Bedford: It’s crap but we love it
Remember when Boris Johnson randomly came to visit and everyone got a photo?
Now let’s stop pretending. It’s not Cambridge, but it’s certainly better than Luton and significantly less depressing than Milton Keynes. Bedford is the kind of place you know exists (from the signs along the A428) but never actually go to as there’s very little to do unless you live here. If this is the case, you know to avoid places like the mound or Wetherspoon’s.
Famous for its shitty sculptures, the butterfly bridge, and being named the most generous town in the UK by JustGiving, we can’t hate Bedford as much as we say we do.
Well, it’s a very historical town, isn’t it?
If you’re from Bedford, you’ll know full well that this completely irrelevant man named John Bunyan spent 12 years there, writing the Pilgrim’s Progress. Aside from being forced to sing He Who Would Valiant Be at school (thanks to John), the great River Ouse runs straight through the town centre, providing a location not just for drunks to hurl abuse at the rowers, but also for all teen relationships to make up, and break up.
Also, Bedford has the most beautiful mound the council spent thousands of pounds recovering. What’s so great is that, as historic as it may be, it doesn’t attract any tourists, it just gives the youth a classy place to hang out and try their first spliff. Ah, Bedford.
The Harpur Trust is a bit smug
If you were, like my fortunate self, at any of the Harpur Trust schools, you might be surprised to hear that Bedford actually has an array of state-funded schools. These range from academies to sixth forms to the new and highly thought of free school. It’s great to be proud of your school – I was too – but please stop snobbishly looking down your nose when the winner of that grade four trumpet recital class you were in at the Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama went to Wootton Upper.
The River Festival rivals Notting Hill Carnival
One event that allows everyone to join harmoniously together occurs every two years. If you’ve somehow avoided receiving the poorly-put-together flyers promoting The River Festival and thus, never attended this delightful and summery occasion, it’s a bit like V Fest. No actually it’s not. The rides are stickier, there’s worse music, more screaming children, and a much greater number of burnt elderly people who think they look tanned.
Fireworks at the Rugby Club
We can all picture it now. It’s freezing cold and you’re standing in a queue filled with children waving around those pointless sticks that light up and break half an hour later. Your friends are drunk from the one can of Stella they stole from home, and you’ve stuffed two more beers in your wellies, ready to brave the security guards on the gates. The fireworks at Bedford Blues’ Rugby Club were the event of the year before being able to legally drink. It was great fun hanging around with a Fosters in a big group on a field. It was a bonus watching the best fireworks for miles.
Oasis and those slushies
Where would Bedford be without those picturesque pyramids? Aside from the magical water slides, the miserable mushroom fountain and anti-climactic wave machine, there’s an assortment of illnesses that fester in the water. Oasis is pretty much Bedford’s only place worth going if you fancy a quick dip, followed by a polystyrene cup of greasy chips. I say this now, but we all know that annual trip to Oasis as a child was worth the wait, especially if it meant catching a cold and having the next few days off school.
The Music Scene is actually very underground
Whether you’re into indie music or not, Bedford Esquires has done brilliantly for itself, and we should be proud of it. Although its structurally falling apart, Esquires has hosted the likes of Coldplay, Muse, Bloc Party, The Libertines, and more recently, Royal Blood and George Ezra.
Have you seen the size of the place? What could possibly be better than standing in a vibrating room of about 30 people, watching great bands play live before they go on to sell out stadiums. We can’t deny it, we’ve all had a great night at Esquires, and I’d be happy to return whether or not it still has a ceiling.
Rose til Close
I couldn’t talk about Bedford and not mention its astounding nightlife. You know it’s been a great night when at 3:30am you’re sobering up with your friends in Mario’s, munching on cheesy chips and watching the sea of stilettoes stumbling into taxis outside. Prior to this godforsaken experience, your night probably consisted of some or all of the following: avoiding the dodgy dance floor in The Rose, whilst staying away from at least one person you dislike. Being heckled by balding men outside Vogue, ironically grinding on the pole of Yates before imagining what the place is like sober, and then onto Hi-Fi.
If Bedford was a club, that club would be Hi-Fi. It’s sticky, swarming with people who look like they’re on MD for the first time, smells of sweat, and plays intolerable music. Of course the whole of Bedford doesn’t smell of sweat, but its the flaws that make it great, just like Hi-Fi. The weird room downstairs that only appears to be open on Saturdays, the crowded and badly finished smoking area, hearing the words “put your fuckin’ hands up” being roared at least 14 times a night, and of course, the VKs.
Together, all of the above makes me feel pleasantly at home and there’s nowhere else quite like it. We have to love Bedford, and overlook its flaws.