LGA Annual Conference

The annual Local Government Association (LGA) conference took place this week and it was great to join councils from across the country up in Harrogate. It is the biggest conference in the local government calendar and there was a real buzz around the centre with various insightful discussions taking place. It was also great to be there in person after the last few years kept things online only.

As the Chair of the LGA City and Regions Board, I hosted an event on Wednesday where we launched the Future of Cities hub alongside Cllr John Merry, Deputy Mayor of Salford, and Chair of Key Cities and Professor Greg Clark CBE, Chair of UK Cities Climate Investment Commission.

The Future of Cities hub brings together city leaders, academics, think tanks, urban artists, and writers to answer this key question: “What do we need our cities to be, and how do we get there?” With contributions from C40, Eurocities, Andy Burnham, and others, it is worth a read and is the start of an exciting piece of work I’ll be leading in the coming months.

The event saw a great turnout, with speeches focused on the importance of urban areas if we, as a country and globe, are to meet the challenges ahead, particularly in a world changed by the pandemic. It was fantastic to also be joined live by Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr from Freetown, Sierra Leone, who described to conference her aspirations for her city.

I was also invited to join a small group of leaders to a roundtable with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove MP. Conversation focused on economic growth and I made the point that central government funding of local authorities is highly fragmented. Around a third of the grants are currently awarded on a competitive basis yet we know this brings additional costs to councils and increases the difficulty of long-term planning. The discussion was constructive and there was much the LGA can now build on with their engagement with the Government.  

It was also good to hear the Shadow Secretary of State, Lisa Nandy MP, address delegates, sharing Labour’s vision to “rebuild Britain”. Whilst she supports the aims of Levelling Up, I welcomed her suggestion that this plan needs to reflect trust in local government and give the necessary power to local leaders to deliver their visions for growth.

Across a busy few days, I also joined other council leaders at a Localis roundtable to discuss regeneration and how best to maximises our local centres, increase housing delivery, and drive places towards greater sustainability. As Chair of Core Cities UK, Harrogate was also an opportunity to meet up with city leaders in person to discuss our ambitions for the network.

Becoming a Zero Emission Transport City

Councillor Don Alexander stands, smiling, with the trees of College Green behind him.
Today’s blog is by Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport
and Labour Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston

As the sector that contributes the most to Bristol’s emissions, transport has a major role to play in meeting the challenges of becoming a net zero city by 2030.

We must increase the share of trips taken by public transport, cycling and walking, making these more active modes of travel the first choice for all who can take them and reduce car use and other road traffic around the city.

Earlier this month cabinet accepted a grant of £500,000 awarded by the Department for Transport for a Zero Emission Transport City programme, which is being administered locally by the West of England Combined Authority.

The funding will give us the opportunity to carry out a series of feasibility studies examining how we can accelerate plans to decarbonise Bristol’s transport network.

Work will take place over five areas: demand management, electrification, freight consolidation, communities, and strategic corridors.

These areas have been selected using evidence gathered to inform our One City Climate Strategy and Joint Local Transport Plan.

Our feasibility studies will focus on where we can add value to existing plans, trial and innovate new approaches, and ramp up current initiatives, demonstrating practical and effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. 

Some of the options we will be exploring are:

  • reducing emissions from transport in the city centre, focusing on locations such as the Old City, Broadmead, Cabot Circus and Queen Square
  • working with operators on the electrification of 250 city buses
  • installing 1,000 on-street cycle hangers across the city
  • greater use of freight consolidation centres
  • investing in last mile solutions, such as e-cargo bikes, for the city centre as well as local neighbourhoods.  

More projects that will be investigated include installing charging points at council-run car parks and popular destinations, speeding up the rollout of mobility hubs that pool shared transport providers at a single location, developing a new Bristol Cycling Centre in Lawrence Weston, and progressing a new park and ride for the M32.

Work will take place over the next six to nine months on the feasibility studies so that business cases can be created for these ambitious projects. 

We will be unable to deliver these proposals alone. Being one of only three cities in the country to be successful in joining the programme, the Department for Transport will offer advice from their analytical, financial and economic experts. We will also seek support and partnership from other stakeholders across the city. Together with this investment and support, we will look at how we can deliver a Zero Emission Transport City for Bristol.

