IN THE MODERN DAY AND AGE, it’s important for cities not only to represent themselves socially and culturally, but also to carry an online presence with them as well.
For Chester, anonymous Twitter account “S**t Chester” stands at the forefront of that, whether people like it or not. Boasting almost 5,000 followers, it’s estimated that one in 24 people in Chester follow the account’s traditional blend of humour, news and campaigns. Coming under flak this week from Councillor Mike Jones, we sat down with the anonymous microblogger to shed a little more light on his identity.
Disclaimer: The views presented in this interview are solely the views and opinions of “S**t Chester”, and do not reflect the views carried by the Chester Intelligencer and/or any of its staff.
For any of our readers who might not have Twitter or be aware of you, tell us a little about yourself.
S**t Chester is a fun ironic look at Chester that has a positive message at its heart, we aim to promote Chester in a tongue in cheek way. We have been described as “Chester’s cultural revolution leader”, and “the most postmodern thing to happen to Chester since Beyoncé stayed the night at the Grosvenor Hotel”. We launched in March and have built up over 4,600 followers since then.
What would be your ‘mission statement’ for S**t Chester?
The mission statement is varied. The title “S**t Chester” refers to “s**t in Chester” and by “s**t” we just mean, “stuff”. From a single flower in the middle of a derelict building site, some graffiti on a toilet wall, a sunset, or a street entertainer, whatever. And then on another level we act as a free marketing tool for local businesses and events to promote things that are happening in Chester. At its heart it’s a very positive account and if people read my tweets they will see that.
I try to find things that are surreal or strange, things that have a deeper meaning that may appear mundane or boring on the first glance. It’s about looking deeper beneath the appearance or name. I have a love of photography and I combine this with my dry sense of humour. I try to make it multi layered with music or pop culture references. So it’s quite a wide field, we’re a forum for Chester people to air views and criticisms, good and bad points, places to go, everything really.
So why the name? Would you call Chester ‘s**t’?
The name was a joke really. My close friend who founded the account just intended it to be a bit of fun for our close circle. We were both amazed by getting so many followers and all the support we received. I had started to see weird things around town, including the “we need more s**t” graffiti painted on a wall in Frodsham Street (by the way the council still haven’t removed it after six months). It was a kind of spiritual awakening and I wanted to share my findings with Chester and the wider world.
Anyway, my friend has a young family so I run it alone now. We never set out to say Chester was s**t, we accept its problems and we love it despite its shortcomings. We often have followers tweeting problems or issues, like for instance, the lack of a cinema, empty shops or the recent bus shelter debacle. We got swept away by the support; it’s a bit surreal to see that Huey Morgan from the Fun Loving Criminals is following you, or Luke Anderson, winner of Big Brother 2012.
You’ve used your Twitter exposure to report on crimes, post pictures of discovered alien babies and call out council members on transgressions. Any stories on the good your profile has done?
It has personally opened my eyes to how much happens in Chester. We have no cinema, but there is the Tip Top Theatre, which I’ve discovered, is brilliant. I’ve seen two shows there and promoted it heavily. This week I saw Bouncers. That evening I had an exchange with a follower who said he didn’t even know it existed and that he was going to take his little brother to the Christmas panto.
I have been to so many events since launching the account including life drawing with Dr. Sketchy at the Chester Music Theatre, I’ve got to know many local shop owners, been photographed next to Les Dennis in London with a “follow @s**tchester” t-shirt on and I was even mentioned in a council meeting about the bus shelters.
I like to visit new places that are opening and in turn promoting business within Chester. I work full time but I spend most of my days off working on this account and letting people know what’s going on. It’s been an emotional journey too, as I was there for the last showing at Cineworld and the opening night at the Live Rooms.
In stranger terms we’ve had bizarre stories like ‘Snailgate’ when the Leader ran with the headline: “Man threw snail at car in street row” and the “Beaky” saga in which a resident put signs and a memorial up along the canal in honour of a murdered duck. I’m fond of throwing in song lyrics and as Morrissey said, “the sanest days are mad, why don’t you find out for yourself?”
Some of our followers are ex-Cestrians and former students who all say they can catch up with what’s going on here by following us. We have raised awareness of the heritage graffiti vandal known as “Daka”, he hasn’t been caught yet, but I hope we have helped the police as it wasn’t being discussed anywhere else.
We have had tweets about old friends getting back in touch after seeing each other on the account. However I think the most positive thing is just being able to make someone smile, laugh or strike an emotional chord with a nice sunset picture, or a bunch of abandoned flowers floating down the canal. It’s a beautiful crazy world and we’re reflecting upon that.
So let’s say you’ve been elected Lord Mayor of Chester. What would you do?
Lord Mayor? I don’t think I’d be up for elected office; I am far too shy for that! I am proud of my city and at this stage I’m happy to just be involved anonymously, gathering feedback, giving residents a voice and bringing people together. I have no political agenda. I may have opinions on things but I try to remain neutral where possible and encourage others to speak up. I was opposed to the planned student village on the green belt; we actually had some great exchanges on the account from both sides of the argument, and from students and residents of the Garden Quarter. As far as I know there are no other Twitter accounts or forums that offer this outlet for Chester citizens.
This week your account came under attack from Councillor Mike Jones. Would you care to elaborate a bit more on that?
The tweets seemed to come out of nowhere. I saw a tweet by Mr. Jones in which he attacked negative forces driving people away from Chester. I replied, asking what he meant by this and the row escalated from there. I wrote a tweet saying I loved Chester. He replied, “With the title you have that is an unbelievable statement and it only serves to send the wrong messages to investors”. He then told me I should be ashamed of myself and recommended I change the name of the account. His final tweet was to allege that I might have been part of Labour or Lib Dem that did damage to Chester in the past. Obviously I’m not.
It was quite bizarre to be blamed for Chester’s problems, all we do is reflect not create and even then most of the items I’m tweeting about these days is very positive. We have struck a chord with Cestrians who maybe feel they are being represented by an out of touch council. It felt like Mr. Jones was trying to silence me and any criticism of the Cheshire West and Chester Council. I was baffled. I run this account as a hobby and I’ve had no negative comments from any followers. It gives them a voice. To be accused of running down the city is just ridiculous!
What would you see as Chester’s biggest problems?
I want a cinema back, and an end to paralysis over the Northgate Development. If it’s not happening we need to move on. A lot of the time no one seems to know what is going on in Chester. It took years to replace the access stairs to the walls. The bus shelters, the council admits they made a mess of it but doesn’t look like there’s much they are going to do about it. A lot of the council seem out of touch. Really out of touch and apparently unaccountable to the people. I’m not a politician so who knows how we can change things? I just hope that my account brings people together.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to stay in Chester?
I do intend to stay in Chester, I love running the account and I have a passion for it now. Last time I went on holiday to London I was still tweeting my thoughts and images from my reserve. We do have some plans for a website but the workload is pretty intense at the moment, and as I said earlier I do work full time so its a big job.
I would love to do a book of quirky and funny photographs that I have accumulated (S**t London have published two books and there’s a also a S**t New York one out as well). Hopefully more people will buy our T-shirts – available from Tri Active on Rufus Court. There are lots of things going on in Chester; I used to be a cynic. We are missing our heart with no cinema or main theatre. Cities like York are comparable and do all right. York has two city centre cinemas. Why can’t we be like that? But along the fringes there is plenty going on and there is a thriving creative scene. I’m proud to be a Cestrian and I’m proud of @s**tchester.
You can follow S**t Chester over at @s**tchester.