When I was deciding which universities to apply to, more years ago than I care to remember, I got the coach to Bristol for the weekend with a friend whose older sister was studying here.
It was a good weekend. I remember sleeping very little and getting very stoned in the kitchen at a house party with someone called Ollie who, for about 12 hours, seemed like everything I’d ever wanted in a man.
I also remember that my friend’s sister had a copy of Venue in her impossibly glamorous student bedroom (glamorous to a sixth former at an all girls’ school anyway). It was intelligently and wittily written and I read it avidly, imagining it would become my bible if I moved to study here, leading me to smoky evenings at gigs and open mic nights, and exciting new art exhibitions.
Most of all, I imagined one day flicking to the I Saw You pages and seeing myself. I was hooked on those microcosms of love stories. The longing and hope and regret. I could think of nothing more romantic than discovering that someone who saw me every day from the top of a bus was secretly in love with me. Actually, one thing would be more romantic - if he then wrote to Venue beseeching me to get in touch.
So yes, I chose to study at Bristol based on a hazy night with some bloke I never saw again and the egotistical hope that eventually someone, anyone, would be moved to seek me out in the I Saw You pages of Venue magazine.
I’ve since graduated, moved away for a few years, and moved back again. But Venue still sums up everything I love about Bristol. It‘s stylish in its own way, different, irreverent and informative. I buy it for the good old-fashioned reason of wanting to find out what’s going on in the cultural world here. But I also buy it for the features and interviews. For the letters page - Venue readers are opinionated, perhaps a little pretentious at times, but usually very funny and smart. And of course, for the I Saw You page.
I still haven’t seen myself there, though I live in hope (not that I would respond these days, I’m in a very happy relationship. Still, it would be nice…).
So I was devastated to learn last week that Venue might have to close down. Apparently a downturn in readership and decline in ad revenue means it’s no longer sustainable. It’s depressing news - not only as someone who works in the media but as a Bristol resident who can’t imagine the city without the magazine.
There is a campaign to save Venue. I don’t know what the chances of success are but I really hope it succeeds. Not least because, if it closes down, my bus-top admirer will never get the chance to tell me how he really feels.
To lend your support to the campaign to save Venue go to the website www.venue.co.uk/features/10828-save-venue.