The final extract from Jennifer Kabat's immersive narrative that journeys through space and time to rediscover forgotten histories, urban myths and Bristol's architectural legacy. Part of The Promise (ends 9 Nov).
The Brutal Walking Tour
Start with diamonds in the sky in the Princes Street NCP.17 Stare out its seven-sided windows, and from the top floor the harbour floats below, the clouds above. Here the very phrase “car park”, strikes me as felicitous. In my US-English, the term should be “parking garage” but the doubling of park, here “car” and “park” creates a moment of possibility. The word has a double, haunted by meanings and etymology. Both “parks” hail from the same origin: Parricus, meaning enclosure and park and fencing.
With the river and clouds and sky out the window, the joining of the two meanings points to a stray experience of transcendence. Is this not truly a city park?
One for Sorrow
Clutching my map I approach what is essentially a wasteland, though it is also a “park”. Magpie Park. Not named for the bird, not for sorrow or joy, not three for a girl or four for a boy, but a newspaper whose offices in the 19th century stood across the street.18 Now in the centre of this park, traffic streams around us, and here is something truly brutal, Edward Colston: slave merchant, trader, big man about town standing on stone.
This is where the ghosts are. Bronze fish at his feet gulp at air, and reliefs around the sides show him giving money to the poor. Another seems to be of mermaids, but none show slaves on ships. Nothing portrays people being stolen from their homes or dying during the journey. There’s no bronze relief for RAC – not the automobile club but the company name, the Royal African Company – that was branded on slaves’ chests. There’s no memorial in the park for the 20,000 who died on the boats or the third more who passed away within a few years of reaching America. There is just this man in his wig. “One of the most virtuous and wise sons of this city”, the inscription reads. His elbow rests on his walking stick as if he is weary.
This is the third extract of The Place of The Bridge by Jennifer Kabat. Read Part 1 here, part 2 here and 3 here.
The Place of The Bridge is part of The Promise and is available as a free publication from the gallery spaces. The Promise focuses on the relationship between a city’s design and the hopes and ambitions of its residents. Exhibitions and events will take place in the Arnolfini galleries and across the city of Bristol (ends 9 Nov).