Clean Air Day

Today at the Create Centre I delivered a speech to outline our plans to tackle air pollution in Bristol.

Bristol City Council last year declared a climate emergency.  We were the first council in the UK to do so. In April we were joined by the University of Bristol who also declared a climate emergency, becoming the first university to do so.  Declaring the emergency is just one part of creating a green, healthy and prosperous city.

The council motion was unanimously carried. It said:

“Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are above 400 parts per million. This far exceeds the 350 ppm deemed to be a safe level for humanity;

“In order to reduce the chance of runaway Global Warming and limit the effects of Climate Breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our CO2eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tonnes per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible;

“Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation, infrastructure, etc., to make low carbon living easier and the new norm.”

It went on to say:

“Cities are uniquely placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions, as they are in many ways easier to decarbonise than rural areas – for example because of their capacity for heat networks and mass transit.”

Both in our leadership of Bristol and the leadership role in key global city networks such as the Mayor’s migration Council and the Global Parliament of Mayors that I co-chair, we are making real the potential of cities being at the forefront in recognizing and tackling the wave interdependent global crisis from as migration, climate change and unprecedented inequality.

Within Bristol itself. 

• We have introduced the City Leap prospectus, a £1 billion package of projects that will transform the way Bristol generates, distributes, stores and uses energy. We are set to deliver a low carbon, smart energy infrastructure that will put us on the path to be the leading carbon reduction city in the UK.

• We have been installing district heating systems, insulated 20 thousand council properties and launched a citywide programme to tackle fuel poverty.

• We are overturning decades of failure and under investment, and have opened up the prospect of a mass transit system – including an underground – with ultra-low carbon output.  And despite the negativity and lack of belief from my political opponents and the understandable caution of many citizens, who struggled to believe anything from a city with such a tragic record of failure, we are now making progress and could link the city centre to the south and to the airport within 8 years. 

We have shown we are the administration that’s broken free of the cant do, risk-averse culture that bound the council for so long. We have genuine ambition for Bristol, a commitment to get stuff done and an impatience with those touch line prophets who shout down our city’s potential and anyone who has the guts to step onto the field of play to work for it.

The Bristol One City Plan was written over two and a half years with over 200 city partners. It sets out a sequence for ambitious city targets for carbon reduction taking up to 2050 and all aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. These ambitions include:

• A regional bus deal that will double public transport usage as we improve our road infrastructure and bus lanes using both private and public sector investment;

• radically increasing the number of electric car charging points year on year,

• working with all our public partners to transition to non-fossil fuel fleet vehicles;

• tackle food poverty including introducing food production sites in every ward and create a regional produce hub to keep food miles low and ensure local food is available;

• work through Bristol Waste and the Clean streets campaign to transform the city’s relationship with waste: reducing the amount we generate, increasing reuse and recycling, and making better use of waste such as turning it into energy.

And our aim that within three years we will:

• Achieve the gold standard for Bristol in the Sustainable Food City Awards,

• Be using smart energy technology to support the efficient use of energy in over 50% of homes, the proportion growing year on year thereafter;

• increasing the number of taxis on Ultra Low Emissions;

• have a full fleet of bio-fuel buses;

• continue metro west developments to grow rail usage;

• have a fully operational freight consolidation centre, reducing freight journeys in and around the city centre;

• and complete the ring of park and rides around the city to reduce the number of commuter cars driving in.

And of course, we intend to work with partners to double the tree canopy. 

The sheer scale and breadth of what we have done should stand in stark contrast to the background noise and opportunistic criticism our opponents have attempted to attach to us. A mentor once said to me “values are what you do, everything else is just words”. It is worth reflecting on this as you look at the conduct of politicians, would be politicians and self-appointed leaders as they compete for attention, approval and seek their purpose across the social media platforms on which too many are living their lives.

But it would be foolish not to recognise there are limits to what cities alone can achieve.

