ACORN Bristol tonight occupied the foyer of City Hall to create “the world’s longest toilet queue” in protest against the closure of public toilets.
The action comes as part of the group’s Unlock Our Toilets campaign which seeks to reopen Bristol’s nine of the public toilets closed by Bristol City Council in 2018, and calls on the council to hold a review of toilet provision in the city.
Fifty ACORN members entered City Hall at 6pm this evening (Tuesday, December 14) with placards and formed “the world’s longest toilet queue” by standing across the foyer and streaming toilet paper across one another.
The action was timed to coincide with a full cabinet meeting, which protesters attempted to disrupt by singing Christmas adapted carols including “All I Want for Christmas is Loos” and “ACORN Merrily on High.”
Press liaison for the action, Nia Evans, said: ‘It was a fun action. We always try and make it fun.’
She explained that public toilets had been chosen as a key campaigning issue by 95% of ACORN Bristol members at the AGM in October.
‘We only fight on issues that our members feel really strongly about because we need people to turn up, and I feel like this demonstration has really shown that people are passionate about it because they’ve really turned out for it.’
The Council closed 18 public toilets in 2018 to save £440,000 a year. In their place was launched the Community Toilet Scheme (CTS) whereby participating businesses opened their toilets for public use.
Over 100 businesses signed up to the CTS, but ACORN argues that CTS toilets aren’t reliable as they are only open when the business is open, staff don’t always know that they are part of the scheme, and participating businesses aren’t signposted.
Evans said ‘we have members who might have bladder problems who have to go multiple times within an hour and it’s just really quite humiliating and not nice to have to keep asking business owners to use their loos.
‘It’s quite a private thing and I think that people should be able to use them as they wish.’
The CTS scheme was similarly criticised last year when many participating businesses closed due to the pandemic, leaving vulnerable people with nowhere to go.
Protesters had hoped to be able to speak with Marvin Rees and Cllr Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, to discuss their demands, but neither council member was prepared to meet them.
Evans said it was ‘disappointing’ not to be able to meet Rees or King, and added that an earlier request by ACORN to meet with Rees had also been refused.
She said that the campaign is supported by other councillors, however, with backing from Lib Dem and Green Party councillors. Councillors Sarah Cassick and Alex Hartley, both of the Lib Dems, were present at tonight’s action.
ACORN Bristol plan to continue gathering signatures for their petition and will look to take action again in the new year.
The petition is available to sign here.