It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the news and fall into a quagmire of ‘media-induced anxiety’ at the moment – so in the spirit of not contributing to that, we wanted to put together a little list of things worth smiling about locally over the coming months

Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of Brexit blues (even those who have carefully ignored it and avoided knowing anything about it won’t have been able to completely escape the headache as we hurtle towards D-Day) there are reasons to be cheerful. There are. We don’t want to come over glib; we’re just doing our best not to let the seemingly endless political hoo-ha bring us down, by thinking of the good things happening around us now and in the future.

From an increasingly positive attitude towards dealing with different everyday issues (and actual measurable action on these fronts) to exciting events and local milestones, there are many hopeful, forward-thinking and constructive changes afoot – they just don’t seem to get as much air-time. Channel 4 will begin to make a new life in Bristol this year; the long-derelict eyesore we see as we train it into Temple Meads, which David Cameron reportedly likened to the entrance of a war zone, is finally being demolished to make way for the new uni campus for enterprise; and the latest addition to the royal family is due in April, which is quite nice. (And so is the final series of Game of Thrones…) Traditionally quite elitist activities like classical music are more accessible than ever (anyone who went to St George’s ‘mixtape’ event or has seen Insight Ensemble can attest) and, more widely speaking, inclusivity is now seen as key – with disabled actors being integrated into our soap operas and being made ambassadors for beauty brands, and changing disability representation. Lots of things are looking up.

Don’t forget to hit ‘attend’ on the EU leaving drinks event – “one last mad one with the other 27 member states” as it’s being billed on Facebook. Whatever happens, we’re all in this together…

1. Comms upgrade

People have been talking about mental health a whole lot more, and getting on board to support it. Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 takes place from 13 – 19 May, further opening the conversation, changing its direction and helping to action new attitudes – mayor Marvin Rees recently signed the Time2Change employer pledge to raise awareness in the workplace and provide training, and that’s a jolly good start. The rise of self-care tech has also meant many of us are able to track our screen time to try combat the addictive nature of social media; while there’s currently a crack-down on media sexism, with adverts endorsing harmful gender stereotypes to be banned from June 2019 thanks to new guidelines issued by advertising watchdogs. Gambling adverts will soon be absent from child-friendly websites and games popular with youngsters, after it was found that kids were bombarded with them during the 2018 World Cup. Celebs who appear under 25 (here’s looking at you, famous footballing whippersnappers) will no longer be featured in gambling promotions either.

The ‘Blue Planet effect’ has contributed to a huge rise in waste-awareness (cheers Dave!) with single-use plastic a new sworn enemy, evidenced by the huge growth of eco-organisations such as City to Sea. The government has launched consultations on the subject and big brands are making an effort too. Nestlé is phasing out plastic Smarties caps, and Marks & Spencer has stepped up, launching lines of loose fruit and veg completely free of plastic packaging, plus plastic bins for customers to bring back any kind they can’t recycle at home. Now in the food and beauty halls at Cribbs Causeway, they accept crisp packets, cosmetics containers, black ready-meal trays – to be repurposed as store fittings or playground equipment for schools. Moreover, around £300,000 has been awarded to support ultra-low emission taxis in Bristol. Four rapid charging units will be installed, made up of eight bays at a central location near to the M32. Equally close to home, Bristol Cloth has raised £18,086 for the production of the UK’s first regenerative cloth, locally sourced and manufactured using regenerative farming and zero toxic synthetic chemicals.

There’ll be lots more excellent harbourside action this year (image by Chris Cooper;

2. Musical sanctuary

Massive Attack kick off this year’s mega music schedule with hometown gigs (1 & 2 March) to mark the 21st anniversary of the release of their landmark Mezzanine album at the custom-built ‘Steel Yard’ at Filton Airfield. Then there are the summer concerts – who’s bagged themselves tickets to New Order, or The Specials on 18 & 19 July? They’ll be kicking off Harbour Festival celebrations; while Bloc Party, Elbow, Cinematic Orchestra, Cat Empire and Tom Misch take care of the Bristol Sounds celebrations (26 – 29 June). Sports grounds are setting up for the stars too – over at Ashton Gate, Spice Girls are due to perform in June, as are Sir Rod Stewart, Muse and Take That, no less – and old superlungs Tom Jones is due to rock the Brightside Ground on 13 July. There’s also the likes of Lily Allen at Love Saves The Day in May if the Eastville shindig is more your bag, or Colston Hall’s River Town which returns in July with its programme of Americana. In conclusion, as usual there’s no need to be glum if you’re not going to Glasto. As the Chili Peppers so wisely put it, let music be your aeroplane…

3. Being active is about to get much more rad

Don’t forget the news that Bristol is going to have a massive surfing lake installed later this year – which will get thousands of people moving and in a new and totally tubular way. The Wave Bristol will be an inland surf destination democratising surfing and accessible to absolutely all, with different levels of wave type (from gnarly to newbie-friendly) depending on surfers’ skill levels. All sounds super-positive on the social impact front, yes? Too right. But that’s not all, as it’s making sustainability a priority too. While the ability to create artificial waves has been around for a good while, commercial man-made wave-tech facilities that are also environmentally friendly are much more of a new thing. The Wave will be completely powered by renewable energy and we’re stoked about it. Dudes: happy shredding!