The 2017 Carbon Majors report warns that the big carbon emitting companies need to change behaviour if we are to get the systemic change the world needs. It says:

• not much has changed for the biggest polluters and it’s a relatively small number of fossil fuel producers hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions. 

• that more than half of global emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 corporate and state owned entities.

• and it heightens concerns around temperature rises, confirming that if fossil fuels are extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as the last 28, we would be on course for a temperature rise of 4C. 

Yet the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change tells us we have only 12 years to limit global warming increases to below a rise of 1.5C. Beyond that we face irreversible and self-enforcing climate change characterized by global drought and food shortages, extreme heat, floods and the extension of extreme poverty to many more hundreds of millions of people. 

I want to dwell on this last point for a bit, this relationship between environmental and social justice. Because while it is true that environmental injustice compounds social injustice, it is also true that social injustice and poverty can rob people of the financial space they need to be able to think beyond the crisis of today to think about the crisis of tomorrow. As a result the environmental movement lacks the class and racial diversity it desperately needs to legitimise its democratic energy and evidence that it truly represents a way of doing politics that is truly different to the hierarchical and exploitative systems that have brought us to this point.

What’s more, if we do not hear the voice of the poorest, if they are not with us on the journey, we run the risk of further distancing people from political and economic hope. And that creates conditions ripe for the kind of populist reactionary politics offered by Trump, Farage and Johnson. And we will set environmental and social justice back by decades. 

My plea, my warning is this: we need this to be an inclusive movement. The tactics and approach of some people who claim to offer political leadership on environmental causes, alienates some people. There can be a tendency to use the poorest as items of evidence in any debate rather than colleagues to be respected and worked with.

I recently invited Professor Richard Pancost, the Head of School for Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol to write a guest blog for me.

He said: “to protect our civilisation, we must drive our society towards sustainability, circularity and carbon neutrality, but most of all minimise climate change”.

But he also issued clear warnings to the environmental movement. 

“Climate change is an affront to our putative ideals of fairness and equality.  It is classist and racist.”

“If climate action is a question of social justice then those marginalised groups must be part of the movement.  They must set the agenda of the movement and lead the movement.  And if they are not, those of us who claim the title ‘environmentalist’ cannot ask why they are not engaged but instead must ask how we have failed.  We must challenge ourselves, our privilege and our institutions and understand how we have excluded them”. 

“Have we honestly created an open space for multiple agendas?”

I wholeheartedly agree with Rich…

He concluded

“It is vital to recognise that your own privilege includes your institution, whether that’s a university, a small green business or cash starved charity.  And especially our movement, a movement perceived as being by and for the white middle class” 

A key line from his blog sums up the challenge facing the city, the environmental movement and the need to recognise environmental justice and social justice have to come hand in hand.

 His words:

“It is time to concede that a thousand ripples have yet to become a wave”. 

He is right.  Every time I get the line thrown at me – “there are no jobs on a dead planet”, – I know the person isn’t listening, isn’t building a movement.  To dismiss the importance of decent employment with a glib phrase, shows no understanding, respect or empathy for those who most need economic hope.

The environmental movement must become the movement that draws people together for the environmental, social and economic struggle.  It must be a movement that listens and respects the diversity of experiences and worldviews of the new groups it would have join rather than a pulpit from which to lecture and signal superior values.


Real leadership attempts to deliver on many issues at the same time – some shape the whole world and others the whole of a single person or family’s world. It grapples with the fact that sometimes, the many issues on which we have to deliver conflict, with each other, growing the economy for jobs and reducing our energy footprint on the planet for example. It’s that very reason that real leadership is also about taking responsibility for both your decisions but the consequences of that decision both intended and unintended. 

This is why single issue politics so severely underserves us.

If you take a position that will cost people jobs, and you ignore the consequence and have no solutions, then you are failing the people no matter how noble your reason for taking that position.

