about was due to our old keyboard player Jed who would jazz up songs with these really light and sometimes cringe-worthy major chord sequences. We loved him, and it made sense when we were first starting out as we were young and wrote so many soppy love songs. Now though, I’d say we focus on being indie/pop rock, nothing too heavy but also not too light. If there are any bands out there we’d compare ourselves to, I’d probably say someone like The Killers.

Bristol’s a great city with a thriving music scene. Do you find this a challenge due to competition with other bands or that it gives you more opportunities?

No not at all, being in Bristol is actually a blessing. Yes, there are a lot of other bands out there, but I wouldn’t say that there’s any competition. It was tough when first starting out, but these days we get on well with most of the owners of many of Bristol’s major music venues, and they’re pretty good about letting us play when they have a slot that suits us. In terms of other Bristol bands, some of them are unbelievably good to the point that we can’t understand how they’re not signed by a label. If anything, it pushes us to want to be better as a band. Gigging a lot lets us see what other people are doing and we get a real kick out of it.

Your gig next week is at The Fleece which is going through some issues at the moment with crippling business rates as well as a new development of flats nearby threatening its survival. How important are venues like this to you and local bands in general?

Incredibly important. We have a big link with The Fleece in that it was the first big major Bristol venue we played in that wasn’t a school hall. I think the current promoter there even went so far as to say that we’re probably the one local band who’s played there the most.

In terms of the issues going on, does it suck? Sure, but at the same time, it’s unsurprising sadly. We’ve become used to seeing venues have to deal with hardship and played many that are no longer here because of it. We have no doubt that The Fleece will pull through as they did before, they’re too important and respected not to.

All of you have full-time jobs and other commitments; how do you find the time for writing and rehearsing?

We don’t find as much time as we’d like, but we make it work. Writing is usually a process of one of us having an idea either for a riff, chorus, or hook, and then the rest of the band adding in their own layers and personality. It’s really collaborative and we think that’s really important.

What are your plans for 2018? Will you be playing more gigs and most importantly, when can we expect the Sonic Sunrise album?

Haha, it’s funny because we’ve released two EPs but never an album, but it’s something we’re always thinking about. 2018 will see plenty of gigs for sure, with hopefully one in Brighton which will be a first. In terms of the album itself, 2019 will be our 10 year anniversary, and though it may have taken us a while to get there, I can’t think of a better time to release the album. Watch this space.

Who would you say are the major influences of the band and where does the inspiration for your songs come from?

Inspiration can literally come from anything. 90% of the time I’d say it’s usually either from a past experience or something relating to relationships. It’s then the process of settling on what type of song would suit the subject, then the lyrics follow. Major influences would be Foo Fighters, Muse, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers. And we have a Mancunian in the band so we’re obliged to say Oasis.

Do you all have different tastes and can this cause conflicts when say, your drummer wants some heavy stuff and others don’t?

Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We all have crossover in tastes as well as differences. It can lead to some heated debates about where to take a song a lot of the time, but we trust each other enough to at least experiment. If things aren’t getting anywhere, I’d say the onus falls on the original songwriter to make the right call.

The Power Ranger’s theme tune always goes down well. Why did you pick this and do you have any other ‘fun’ songs in your repertoire?

We love questions like this. So many times when we go to see bands personally – some even at a professional level – I’m so disappointed when they move from song to song during a set. A gig isn’t just about the music but the performance as a whole, and with that came our decision to interact with the crowd whenever possible.

The Power Rangers theme was one of the best ways of doing this surprisingly and was a nice way to show people that although we care about our music, we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously. We’re all children of the 90s and that song is so unexpected every time.

A few last words for anyone still undecided about seeing you?

Come and see us, we promise you won’t regret it!

With their combination of softer ballads and fun covers of Power Rangers theme and The Killer’s Mr Brightside, this is a band to watch out for. Catch them tomorrow with a host of other local bands at The Fleece from 7pm, not a night to be missed.