Bristol Pride returns for 2022!

Daryn Carter MBE, stands in the foreground of the photo. Bristol's rainbow crossing is behind him, along with Castle Park.
Today’s blog is by Daryn Carter MBE, Programming Director at Bristol Pride

This weekend the annual Bristol Pride Festival starts. This year sees its returns as a full physical festival after two years of online and hybrid events due to the pandemic.

We’re certainly back with a bang! Over 50 events will take place this year over the next two weeks, which will see the city come alive with Pride with our biggest ever programme of events.

Making a return this year is the Pride Day festival on Saturday 9 July. Taking place on the Downs, it’s the first time the event has been held since 2019 and it’s going to be great to be able to have everyone back together to celebrate, for people to be able to truly just be themselves, and of course to enjoy some incredible music and performances.

Pop star Mel C on stage at Bristol Pride 2019, holding a rainbow flag.
Bristol Pride event on The Downs, featuring Mel C. Photo by Dan Regan.

Over 100 acts will be taking part in Pride Day including Alexandra Burke, Katrina of The Waves, HYYTS, Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, and the headline set from Grammy nominee and global icon Carly Rae Jepsen.

Of course, we have an incredible festival lined up but, this year as about coming back together as a community and poignantly, the Pride March is also back this year, taking place in the morning of Saturday 9 July. The March has not been able to take place for the last two years and its return this year coincides the with the 50th Anniversary of the first Pride March to take place in the UK.

The Parade is truly something special. In 2019, 18,000 people took part and it was just incredible to see. The atmosphere is electric: such love and positivity but with a vital an important message behind it. Yes, it is celebratory, but there is an important message behind Pride and why we still need Pride and events like the Parade. The Parade is a chance to give our community visibility for people to reclaim the streets, to be proud of who they are and perhaps hold their partner’s hand in public in a safe environment, something that may not be possible due to fear of abuse or violence other times of the year, even here in Bristol.

Mayor Marvin Rees (left) and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig (centre) on Bristol's Pride's Parade. They are holding the start of a long rainbow flag stretching into the background. Kerry McCarthy MP is to their right.
Mayor Marvin Rees, Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, and Kerry McCarthy MP during Bristol Pride’s Parade
Thousands of people march for Bristol Pride through the city centre. The crowd, complete with rainbow balloon arches, umbrellas, and banners, is in the middle of the photo, with trees and buildings either side.
Bristol Pride marches through the city centre. Photo by Dan Regan.

It’s also our chance to protest against prejudice and hatred and fight to not only further the rights we currently have as a community, but also to further those that are falling behind. We’ve seen too many times recently that our rights can easily be taken away so we must never be complacent. We currently have a government that seems to ignore its own consultation on positive reforms for our Trans siblings and is now looking at ripping up the Human Rights Act.

I’ll admit I do roll my eyes a little, because I get asked it every year the ‘Do we still need Pride?’ question. I know it comes from a place of assuming that everything’s great now, right!? The answer is no, it’s not, and yes, sadly we do still need Pride because, quite simply, LGBT+ people are still being attacked for simply existing. LGBT+ Hate Crime has increased over the last few years and those attacks have become more brazen and violent. We need Pride to empower our community too. I hold close to my heart every year when planning Pride what the first Pride I went to meant to me. As an isolated and lonely young person who was in a dark place, to see such a large community and realise that I was not alone, I wasn’t a freak, was incredible. Sadly, there are still young, and old, that are in that position and Pride can offer that chance to see yourself reflected in society and to feel that warmth, love and true acceptance for the first time. It’s also a vital space to connect and make friends or access dedicated support services too – which is why our community area on Pride Day remains the heart of the festival.

It’s going to be very special to have Pride back as a full festival this year. Like many we’ve found it hard to keep going through the pandemic. We believe in keeping Pride an open and accessible event for all, so we don’t ticket the festival and rely on the public donations on Pride Day and our supporter wristbands. Without that support over the last two years financially it’s been tough and then, coming out the other side, we’ve been faced with cost increases at every turn but we have an incredible festival lined up this year and as ever we encourage as many people as possible to get a Pride Supporter wristband! They’re just £7 and as well as supporting Pride to happen and keep happening, they offer great rewards such as free bus travel on Pride Day with First Bus, free rides on our dedicated shuttle bus service, and money off the onsite bars and food traders too.