In the west Wing, President Bartlet exposed an opponent for talking in “10 word” slogans but having nothing to follow it up with. Yes it is just tv but it is true that campaigns are too often about leaflets and soundbites that can be delivered in under 10 words.  There are Mayoral campaigns gearing up all over the city looking for their 10 words. Take it from me, when you’re in power, you need the next 10 words and the 10 words after that.  If you don’t have them you don’t have enough.

The airport expansion is a perfect example of a complex issue being given the 10 word treatment..  There are mayoral candidates who simply want to oppose it – that’s their 10 words. Easy to understand.  But if the airport doesn’t expand, we will miss an opportunity for thousands of new jobs in the next decade, in particular for Bristol South. So your next 10 words must be on what you will do to replace those jobs. 

The environmental impact of airport expansion is not a binary option. In 2018 alone, 7.8 million travellers from the South West and South Wales bypassed Bristol to fly from Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports, generating an additional 157 thousand tonnes of carbon to add to their flights. So the next 10 words need to address how we will minimise the road miles that come with the growing number of flights that will come irrespective of whether or not Bristol Airport expands.

We will also use the growth of Bristol Airport to strengthen the financial case for Bristol’s mass transit system which we hope will be the means by which we takes millions of car journeys off of Bristol’s roads and the carbon and nitrogen dioxide they bring.  The weaker the airport, the weaker the business case for the underground. So you will need 10 words to explain how you will secure the investment the underground will need and avoid us being trapped in the current, inadequate arrangements.

A Lebanese friend once shared with me “A problem well defined is a problem well solved.” A new paper, due to be published by US researchers later this month, will forecast that information and communications technology will create up to 3.5% of global emissions by 2020.  Carbon output from data centres will surpass the emissions of aviation and shipping combined. It is incumbent on responsible leaders to communicate the complexity of the challenge we face accurately, rather than looking for the easy symbol like the airport, over the substance of a challenge like data centres. 


This week, we have announced the launch of the required consultation on options for us to reach Nitrogen Dioxide compliance. 

Improving air quality is another perfect example of how we need to be inclusive.  We cannot slide into categorizing people who drive cars or anyone who doesn’t experience the world as we do, as the enemy. 

Of course cars are a contributor. But they are also the inevitable consequence of decades of failure resulting in a limited public transport offer.  We will eliminate the worst polluting vehicles and we will improve the worst polluted areas.  But, we will do it by acknowledging the potential impacts on the lowest income households and we will do it by ensuring we protect and drive a sustainable, inclusive economy. 

We will only achieve modal shift by offering better alternatives.  Any change to arrangements for people coming into the city centre to work, will be protected with mitigations for the lowest paid and a scrappage scheme or car replacement scheme for the oldest cars, for those who need support to buy a newer, cleaner car. 

We are continuing the modelling because we are pursuing the quickest path to compliance and we will listen to all citizens while we do so. 

I will leave you with a series of announcements that my administration is working on and will introduce in the next year and beyond.  A lot of our work is being done in partnership with UK 100, a national network of local government leaders focussed on climate action. They will be seconding a person into my office to help deliver on the environment, going far beyond NO2 compliance.


We will improve monitoring of nitrogen dioxide pollution levels throughout the city.  And we will openly publish all that data. 

We will raise awareness and enforce the existing Smoke Control Legislation in licenced premises to reduce the illegal burning of wood and solid fuels.  This will include domestic wood burners and bonfire nuisance. 

We are working with schools, parents and pupils to close roads to cars, outside of schools during drop off and pick up, everywhere it’s possible. 

In the Construction industry, we will review the new powers planned by government to reduce emissions from non-road mobile machinery, like cement mixers, and gather evidence to further consider tightening mobile machinery standards used in Bristol, in line with low emission zone standards.  We will adopt the 2018 Institute of Air Quality Management best practice guidance on monitoring construction and demolition sites to ensure effective management of emissions of dust and particulates. 

