Heather Child at Bristol zoo

Starting small… a short story for Bristol Zoo

If you live in or near Bristol, you probably know that the famous zoo has finally closed its doors after 186 years. Some of the animals are transferring to more appropriate quarters at the Wild Place just outside town, and some are moving to other zoos. A city centre location was never ideal for larger beasts, but I did enjoy going to see the meerkats and capybaras and other smaller creatures, and will miss the place.

Bristol zoo closing

To mark this end of an era, the zoo launched a short story and poetry competition, and I was lucky enough to win first prize in the adult fiction category. I was invited to an award ceremony at the zoo on its last day open to the public, where I met zookeepers and other prize winners. Some of the writing was displayed during the zoo’s last weeks, and they will be featuring it in the Clifton heritage hub that will remain on the site once it has moved.

Heather Child at award ceremony at Bristol zoo

It doesn’t feel right to reproduce the story here as the zoo have not yet published it, but I wrote a piece set in a fictional world without insects, imagining myself as an old woman looking back to when I was a teenager at the opening of Bug World at the zoo. There were local television cameras and Michaela Strachan attended as the guest of honour (this is a true story – I was there!) Flash forward to a future where people marvel at the colours of beetle shells and see insects as a precious treasure, not creepy crawlies to flick away.

It was a nice opportunity to write something a bit off-the-wall, and I’m very grateful to Bristol Zoo for running the competition and for choosing my piece.

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