Chester Culture were lucky enough to interview the infamous @shitchester.
A part of Chester’s current cultural scene– most people in the city are talking about this Twitter Account- or wearing the T-shirt !
Just in case you have not heard of them…. @shitchester is a Twitter and Facebook account that takes a close look at everything “Chester”.
In the gritty style of legend Clint Eastwood the “Uomo senza nome” *
takes a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is a raw and honest look at the city we live in.
Humour is an integral part– and they have hooked 6,000 followers to date.
Needless to say– we were very curious to get to know a little bit more about this person/account/phenomenon.
First of all, Many Thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Chester Culture.
We are amazed at what you have achieved in such a short space of time.
Your site has promoted awareness and a boost to the cultural scene in Chester.
What was the basic idea in the beginning and how did it develop?
I was a big fan of the account @shitLondon on twitter. They also have a facebook page and I enjoyed contributing from my London visits, seeking out the bizarre from misspelt signs to abandoned items in the street to bizarre graffiti. One day last March I was walking down Frodsham street and saw the infamous “we need more shit” message. I thought it was pretty bizarre and clever at the same time, the fact that whoever did it chose to deface the side of a bank suggested a deeper anti- consumerist message to me. I began noticing more random sights and developing an eye for looking the often unseen details of urban life. My close friend Jennie set up the account on twitter as a joke and we slowly began to gain followers. At the start it was really a private joke between us, it was absolutely never expected to get this far.
The name “shitchester” was never intended to be negative , it was a random creation, and it just seemed to work. Soon I was finding new stuff every day and people were sending us contributions, it captured my imagination and I found I was making new connections and friends in the virtual world. It also helped me to showcase my love for photography.
Over time it developed organically from quirky pictures to encompass all aspects of life in our great city. I found myself being the facilitator of political debates, memories of the past and future hopes, and the key part learning more about the all good stuff that goes on.
I went on a civil war tour, attended a life drawing class at the Music Theatre, started going to see productions by Tip Top, made the effort to see local bands, befriending The Suns and Me and Deboe. I went to comedy nights at The Commercial, attended Chester Micro Plays, went to see Chester Phoenix at the arena etc. Most of this I had no idea about before.
There is a huge amount of positive material on the account now. I view it as a community, and if it makes one person smile then its all worth it. The growth of the account stunned me, I recall being very excited at getting 100 followers.
To have 6000 still amazes me and feels like a dream but I’m proud of all the work I’ve put into the account.
To be mentioned on the radio and in the paper is both surreal and flattering. Of course if Jennie hadn’t had the flash of random genius to set the ball rolling I would never be in this place so a massive thanks to her. Its just me running things now and it’s hard work keeping things fresh and finding new material but there’s always a surprise out there, e.g the plastic teapot inexplicably chained to the bike racks outside Wetherspoons.. or the UFO sculpture outside the university’s Kingsway buildings.
I keep it varied with vintage material, old pics I find and my lego creations centring around Chester people and scenes.
I add film and movie references, popular culture etc with a Chester twist, I try and have some fun with it.
@shitchester prefers to remain anonymous and we respect that – can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Are you Chester born?
Yes, I was born in Chester and have lived here all of my life. I work in the city, the account is not about me so I don’t feel there’s anything to gain by going public about my identity. I’m a shy person, I’m not sure what people expect of me so I don’t meet up in the “real world” with many. Yet I have made some brilliant friends and found people I have things in common with through the account. It has caused a bit of an identity crisis for me at times. I’m not sure where the real me begins and ends and the “shitchester” persona takes over.
The focus should be on the city and not me, if I was known I would never live up to people’s expectations.
Do you feel that the well publicised disagreement between @Shitchester and the leader of the council has damaged your or his image?
I think Mike did me a great favour, it really boosted my profile in the city. I was already known by many people in the media, but it got us so many new followers after we were featured in all the local papers and the row was discussed on Dee 106.3
It surely backfired on him and created a lot of negative publicity, making him look ignorant and I still maintain, a bully. Mike wants to silence anyone that doesn’t agree with him or anyone that isn’t talking on message. The fact is that there are many people dissatisfied with his leadership and the way the council executive are running things. My account gives people a voice and brings people together from all political angles. I am not aware of any such forum on twitter or other social media.
I am still hurt by the leaders comment that I should be “ashamed of myself” and that I am driving investment away. I would say 90% of people can see the ironic intent of the account, I assume Mike is a fairly intelligent man, as he has attained a high political office yet his comments to me were bizarre and offensive. In particular his order to me that I change the name of the account.