Working with our city partners on the city centre revitalisation group and our preparation for the Western Harbour, we are putting active travel at the heart of the plans. This will include planning that brings homes together with retail and entertainment in the name of minimizing the need to travel.

We have submitted a bid to the future High Streets Fund and are focussed on re-designing Nelson Street.  This will include re-modelling the old city and removing traffic from parts of it. 

We are taking a fresh look at the possibility of a workplace parking levy in part as a means to raise revenue for a mass transit system.  This needs to be done responsibly and with our business partners.

We want to introduce green walls and roofs to Bristol.  At a recent Big Offer, Big Ask session, my team met with LiveGraft, who are one organisation who have plans for urban vertical gardening.  We will be structurally reviewing car parks, large buildings and walls and where possible, bring them alive. 

And with UK100 and others, we will continue our campaign to get government to devolve the powers and money we need to move at the pace we need. If government simply rolls down responsibility to cities without resources or powers, we will fail.

We are calling on the government to:

ban diesel generators for domestic energy supply.  We recently saw our planning committee take the strong step of refusing diesel generators positioned next to a nursery in St Phillips but we know the appeal has a strong chance of success. The government must give us the powers to say no to pollutants, especially in heavily populated areas.

Grant increased powers to ban particulates, particularly in industrial and domestic use. And we need the power to ban private wood burners. 

As part of our proposal towards a clean air zone, we have insisted on a city wide scrappage or vehicle replacement scheme. But we are calling on the government to install a national scheme giving everyone who needs it, financial support to update their vehicle to a cleaner one.

Near the very top of the list of actions government must take is to introduce legislation and funding for all new houses and their supporting infrastructure, to be carbon neutral.  Our city region alone has plans to build in excess of 100 000 new houses by 2036 and it would be criminal to set out on that path without the foresight to reduce carbon output. And we need the funding and resources to retrofit older homes and buildings. 

We will be working with UK100 to call for more powers and to strengthen legislation in the Comprehensive Spending review and through the next legislative year. 


From UK 100 to the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, we are fortunate to have world leading expertise available to us in Bristol.

I am pleased that we are able to work with the Green Capital Partnership and they are working with us to establish the One City environment board and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. It is through the Bristol One City Plan, that we will ensure we are able to extend the influence of this expertise beyond the narrow confines of the committed and to the whole city.

If we get this wrong, not only will we miss the opportunity to roll back the climate catastrophe many people in the poorest countries already face, but it will extend to many millions more. If we get it right, we can be a source of hope for our planet.

Big Offer Big Ask

Have you got a big idea for improving Bristol? If so, I’ve asked my team to meet with you.

We are relaunching the ‘Big Offer Big Ask’ initiative to ensure that everyone with a good idea for this city has a chance to be heard.  The programme provides an opportunity for individuals and organisations to pitch their ideas to my team, who will then see if Bristol City Council or other city partners can assist in their delivery.

We are looking for ideas that are deliverable, focused on things my office can influence and are positive for the city. It’s about creating an opportunity for us to work together in building a city where nobody is left behind, and everybody can contribute. We hope that the discussions will be professional and constructive – they’re about sharing ideas and solutions, rather than specific complaints or cases.

Last year, we received more than seventy submissions on a diverse range of topics and were able to offer our support to some fantastic ideas. For instance, Bristol Women’s Voice was given the opportunity to host a Hot Coffee Hot Topic session at City Hall to introduce the Women of Lawrence Hill and network to expand the project across the city. Meanwhile, the Bristol Global Goals Centre project lead was connected with the City Office to support the promotion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in Bristol.

How to get involved

If you have an ‘offer’ for the city and want to explore it with my team, write to summarising your idea in fewer than 300 words by Friday 5 July. My team will then review your submissions and invite a shortlist of individuals to discuss their ideas in more detail on Thursday 18 July.

YellowDog – Fetching opportunities for Bristol

Today’s blog comes from James Stevens, Chief Commercial Officer of YellowDog.