I’d encourage everyone to get involved in Pride this year. Check out our incredible programme of events to come and enjoy and hear more about and from our community. Why not come along to the Parade to showcase your support to the community and help us declare that prejudice and hate has no place in our city? Stand up for our community, if you feel able to challenge homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic language if you hear it. You may not know it, but it could mean so much to someone you know. Moreover, it helps to create a better society for us all, not of tolerance but of true acceptance where everyone can simply just live their lives without fear.

Happy Pride!

Food Justice Week

Today’s blog is by Ped Asgarian,
Director of Feeding Bristol

The One City Food Equality Strategy is ambitious in its aims and scope to provide Bristol with a more equitable food system. Designed with input from across the city, it reflects the desire to ensure that food is a right and not a privilege. It has been launched this week as part of Bristol’s first Food Justice Week – a week that highlights some of the great work happening across the city, and invites citizens to come and join in the conversation about our food system.

Over the past decade, the gap in household income between the richest fifth and the poorest fifth in our society has become  larger than ever. According to the Office for National Statistics, almost a fifth of the country are now living in relative poverty – many of whom will likely be experiencing food insecurity.

If you take the recommended weekly spend on food, and the average spend on energy and rent, the average household needs to be earning approximately £20,000 per year. But families and households living below the poverty line in the UK struggle to make ends meet with much less. Bristol is no exception – in the most disadvantaged wards in the city, the average household income (adjusted for size and make-up of household to allow for relative comparison) for a family of four is only £17,000. As a consequence, the reality is that the poorest in our society – in our city – spend on average, around £55 per week on food to feed a family of four. This is about a third of the recommended spend required to achieve the necessary calorie and nutritional intake.

Food equality exists when all people, at all times, have access to nutritious, affordable and appropriate food according to their social, cultural and dietary needs. They are equipped with the resources, skills and knowledge to use and benefit from food, which is sourced from a resilient, fair and environmentally sustainable food system.”

One City Food Equality – Bristol Food Equality Stakeholder Group, 2021

Inequality exists on our doorstep in Bristol. Where the poorest family of four may earn £17,000, the average income can be up to £60,000 is the wealthier wards of our city. However, household poverty is not the only struggle we’re up against, as this disparity is also felt in the distribution of shops, restaurants, support organisations, access to public transport, and opportunities for cooking and eating with others. COVID-19 in particular has shone a spotlight on the vast inequalities that exist in how we access nutritious, affordable, and sustainably sourced produce –   both nationally and locally. Coupled with the impact of Brexit on both our national food system and economy, if we do not act to ensure an equitable local food system is established, these inequalities will not only continue to exist but will intensify.

The strategy was co-produced with over 70 groups and organisations from across Bristol, including 91 Ways; Bristol Food Union; Lawrence Weston Community Farm; Square Food Foundation; and Wellspring Settlement. It has been informed by community conversations with people who have lived experience of food inequality, the Food Equality Strategy identifies and tackles the issue of rising food inequality in our city. It is a legacy of the ‘Going for Gold’ Sustainable Food Places campaign, and builds on work and research that has been carried out over the last two decades in Bristol. Working alongside the Bristol Good Food Plan 2030, and other One City initiatives that tackle poverty and inequality, its ambitious aim is for a food system that is just and fair. Its scope is far reaching to ensure that food is placed in the heart of communities; looking at issues of access to nutritious, affordable and appropriate food, to our relationship with the land and food production, through to the need to ensure that food is considered as part of city planning and decision making.

This strategy represents an opportunity for Bristol to take a national lead on tackling issues of food insecurity and food inequality more broadly, and with the help of everyone in the city, we have no doubt that this can be made a reality.


Building an inclusive city for all

Today’s blog is by Forward Maisokwadzo,
the Mayor’s Inclusion Advisor

Today (June 20th) is World Refugee Day – designated by the United Nations to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees around the globe.

