‘It just keeps getting better’ - Broadchurch actor Joe Sims on what he loves about Bristol

‘Come one, come all, let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and make this city a better place than it was yesterday’

Actor and ‘fiercely proud’ Bristol boy Joe Sims chats to BristolWorld about his new show at the Bristol Old Vic, his favourite pub and why you should try one of Fanny Tingle’s famous pies.

Joe best-known for playing Nigel Carter in ITV’s BAFTA winning drama Broadchurch but has appeared extensively on television and radio, including Britannia (Sky/Amazon), The First Team (BBC), Plebs (ITV), Agatha Raisin (Sky), Father Brown and Casualty.

Joe won an Offie award for “People’s Favourite Male Performance” for his role in As We Forgive Them at the Arcola Theatre.

I say all the time that I feel like a competition winner. I still cannot believe that I get to tell stories with a bunch of great people for a living. But it’s also important for me to send the ladder down to those who grew up in similar situations to me, other working class boys and girls from Bristol. I want to show them there’s a tangible roadmap to making this a career. We should always aspire and encourage our young people to be the best they can be.

In the beginning I was just this noisy boy with no sense of direction. I grew up in Kingswood and Longwell Green and went to secondary school in Oldham Common. It was there I met this incredible drama teacher who set me on the path I’m on now, starting at the Bristol Old Vic Youth Theatre. Yeah, I wasn’t great academically, but I could stand up on stage and make people laugh. This was something I could do. Seeing people smiling at you from the audience, I absolutely love it.

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Joe plays a ‘nasty football manager’ in The Red Lion, which is coming to Bristol Old Vic in February. Picture by Ben Robins.

When I was younger I was told to ditch my Bristol accent if I wanted to go into acting. It was well-intentioned but bad advice. I hope the stereotype that you have to be some sort of elite to do this is changing now. I hope people like myself and other inconspicuously working class people are showing the world that anything is possible. I am fiercely proud of who I am. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the Bristolians with even stronger accents than mine who have touched my life and made me a better person. That’s not to say you don’t do the work - I’ve had to learn London, Scouse, Brummie and other accents to play certain roles. But I wouldn’t ditch my accent when I’m talking to you normally, because that would be a lie.

'It’s no secret that I love the Ashton Gate Stadium’

I love the fact that Bristol doesn't suffer a brain drain that a lot of other cities do. People come here, they migrate here, they stay and they make it better. We've got a rich culture of people who come here from all over the world. With them, the food gets a bit better, the music gets a bit better - dare I say, one day the football might even get better?! The vibe is come one, come all, let's stand shoulder to shoulder, galavanise and make this city a better place than it was yesterday.

My favourite spots in Bristol? I’m not telling you that, because then everyone would be there! Just kidding. Well, it’s no secret that I love Ashton Gate. In terms of those little places, I love Beeses Tearoom - ringing the bell, getting the boatman to take me over and have a cider. If you haven’t done that, you absolutely should. I live in Knowle and the Knowle Constitution Club is a must. It’s run entirely by volunteers and you always get a warm welcome. There’s a lady there called Fanny Tingle who does vegan pies. If you haven’t tried one of Fanny Tingle’s pies, you’re missing out. You can have a game of snooker in the back, it’s cheap as chips and everyone is absolutely lovely.

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The Oxford Pub is another great one. People from all over the city get together on a Sunday for a bit of an open mic night. People do acoustic guitar, some singing, whatever you’re into. Again it’s all about people coming together and it’s lush.

Joe Sims on stage. Picture by Chelsey Cliff.

We cant wait to share The Red Lion with the world (The play, in which Joe plays ‘nasty football manager’ Kidd, runs at the Bristol Old Vic from February 3 - 19 after being postponed for two years due to Covid). The important thing for me, is to introduce theatre to those who might not think it’s for them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a welder or you work down Greggs, whatever. If you like sport, action or the study of the human condition this is the place for you. You’ll leave buzzing and we’ll meet you in the bar afterwards.