Review of Twoty-Twoty-Two: Revival of the Bristol Utopian Book Collective

One of the best bits of news from 2022 is the revival of the Bristol Utopian Book Collective! UBC is up and running again.

We had seven great meetings in 2022. For a while we were the Bristol N. K. Jemisin fan club, when we read the Broken Earth trilogy one book at a time from July to October. (Hols in August, for the mathematically astute among you who will have spotted it took us four months.)

My favourite meeting of 2022 was in November, when about a dozen of us turned out for an animated discussion of Brave New World. Then, we headed through to the cinema for a screening of Neptune Frost. We meet in the cafe bar of the Watershed, an independent cinema in Bristol, UK. By fortunate coincidence the “exhilarating Afrofuturist anti-capitalist sci-fi-punk-musical” was screening at 9pm after our book group meeting at 7.

Utopias past and present

Brave New World is, of course, a classic. But would anyone still have anything to say about it, is it still relevant? Turns out yes, everyone had a lot to say. We could easily have done three or four discussions on this one book. Is it really a dystopia? Does it matter to not have free will if you’re happy? Why is art and culture better than centrifugal bumble puppy and electromagnetic golf? Who wouldn’t want to go to the feelies? Also, we got into some sticky stuff about eugenics, ableism and ageing.

I enjoyed going straight from Brave New World to Neptune Frost. It was like journeying from utopias past to utopias present. Neptune Frost defies easy explanation. To start off with my brain was furiously trying to work it all out as it went along but I had to let that go. I experienced the music and the action and the visuals. It is there now inside my mind and I get the feeling it may be changing things as yet unbeknownst to me in there. Unanimous goldmine!

Neptune Frost film poster, highlight since the revivial of the Bristol Utopian Book Collective

What a difference 198 days makes

The official relaunch or revival of the Bristol Utopian Book Collective after lockdown took place in April 2022 as part of the People’s Republic of Stoke’s Croft School of Activism. On that occasion, two people arrived to the meeting. We had a wonderful discussion centred around The Deep by Rivers Solomon. But given the low turnout for what was a relatively well publicised event, I wondered if there was any appetite for continuing the book group.

I was already mulling over ideas for an offline, meetings-free Utopias Club. It involved newsletters and badges and I might still do it one day. But thankfully Emma and Nathan, who had joined me that day, were full of enthusiasm for the book group. I felt somewhat obliged to arrange another meeting. On that great and successful November evening only six months later I was grateful to them that I did.

It’s brill to have the group up and running again. If you’d like to join us, check out our upcoming events here.