It has made me reflect on what I have been doing for the past seven or so days in my role as Mayor’s Inclusion Adviser. Checking my diary, I realised I had had the privilege of:

  • Talking to a couple of Afghan families living in a hotel since the fall of Kabul
  • Speaking with two asylum seekers living in Home Office arranged Initial hotel accommodation.
  • Having a coffee with a destitute Eritrean asylum seeker housed by local charity Bristol Hospitality Network;
  • Visiting two welcome drop-in centres run by Bristol Refugee Rights and the Borderlands charity;
  • Receiving a message from a Sudanese female journalist who has just been offered a job through ACH;
  • Visiting some of the Ukrainian Welcome Hubs initiated by some of our local faith groups across the city;
  • Hearing stories of hope from our BCC Resettlement Team of how Syrian families are rebuilding their lives and careers in their adopted home of Bristol;
  • Having a telephone conversation with a single mother with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ about her daughter’s application for school meals;
  • Exchanging texts with the former Mayor of Kandahar, who lived in Bristol before his family were moved to Central Bedfordshire. He told me: “Both my family and I miss Bristol a lot. It was a lovely and nice place.”
  • Hearing progress of some 50 people from Hong Kong attending English as a Second Language classes run by the City of Bristol College;
  • Planning for a Windrush Day flag raising.

All of these stories and experiences remind me of why Bristol is a City of Sanctuary, but they also remind me of just how much work there is to do to improve the experiences of refugees in this country.

Migration is a global challenge which requires a global solution, but all of us can play our part. We need human cooperation. Our cities can be a critical partner in the solution. The crises we face may seem increasingly complicated with the Covid-19 pandemic, global economic challenges, climate change and wars but the power of hope sustains the human heart. Random acts of kindness during the pandemic and responses to the war in Ukraine can inspire all of us to provide welcome and safety to those who need it most – people seeking sanctuary from war, violence, persecution, and environmental degradation.

The theme for Refugee Week nationally is Healing, and here Bristol Refugee Festival and partners are organising events across the city under the theme ‘healing through community’. Activities run until Sunday 26 June with sports, arts, talks and many other activities to explore ways to create strong, safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities.

We are also excited to be welcoming a visit of Little Amal – The Walk (see www.walkwithamal.org) to Bristol on 24 June, hosted by the Bristol Old Vic. Little Amal (her name means ‘hope’ in Arabic) is a 3.5m sized puppet of a young refugee girl representing all displaced children. Her visit to the city’s support for refugees, cultural communities and organisations. The event will start with bird puppet making at the Old Vic at 3pm. Little Amal will appear from the Old Vic at 4pm, then move to the Old City via Welshback and then across the Centre Promenade to Cascade Steps for departure by ferry boat (at around 6pm). She will cross Clifton Suspension Bridge at 5am.

This World Refugee Day is an ideal reminder to all communities, new and established, that migration can work for all. With the right policies and structures migrants and refugees bring fresh ideas, talents, resources, and perspectives that contribute economically, socially, and culturally to local communities. The local authority on its own cannot guarantee that someone seeking sanctuary will be able to thrive in their new community, but we can do our bit and pursue our vision to “play a leading role in driving a city of hope and aspiration where everyone can share in its success.”

Enjoy World Refugee Day 2022!  And help to spread hope not hate!

Open tomorrow! Hartcliffe Way recycling centre

Councillor Kye Dudd at the new Hartcliffe Way Reuse and Recycling Centre

Instead of “Out with the old and in with the new”, tomorrow our brand-new Reuse and Recycling Centre on Hartcliffe Way will be taking in old items for reuse and recycling.

It has been a commitment of my administration to deliver this important facility, and I am really pleased to deliver this promise. The relocation of the street cleansing services that the depot previously hosted on the site is also something we will be sharing more information about very soon.

The centre brings much needed additional recycling capacity to Bristol, helping to meet growing demand and providing residents with a modern, accessible, facility in the south of our city.

This will help reduce congestion at our existing two sites too, meaning everyone can clear up their DIY projects, clear out old household items, or remove other waste in a more efficient way.

The new site has a covered unloading area and one-way traffic system so residents can safely sort their items into easily accessible, dedicated bins. Hartcliffe Way also accepts visitors arriving by foot and bicycle, who do not need to book.

The booking system we have at all sites for residents arriving by vehicle is designed to eliminate queues at all recycling centres and replaces the odd and even number plate system, enabling access for all residents, every day.