Last time I checked we had free speech in this country! It made him look like a dictatorial bully. Noticeably Mike no longer replies when I try engagement with him on twitter, perhaps he knows because he’s not very popular and he’s going to look out of touch and stupid again. But I don’t bear a grudge, not every one “gets” the account and I wouldn’t expect everyone to. Its just a shame that I get labelled as negative and blamed for Chester’s economic problems.
Where is it going? Do you have hopes/plans for the future of the site?
A tricky one, Its a challenge when I already have a full time job. I got some business cards and flyers produced which seemed to make an impact and we have sold a few T shirts to cover various costs. I don’t make any profit from this, but there’s a lot of good will from businesses etc and the followers are very kind. The staff at Yo Sushi very kindly invited myself and some close friends to a Sushi school just before Christmas, I’d like to be involved in more things like this, but the anonymous persona makes it a bit harder.
With @Shitchester having so many followers are you thinking of any commercialisation of the site for promotions etc?
I’m open to ideas about promotions and offers if the business community want to be involved, but its not something I am actively pursuing. I have recently met up with the organisers of Chester Fringe and am hopeful of contributing to events later in the year in some way. My dream for the future is to have a book published of my photographs which show the random and creative side of Chester life. Apart from that I aim to continue with the same approach.
What do you think would improve the culture in Chester most, Cinema, Theatre or street entertainment/parades??
I think we need a cinema back and the theatre to bring people in at night. The Northgate development sounds fantastic in principle. Like most Cestrians I’m frustrated that its taken so long and the market/forum has been allowed to fall into decay. That has to be the main focus. There are many fantastic independent groups working within the city, the musical and artistic community feels thriving to me, we have great venues in Telfords, Alexanders and now The Live Rooms etc. There has been some great parades over Christmas, the Roman Saturnalia was my favourite, at its best Chester has a unique, historic and special atmosphere.
What, if any, is your view on the current planning decisions allowing modern buildings within the city?
— I’m no expert on planning. In the past there has been lots of damage done. Chester has many wonderful buildings, the rows are great and should be cherished. There was the student village controversy and Mike Jones’s determination to destroy the green belt. We should do more to develop existing unused buildings as there is more than enough.. but its not really my area of expertise.
@Shitchester has been criticised for “Driving investment away from the City” what is your position on this? What can Chester do to encourage more visitors, shoppers etc?
There is no evidence to support this. I have had tweets from people saying thanks to me they have discovered a new shop or business, or found an independent coffee shop to go to. I work with many traders in the city, I’ve had great help with my T shirts from Tri-active, Football boutique and Becnick’s Emporium I have discovered so many great places through this account. Chester feels like a city with a lot wasted potential, look at the amphitheatre.. We need a cultural centre as soon as possible. We should keep doing the parades etc, there is always something going on in Chester but it needs more promotion and raising awareness. How many people know the town hall is open for visitors for example?
— It has been said by some that @shitchester takes a negative look at the city – your thoughts:
Its not a negative account, if it was we would not have gained so many followers. No one wants to read endless tweets saying how bad things are. The account allows people to keep up to date with what is going on in Chester, the good and the bad, exchange views and opinions and network.
It is a magical city and I think the account showcases this, whether it is the sunset behind the Eastgate, an early morning shot over the canal, or some street art in an alleyway. We helped with the campaign to find the graffiti tagger “Daka/Jaka” I’m quite proud of that.
We are followed by many Ex Cestrians who use to account to keep up to date with what’s going on here, there is one guy in Canada for example, and there are also a lot of ex students.
The account does a lot to raise the profile of Chester in a fun way, its not po faced and if something is rubbish I will say it. The account gains around 100 followers every week so its great for businesses, I can normally retweet things people want to share, offers, new shops opening etc, bands that are playing.
If I share something negative I will try and do it in a light hearted way, the world can be a melancholy place, things can be a bit of a mess, its a crazy world, but we’re all in it together. The driving force behind the account is positive and hopeful. Perhaps if we started again I wouldn’t call it “shitchester” but if it was called something else we would never have come this far, the name has given us a certain level of notoriety , but once people start to follow they can see that things are not all bad.
Thank You @shitchester. We appreciate you taking the time to share your history, views and opinions with all of us. All the best of luck – keep it going!!! Chester support you and will keep watching for your Tweets and posts. #originalauthenticamazing
This interview was conducted via social media.
The man remains anonymous.
Man with no name
(Italian: Uomo senza nome)
Interview questions prepared by Meghan Caldwell and Nigel Griffiths.