The new surf destination is 100% powered by renewable energy (image courtesy of Wavegarden)

4. New foodie fun

Our much-celebrated local food scene is going from strength to strength at the moment and there are yet more exciting openings to come this year. The team behind Bravas, Bakers & Co, Cargo Cantina and Gambas is currently transforming Stokes Croft’s Corner 77 into new Mexican restaurant Masa + Mezcal; and owner Imogen Waite says she won’t be able to look herself in the mirror if they don’t do justice to the Mexican food she and Kieran Waite fell in love with during trips to South America. Which bodes well, we reckon. “We’ll be stone grinding all of the Masa dough, in house, which is a process often not even done in Mexico itself, and we’re passionate about keeping the food as authentic as possible,” she says. “I’m under no illusion about how difficult this will be – it’s a real labour of love.”

Meanwhile Casamia is opening its development kitchen at Finzels Reach to further its innovative and experimentational culinary magic. Hey, that sounds like thirsty work, doesn’t it? Good job Left Handed Giant is opening a brewery there in June, then… And, speaking of beer, Bristol Craft Beer Festival is being shifted from September to 7 & 8 June this year – very interesting things in the pipeline for that, we’re hearing.

Oh, and if you find yourself in need some decent pizza, stat, look no further than Bath-born pizza restaurant Dough – run by festival pizza king Massimo Nucaro and ‘pizza acrobat and instructor’ Emiliano Tunno. It’s opening on Baldwin Street and bringing its adventurous bases – from gluten-free purple corn and hemp to seaweed and venus black rice flour dough – with it.

The Power8 sprints will make a return to Bristol this summer

5. Summer of sport

Bristol is hosting the England v Pakistan One-Day International at Brightside Ground on 14 May, and in March we’re getting visit from the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup trophy ahead of the three tournament matches the city is also staging between 1 and 11 June. Bristol will celebrate its status as a 2019 World Cup host by showcasing the prize for a few days, at local events and landmarks between 8 and 10 March as part of a 100-day tour of England and Wales. As well as schools and scout activities, the trophy will be taken to cricket clubs and the SS Great Britain as well as the St Mark’s Road Carnival (9 March) while Broadmead will host Super Saturday – an event with music, special guests, entertainment and a street cricket tournament on 4 May in the build-up to the tournament.

“Our status as a CWC19 Host City, following the successful hosting of eight ICC Women’s World Cup matches in 2017, adds to Bristol’s profile in line with our goal to attract world class sports events to the city,” said mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees. “With reigning champions Australia, former champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as Bangladesh and Afghanistan all playing in Bristol, the Trophy Tour and tournament will be an excellent opportunity for the city’s diverse communities to enjoy a global sporting event together.”

Australia and Afghanistan go head to head at Bristol’s County Ground on 1 June, with Pakistan and Sri Lanka meeting on 7 June and the Sri Lanka v Bangladesh fixture getting underway on 11 June. Fans will also be watching the warm-up fixtures between Pakistan and Afghanistan (24 May), South Africa and the Windies (26 May) and the Windies and New Zealand (28 May), prior to the tournament.

In cycling, there’s the St Peter’s Hospice Tour de Bristol next month (40k, 65k and 100k routes), and the walking festival takes place in May, if you’re after something less high-octane and more low-key.

We reckon there’s glory to come for Bristol in the rugby and footy spheres too – Bristol Bears host the West County derby against Gloucester at Ashton Gate on 1 March; while Bristol City will play Leeds United there on 9 March. Finally, British Rowing’s Power8 Sprints returns on 21 July, with crews from eight UK cities battling it out as the headline act on the water at Harbour Festival.

Head to Aerospace Bristol for its programme of celebrations this season

6. Great british innovation celebrated

This year marks 50 years since Concorde’s maiden flight (it took off from Toulouse on 2 March 1969, while the first British flight took place from Filton on 9 April that same year) – and Aerospace Bristol is celebrating the #Concorde50 milestone with talks, tours and special activities throughout 2019.

You can step aboard the last one ever to fly, see footage of the maiden journey, and sponsor your own piece of Concorde Alpha Foxtrot to help Aerospace Bristol inspire the engineers of the next 50 years. Visitors can also watch important work on the Bristol Bolingboke aircraft. The team of engineers also aims to have Concorde’s droop nose working by 9 April – this was a feature that could be lowered to improve visibility of runways and taxiways but which has not operated since the aircraft was decommissioned and the hydraulic fluid drained following its final flight all the way back in November 2003.

This month you can test your reaction skills with a hands-on riveting game and get to grips with the physics of flight via fun and interactive exhibits in time for British Science Week (taking place from 8 – 16 March). Other options include watching the Battle of Britain under the wings of Concorde on 6 March, or on International Women’s Day (8 March – a great day, bang it in the diary) you can join the team for special talks as they celebrate the extraordinary women who shaped the path of aviation history.

Summer, meanwhile, will see Aerospace Bristol teaming up with Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (which is happening this year from 8 – 11 August) for a special anniversary collaboration.

Watch this airspace!

The social experiment is being televised on Channel 4

7. Old dogs, new tricks (and horizons)

Lots of thought seems to be going into making later life as fulfilling as possible at the moment, which is inspiring and encouraging. We’re hearing of an innovative new VR suite in The Chocolate Quarter retirement village, due to open in spring – just think how access to virtual reality tech could open up new worlds to the elderly and immobile and the difference it might make to wellbeing. Residents are also going to be opening their own convenience store on-site, stocking Cadbury’s seconds, just like when the factory was live. There’s a chocolate festival at the quarter on 20 April too, which is ace.

The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes is also airing on Channel 4 very soon, with a five-part series having been produced following Josh Eggleton’s Bristol-based social experiment. The project aims to show the public, who came in to dine at the pop-up eatery run by those living with dementia, that a diagnosis needn’t mean the end of a career, and the TV show aims to do the same for employers who have workers diagnosed with the condition. ■