I am excited that the centre is also home to one of the largest reuse shops and workshops in the region which we be selling and repairing good quality, pre-loved items that might otherwise have gone to waste. Redirecting reusable items from disposal, saves valuable resources, reduces costs and helps Bristol reach our ambitious recycling targets. Popular items for sale include televisions, paint, furniture and other electricals.

A specially commissioned, large-scale bug hotel in the shape of a recycling logo has been installed on the site, helping to encourage native wildlife and flowers to repopulate the banks surrounding the centre. The muddy banks will become wildflower meadows, supporting local insect populations.

The new site will be open seven days a week, 8am – 6:45pm (summer hours). Booking a visit to the site is quick, simple and removes the need to queue. Residents can book up to two weeks in advance, or as little as one hour before their visit. To book online simply visit www.bristol.gov.uk/bookrecycling. Those without access to the internet can call 0117 922 2100, Mon – Fri between 08:30 – 18:00 (closed 12:00 – 13:30 on Weds).

World Sickle Cell Day

Clementina and T’sharne

Today’s blog is by Tracy Williams, Blood Donation Lead at the Sickle Cell Society.

16-year-old T’sharne, just wants people, “to understand that sickle cell is a thing, that it exists,” and to appreciate the impact it can have upon his day-to day life.

T’sharne is one of the 15,000 people in the UK living with a sickle cell disorder (SCD), the term used to describe a range of inherited blood disorders affecting the haemoglobin in the red blood cells. T’sharne has the most serious form of SCD, known as sickle cell anaemia.

For World Sickle Cell Day on Sunday 19 June, the Sickle Cell Society is asking people to wear red to raise awareness of the disorder, and to show their support for this serious, and often under recognised condition.

Sickle cell disorder is inherited. If both parents carry the sickle cell gene, there is a one in four chance of their child having sickle cell. Although it qualifies as a rare genetic illness, (defined by the European Union as one that affects fewer than 5 people in every 10,000), it’s impact on individual’s lives, and that of their family and friends, can be significant. Around 90 people in Bristol are under hospital care for a sickle cell disorder.

T’sharne’s mum, Clementina, a teacher and campaigner, says that finding out T’sharne had sickle cell was initially difficult to accept, and that she felt guilty for ‘giving’ T’sharne the condition. “Despite having sickle cell in our family, neither me or my husband, were aware that we had the sickle cell trait, or of the risks involved when having a child.” (People concerned that they may be a sickle cell carrier, can ask their GP for a simple blood test which will identify if the gene is present.)

Symptoms

The main symptoms of sickle cell disorder are anaemia and episodes of severe pain, known as a sickle cell crisis. Pain occurs when red blood cells mutate from a round, doughnut-like, shape to sickle-shaped, inhibiting the flow of oxygen around the body and causing the cells to stick together, resulting in blockages in the small blood vessels. People with sickle cell are at risk of a range of complications including leg ulcers, sight loss, and a serious condition called acute chest syndrome, when blood flow to the lungs is blocked.

It was a chest crisis that first saw T’sharne receive donated blood at only 10 years old; T’sharne now receives regular blood transfusions every 4 weeks, via a process called Automated Exchange Blood Transfusion. This is a highly successful treatment where a machine is used to remove up to a third of a patient’s blood and replace it with blood from healthy donors. Since starting on regular blood transfusions in 2018, T’sharne has had no emergency admissions to hospital, a remarkable achievement given he had previously missed a whole school term due to his illness.

Importance of ethnically matched blood

Anyone can have SCD, however, due to the geographical origins of sickle cell disorder, most people affected are of African or Caribbean backgrounds. To ensure that the treatment T’sharne, and many others rely on, can continue without delays, we need many more Black and Mixed Race people to regularly give blood. Transfused blood needs to be ethnically matched to avoid further health complications, and there is an ongoing challenge to encourage more people from these backgrounds to come forward. The Sickle Cell Society’s Give Blood, Spread Love, project raises awareness of the need for more people with African or Caribbean heritage to donate blood, and involves volunteers, such as Clementina, to help us share our message. Since joining us, Clementina has become a regular blood donor (most people with sickle cell trait can donate blood), and has found out she has a rare subtype of blood, known as Ro, which is 10 times more common in people with African and Caribbean heritage, and is especially needed to provide matched blood to people with sickle cell. Clementina, only half- jokingly, now describes giving blood as her ‘favourite pastime’ and has become a powerful advocate for blood donation.

