Went to the opening of Cabot Circus today. It's pretty stunning - far more impressive than I expected - and the thousands of people who flocked in as the centre opened seemed to feel the same. (Apart from the four young girls who saw me being interviewed for TV and asked me if it was true that Johnny Depp was coming along to open it; I guess they went away disappointed).
It's much better designed than most shopping centres, spacious, with a glass dome roof which creates the impression of being outdoors rather than the usual cooped-up, claustrophobic feel you usually get (or is that just me?) 4000 new jobs, including part-time, flexible working for people who need it - and many of those jobs being filled by people from the poorest parts of the city. I also like the way it shifts the focus of the city away from Clifton, towards the east, which should help regenerate areas like Old Market and St Judes too.
When I was in Manchester I went for a drink in Clouds, a bar on the 29th Floor of the Hilton Hotel. Looking out at the cityscape you realise just how much regeneration has gone on in Manchester, and what a vibrant, exciting city it is. (And what complete rubbish that Policy Exchange report was). We've got a long way to go in Bristol, and I'm not suggesting that shops alone are the answer (although there's a cinema too and some fairly decent looking restaurants), but it's a start. And no, I didn't go shopping. Unless you count a decaf soya latte from Costa.
Chatted to a few people while I was there, including Malachy McReynolds from Elizabeth Shaw and George Ferguson from Square Peg, who basically said - and I guess I run the risk of misquoting them here, so remember - I wasn't taking notes and this is my recollection 12 hours later, but here goes: (a) there has been, and still is, an unprecedented level of community consultation re the development, (b) the cycle houses will make the cycle path safer, more interesting, and will be set some way back from the path, (c) the greenspace being cleared is full of Japanese knotweed and other such stuff at the moment, and (d) don't believe what you read on blogs. I've been trying for a while to arrange a site visit, and George Ferguson said he'll try to sort it for next week. It probably won't go to planning committee till December or January, so people still have lots of time to make their voices heard.
Also had a nice chat with Mike Norton, the Bristol Evening Post editor, on how he bumped into Peter Hook at an airport, was surprised at how short he was, but couldn't quite pluck up the courage to say hello, and how Bernard has lost his looks (sad, but true, but then he did look about 14 until he turned 50). Mike said he'd always thought that if Bart Simpson was a real person he'd look just like Bernard, which means I spent my late teens nursing an obsession with Bart Simpson. (OK, a fair bit of my twenties too. He did have the most perfect haircut ever). Also talked about what we both thought of Control, and I told him about the JD documentary I saw earlier this year and the Bernard Sumner biography I got for my birthday. And that was it.
Rest of the day spent in the office signing post, catching up on emails, making phone calls... Then canvassing in St George. Either people are too terrified of me to tell me the truth, or the Labour vote is holding up incredibly well. I should be at the launch party for Cabot Circus now, but after 5 days at Conference I've run out of steam...