Most business travel advice goes something like this: look for Wi-Fi like it’s water, stick to your itinerary, stay in a safe hotel, and take care of yourself as best you can until it’s over. However YellowDog’s invitation to join a trade and investment delegation to Boston and Chicago promised to be different. The invitation stated three clear goals, develop new business opportunities for YellowDog in two of the US’s most significant cities, market the Bristol and Bath region under the umbrella of Business West and finally create closer ties between the region and the US at a civic, investment, transportation and social policy level.

All sounded pretty lofty and perhaps just aspirational aims. And so to the reality… within minutes of checking in for the flight at Bristol airport we were introduced to a handful of other leading technology companies also on the delegation, next was a very convivial intro to Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and West of England Mayor Tim Bowles, who impressively already knew who we all were, followed by a team from Bristol University, and finally the International Department of Trade people.

From thereon, the whirlwind week only accelerated as we shot across the leafy cities from one new business meeting to another, interspersed with receptions put on by the host consulate generals where we exchanged ideas with the movers and shakers from industry, commerce, education, health and local government. Pockets bulging with new business cards and promises of further collaboration and conversation, each day ended with thoughts of ‘everything is possible’.

On returning to Bristol I tried to summarise to my family the value and significance of this very unique trip and it wasn’t easy. The words that came out were, “an enormous privilege to accompany civic leaders that have such passion for their city and region, have such clear vision for the future and who understand the virtuous relationship between business success, social equality, education and the importance of collaboration”. Oh and we got some deals done, too!

Before I went on this delegation, I could see how it is quite hard for people to make a tangible link to benefits for everyday citizens in Bristol. However the current political climate of uncertainty can be really difficult for businesses and we must do more to encourage new trade and investment. It is really encouraging our local leaders are looking beyond the city boundaries for opportunities to bring home. To put it simply, more business means more jobs, and that can only be a good thing for everyone.

Carers Week 2019

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Helen Holland, cabinet member for Adult Social Care, to mark Carers Week (10-16 June), reflecting on the vital and often unsung role carers play.

This week is Carers Week, and this gives me the chance to tell you what I have been doing during this special week, but also how our work to support carers fits with the wider Better Lives transformation programme.

An important element of the Better Lives programme is the work we are doing to boost the usage of TEC (technology enabled care).

We have been really clear that TEC will not replace person-to-person individual support, but that better use of technology can enhance  personal care, by taking away some of the more mundane tasks, and increasing people’s independence. I am passionate about the difference TEC can make to people’s lives and went on to the Emma Britton show on BBC Radio Bristol this week to talk about it.

This week I also attended the opening of a lovely exhibition, ‘The Art of Caring’, featuring beautiful artwork and crafts made by carers. I also went to a really thought-provoking and lively session at the Vassall Centre called ‘Getting Carers Connected’. Both of these events really brought it home to me again this week, the tremendous work done day-in and day-out, by thousands of people in our city who care for family members.

As we were reminded of at the art exhibition, if all the people who care for someone decided tomorrow that they were not going to carry on with their caring responsibilities, the cost to the public purse, to the Council, the NHS and other services would be massive.

However, it’s not just the financial issues that we need to consider. Many elderly, ill or disabled people want the familiarity and security of a family member’s care, and those carers are very often selfless in their role, in some cases, losing contact with friends and activities they have known and enjoyed for years. I also know that, sadly, being a carer may also lead to some people losing their job or missing out on career opportunities.

This week I have been hearing from carers about how being able to access help and advice from carer’s support organisations can make a huge difference to their lives – having access to a support group where they can share their frustrations, get respite with activities that promote mindfulness and relaxation, as well as getting practical support with benefits, equipment and so on, all makes a difference and helps them to be able to carry on supporting their loved ones.

It seems appropriate this week that Channel Four aired the first episode of The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes. Set in Bristol, the pioneering project featured a restaurant staffed by people living with dementia.