The Sickle Cell Society needs people from all communities to help us raise awareness of sickle cell, and of the lifesaving impact of blood donation on those affected. We are delighted that Bristol’s City Hall will be lit up to mark World Sickle Cell Day on Sunday 19 June, and hope you will join us in showing your support for those living with a sickle cell disorder.

Show your support

Help us to raise awareness.

People of Black African or Caribbean heritage can register to be a blood donor here.

Find out more about the need for Black and Mixed Race blood donors here.

Read our recent report on the serious health inequalities that affect people with sickle cell.

Commemorating Falklands veterans

Today’s blog is by Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member
for Adult Social Care and Integrated Care System and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe & Withywood

After the celebratory atmosphere of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee a fortnight ago, we commemorated another anniversary in Bristol last weekend: the fortieth anniversary of the Falklands conflict.

You may have seen coverage of an event at the National Memorial Arboretum, recognising the sacrifice and contribution of all the armed services. There have also been some new television programmes about the conflict and the impact on the lives of some of those who served since.

Bristol has our own connection to the Falklands conflict, and we were able to recognise this on Saturday 11 June, at a beautiful and very moving service in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel.

The initiative for the service came from a Royal Navy veteran who wrote to Marvin, our Mayor back in the New Year, to say that he had served on HMS Bristol, that the ship had a major role in the Falklands, and  he hoped we were planning to do something about the fortieth anniversary.

That email was passed to me as the City Council’s Armed Forces Champion and, with the Lord Mayor’s Office, we started to look into the history of our connection with the ship, and plan the event, alongside the HMS Bristol Association, and the Royal Navy.

We discovered that HMS Bristol was given the Freedom of the City back in 1972, and that when the ship was decommissioned in 2020 the city was given some artefacts. We also drew on the format of the national Falklands Service in planning our event.

Councillor Helen Holland (left) and Mayor Marvin Rees (right) with Falklands Veteran, standing in the Conference Hall of City Hall.

The event was a wonderful one. The Lord Mayor’s Chapel was full, with the Ship’s colours laid on the altar during the service, and wreaths were placed. We were trumpeted in, the Last Post played, and then we processed back across College Green. Many passers-by interested to hear what the event was. What some found particularly interesting were the very distinctive white, blue and green crocheted scarves worn by the veterans. These are made in the Falklands, using wool from Falklands sheep, and are in the colours of the Falklands medal.

The reception held afterwards in in City Hall, attended by over sixty veterans of the ship, their families and senior representatives of all other services. The ship’s articles were proudly on display, and it was a chance for veterans from all corners of the UK, and even from Canada, to meet up. City representatives thanked them for their service, and Peter Featherstone Williams, the Chair of the Association, spoke in detail of the experience of HMS Bristol, and those who served on her, at that time. For me, this felt like a crucial part of the event, and although we can never understand those experiences unless you have lived them, you could have heard a pin drop whilst Peter spoke.

I am sure that all those there will look back at this event with pride that Bristol was able to recognise the ship and crew in such an appropriate way for their bravery and sacrifice. I hope this something which will be repeated at other significant anniversaries where we can recognise our links with the Armed Forces.

Clean Air Day

Today’s blog is by Ben Bowskill, Partnerships and Public
Affairs manager for West of England at Sustrans

Today is national Clean Air Day; an annual campaign that helps to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and the actions we can all take to help to reduce it.

In Bristol, as with cities and towns across the UK, Sustrans is focusing on how we can all take action to create a healthier and more enjoyable place to live, work and visit, and all whilst improving local air quality.

In the UK, it is estimated that air pollution contributes to around 36,000 deaths per year. In Bristol air pollution contributes to an estimated 300 of those deaths. Together, we can change this.

Government research shows that road transport is one of the biggest contributors to poor air quality in the UK. Poor quality air affects everyone. Children, older people and those with heart, breathing and other underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable. Air pollution moves from your lungs into your bloodstream and can cause heart and lung disease, may contribute to mental health issues, and could leave us more at risk from COVID-19 too.

