The mysterious Cestrian behind a well known Twitter account featuring a four-letter word has given an interview to The Chronicle as he celebrates four years of tweeting.
And the 36-year-old, whose anonymity and dark sense of humour has led some to dub him Chester’s Banksy, is organising a birthday party for the S**t Chester account, started as a joke by his friend Jennie Povey in 2013.
He developed the concept, which in the early days laid down the challenge for Chester to do better. Today the tone is overwhelmingly positive in sharing what our increasingly dynamic city has to offer.
And on Easter Sunday (April 16) he will hold a fundraiser at Alexander’s, entitled ‘Not so S**t Chester’, reflecting that change in emphasis and with a range of musical acts which chimes with the growing arts sector in a place once dubbed ‘a cultural desert’.
Among those attending will be people who have played a part in the history of S**t Chester, including former council leader Mike Jones who originally fell out with the account’s founders for using such a ‘negative’ name.
Hosted by Dee 106.3’s Gavin Matthews, the party will feature local talent such as The Busking Lady, The Daymons, newcomer Alice Byrne and magician John Holt with all proceeds from the £4 admission in aid of Samaritans. Everyone is welcome.
The account holder, who boasts more than 21,000 followers, said: “Many people tweet people they’ve never met before. This will be chance for friendships to be made.”
Also known for building and displaying Chester street scenes out of Lego, with donations to charity, he continued: “I’ve always supported Samaritans with my Lego work. I’ve got an affinity because I’ve had mental health problems myself and I’ve been very open about that. I think it’s a charity that doesn’t receive as much attention as some others and it’s a very worthy cause.”
Looking back on the early days of S**t Chester, he recalled: “’I’m very grateful to my friend Jennie who founded it and gave me the platform to develop it. Without her initial idea this would not have happened.
“I evolved it into something a lot more positive than it was originally. It’s mellowed over the years and I’ve certainly mellowed and become more open-minded about things that are going on.
“And Chester has changed over the last four years. There’s loads more going on now and there will be in the future. I think 2013 was perhaps quite a dark time.
"There didn’t really seem to be anything going on. Now you can see all the culture coming together. You can see all these new places opening, different things for people to do, obviously Storyhouse, the Northgate Development, if that happens.”
Today the account is a community forum for exchanging information and ideas, stimulating debate and champing good causes.
“Is it more part of the establishment now? I don’t know,” mused the co-founder. “But originally you would never have imagined this to have started off as one person in their bedroom tweeting away to being invited to cover an election, for example.”
Inevitably the site is reflective of the founder’s personality, state of mind and preoccupations so the ‘handle’ has variously changed from ‘Love Sick Chester’ – perhaps an allusion to unrequited love – to ‘Shy Chester’ and even ‘Tarmac Chester’, believed to be a reference to the seemingly never ending street works in Frodsham Street.
But why does he insist on staying anonymous?
“I remain a shy person. I think you can operate better in the shadows sometimes. In terms of the anonymity, that’s been breached loads over the last two years; when I started doing the blog – you can’t be anonymous when you interview someone.
"Loads of people know now and it is sort of an open secret. I don’t think it’s really about that now. It’s more a celebration of Chester. It’s not about one person.”
The account holder, who is believed to work in Chester city centre and enjoys gardening as his non-digital hobby, says his busy calendar covering parades, festivals and new openings, acts as ‘a big distraction’ and keeps him ‘out of trouble’ despite the pressure of having to live up to audience expectations.
He has met the late Sir Terry Wogan, interviewed Lord Paddy Ashdown, attended a press conference after Labour triumphed locally at the 2015 election and visited Chester MP Chris Matheson in Parliament.
“This might sound a bit sad but it gives me a real meaning in life,” he comments and despite the account name, which he refuses to change, says this about the place he loves: “You’ve got to be positive about Chester. It’s a beautiful place.”
“Everyone had been so generous and accepting of the account. I just want to say a big thank you. There are too many people to list. But to be invited into people’s communities is a real privilege.”
Despite being proud of his achievements, self-doubt remains.
“Do I deserve this? It’s just a Twitter account. Does it do any good? So I’ve still got that insecurity. And I have discussed this is in other interviews but is it actually me or is it some kind of fake person, where do you draw the line between those identities? That makes it fun but it can be troubling in a way.”
■ Doors at the ‘Not so S**t Chester’ party open at 7pm and the show starts at 7.30pm. Admission payable on the door. Minimum donation of £4. All proceeds go to The Samaritans.