Do try and catch the programme, and see the rest of the series. It really challenges assumptions you might have about people living with dementia – but again, it also shows the amazing job that family members do in caring for them, the stresses and strains – and also the moments of great joy – that come with that.

You can find out more about Carers Week 2019 here

Join the summer travel challenge

During the summer period, we can choose more active travel options for our daily commute. Not only is this good for our health but it’s good for a healthier and sustainable city too.

People are increasingly choosing more sustainable ways of travelling around Bristol. Between 2011 and 2018 there was a 64% increase in people cycling to work. We have also seen a rise in car sharing and walk to work initiatives. And the number of bus journeys taken in Bristol, per person, is on the rise – bucking the national trend.

We can all play our own part in meeting the challenge. Here are some ways you can get started this summer:

  • Active travel. This week saw the launch of 2019’s Travel Challenge – Travel West’s invitation to all commuters in the region to leave the car at home, where possible, and choose alternatives for the daily commute, school run or other travel.
  • Walking.  Walkfest – Bristol’s annual walking festival – had its most successful year yet with attendance up 40%. The festival included art, history and nature themed walks, alongside a large choice of walking sports. Additionally, there were walking to school and walking to work events, as well as walks assessing the pedestrian-friendliness of different areas. On the Travelwest website we’ve highlighted some great walking routes, tips and incentives. The #GetOutAndWalk initiative is here to help you mix up your travel choices where you can.

  • Biking. Cyclists of all abilities are invited to attend the HSBC Let’s Ride Bristol 2019 cycling festival this Sunday (16 June). It’s a festival of cycling which marks the second year of our partnership with British Cycling. I’m pleased that more than 1,000 people have already registered to ride traffic-free around the city centre and Millennium Square route. If you have no bike then hire-bikes and the app-based yellow YoBikes will be available to use on the day. If you’re new to YoBike their first ride is free. Please book your place at Let’s Ride, although people can turn up on the day and ride.
  • Car share.  Could someone be going the same way as you? The Travel West website has some great tips for car share and buddy schemes. There are several apps and sites that can help. Sharing is social, saves you money and helps reduce CO2 emissions.

Thursday 20 June is Clean Air Day. Even though increased numbers of people are using public transport, walking and cycling, harmful air pollution levels from vehicles still exceed the UK and EU air quality limits in Bristol.

This week I announced options for how we can help tackle the problem. I want measures that support everyone’s health, help us meet government targets, and are fair to all people in Bristol.

Read about the proposals and look out for the public consultation which opens on Monday 1 July.

All efforts to reduce the congestion on our roads and introduce healthy and active travel will make a positive difference. Make sure you join the travel challenge this summer.

Mental Health: moving the conversation forward

Today’s blog post comes from Cllr Asher Craig Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

Social workers play a crucial role in the mental and emotional wellbeing of the vulnerable children and adults they work with. They are often the voice of the voiceless; helping to ensure the people they work with feel empowered in their own lives. We know that in order to empower others, social workers need to feel that their roles are valued.

However, as The British Association of Social Workers recently commented, this isn’t always recognised in legislation. This is why, with the ongoing review of mental health legislation by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work, there is an opportunity to explain the value of social work.  The aim of the group’s inquiry is to promote the role of the social worker within mental health services and to improve social worker working conditions under a new Mental Health Act.

Mental health and wellbeing is a key priority for us, and we recently launched Thrive Bristol. Thrive is a ten year programme to improve the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the city, with a focus on those with the greatest needs. It covers all ages and considers mental health in its broadest sense. Mental wellbeing is also a key focus for the One City approach; the overarching goal for wellbeing in the One City Plan is that by 2050 everyone in Bristol will have the opportunity to live a life in which they are mentally and physically healthy. Mental and physical health need to achieve political, social and cultural equality. This is starting to happen, but there is a long way to go and lot of work still to do. Until the conversation about mental wellbeing is treated with equal seriousness as physical wellbeing, health inequalities will not be meaningfully reduced and our children and young people will continue grow up in the wake of adverse childhood experiences.