There are changes we can make today to help reduce air pollution in our city. Leaving the car at home for short journeys – walking to the shops, scooting to school, cycling to work and choosing public transport for journeys are just a few everyday things we can all do.

While travelling under our own steam, we can protect the environment around us by reducing the number of polluting vehicles on the road, and we can feel the many benefits to our health. In our 2021 Bristol Walking and Cycling Index, we found that every year, walking and cycling in Bristol prevents 916 serious long-term health conditions.

Being active while we travel also improves our wellbeing. It means we can spend time outdoors. We can enjoy being surrounded by the sights and sounds of our local area. We can explore where we live, have opportunities to interact with people in our communities, with nature and sometimes be in green spaces along the way. And that’s all whilst going about our day.

The urgent need for cleaner air is why Bristol City Council is introducing a Clean Air Zone in the city centre later this year. Alongside financial support to help people and businesses take this opportunity to transition to cleaner vehicles, we can all do our bit to improve air quality by choosing to walk, wheel and cycle more.  

Clean air will benefit us all and today is a great day to start making some small changes that will make a big difference to our city. We can all help to make Bristol a healthier and happier place to be.

Sustrans considers walking, wheeling and cycling a key element in improving air quality, find out more on their website.

Bristol City Council can help you try more sustainable ways of travelling, go to the free active travel support webpage for more information.

Bristol Refugee Festival is underway!

Today’s blog is by Ursula Billington, Comms Coordinator at Bristol Refugee Festival

From Southmead to St. Pauls, Hotwells to Knowle, communities are coming together to meet new people and celebrate different cultures. With events running throughout June, Bristol Refugee Festival has something for everyone – whether a family theatre show, cookery class, boat tour, dance workshop, football tournament, or neighbourhood get-together, the programme offers a huge range of exciting flavours to suit all palates.

As a City of Sanctuary, Bristol has been actively welcoming refugees and asylum seekers for over a decade. Many of these people make Bristol their home, helping to create our vibrant and diverse city. Bristol Refugee Festival celebrates and values the contribution of refugees, giving them opportunities to share their culture with local people. It’s an exciting, dynamic celebration, where communities are encouraged to embrace their differences whilst sharing similarities through activities we all enjoy.

That’s why we are excited to be expanding our Celebrating Sanctuary Local programme this year. These community-led events are taking place in neighbourhoods around the city, bringing local people together to forge new connections and strengthen their communities.

Our theme of Healing Through Community reflects this emphasis. We all know that healing – becoming sound and healthy again – is much easier with others’ help. Having the support of family, friends and neighbours is so important when we’re going through difficult times. Refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK have lost these networks and need help to build new ones to feel safe and valued. Local communities can play a significant role in providing that care – simply sharing food and a little bit of conversation can help someone feel welcome and less isolated. We can all be a part of that support network, and we can learn, have fun and make new friends along the way.

Here are a few words from our Ambassadors, our amazing refugee and asylum seeker volunteers who live and breathe our values of welcome and inclusion:

 “The Bristol Refugee Festival brings the sense of diversity and togetherness under one roof. There will be a lot of interaction between asylum seekers sharing different backgrounds and a chance to make new friends. Hopefully this will help them to rejuvenate mind, soul and body affected by the difficult asylum process.” Pooja

“I’m made to feel so welcome and I’m proud to be part of such a mature and talented group of people from around the world. We have made big family here in Bristol; me and my son look forward to festival events.” Fatima

“The refugee festival shows a lot of support for refugees, making them feel like they belong and are welcomed. Learning about the cultures and customs of other countries makes us closer to each other and increases mutual respect. The celebration brings people together in joy and pleasure.” Sherien

Adults and children stand together, smiling, in a green garden, with bunting overhead. There are men and women standing, some wearing hijabs. Some people hold flowers. Some of the children hold a placard with hand drawn art of hands on it. It says "Celebrating Sanctuary. Friends of St. Anne's church."

The Festival runs from 6th -26th June. Please do check out our programme, come along to an event and help us make Bristol a true city of welcome. Find details of all events on our website, on Facebook, and Twitter.