To be a healthier city, we need to work across all sectors; education, employment and housing all play intersecting roles when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing. Thrive Bristol has a focus on prevention, early intervention and resilience. Educating our children and young people about how to take care of themselves and each other and how to talk openly about their feelings and struggles is the first step. This ensures stronger resilience and provides individuals with the tools and vocabulary to recognise triggers and communicate meaningfully about mental health issues.

Bristol City Council is also a supporter of the Time to Change initiative, which wants to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change recognises that it can be very difficult to open up about mental health at work, with 95 per cent of people calling in sick with stress giving a different reason. By working together as a city and using the expertise and support offered by the national Time to Change campaign, we can make great progress towards Bristol becoming a city free from stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Information on how to get in touch with mental health services and links to support groups in Bristol is available here.

Trading Places


This week I led a delegation to Boston and Chicago in the USA.

The trip was focussed on growing trade and investment in Bristol and we took with us several businesses from Bristol and the wider region.    The visit was fully supported by the government, we were accompanied by the government’s Department for International trade (DIT), and my travel was fully funded by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs.

The businesses who came with us included:

  • Rixxo, which is a digital campaign agency, working with businesses in Bristol and around the world to engage wider audiences.
  • Sparkol, software company which produces videos and animation for other companies.
  • YellowDog, the most interestingly named company, which expands capacity for companies and simplifies complexity in digital processes.

The West of England Mayor and some businesses from the wider region also came.

As you can tell from the list above, this was a high tech-focussed visit  and we chose Boston and Chicago as cities who could be successfully targeted to grow contacts and inward business for Bristol’s tech economy. This is great for Bristol, as successful companies will grow and create more jobs for people. I have invited them to share their success in my blog next week – watch this space.

IMG-20190607-WA0002While in Boston, I also took the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Boston, and several of his department commissioners, looking at issues common to our two cities.   Boston and Bristol have a lot in common and I’m not just referring to history.  Both cities have growing young populations and a strong migrant population.  Both cities have a high proportion of citizens with higher level qualifications and both of us have seen the widening of the inequality gap. We also both have housing need as our number one priority and both have to deal with a huge daytime growth of people in the city, from commuters coming into the city to work and visit.

We were able to share and learn with Boston and we discussed the challenges of physical participation in sport and mental health challenges. I was delighted to be able to introduce the work of Empire Fighting Chance and the work they are doing with mental health intervention for disadvantaged communities.

We also looked at the innovative transport infrastructure system, The Greenway, with tunnel systems which takes traffic out of the built up areas and instead provides pleasant green pedestrianised space.

We were able to look at the growing challenges of adult and children’s social care.  Major cities in America are facing even bigger challenges than we are so it was good to hear their experiences and solutions.


In Chicago, I was honoured to meet Chicago’s newly elected first female black mayor,

Lori Lightfoot. I then joined the Global Cities Forum where I spoke with other mayors on the growing understanding of the leading role cities play in tackling the 21st century challenges, including migration and population growth.

Cities continue to grow and within 10 years, 60% of people across the world will live in cities.

The role of internationalism is important to Bristol as a major city and we must embrace the opportunity to make connections with cities and global agencies and crucially bring new trade and investment to our city. Investment in infrastructure is essential to a city with a rapidly growing population like ours and to hide away from that fact and the urgent need for modern infrastructure and inclusive growth would be an abrogation of responsibility of city leadership.

Look out for next week’s blog, including stories from the businesses who came with us.

Children’s Right to Food Charter

Today’s blog comes from Kerry McCarthy, Member of Parliament for Bristol East.

For the past year, I’ve been taking part in the Children’s Future Food Inquiry (CFFI). It’s the first time the views of children and young people living in food poverty have been collated in one study, and we heard some really moving stories from kids about the impact that hunger has on them, including their ability to concentrate in class, as well as the shame and stigma that comes with being on free school meals.

The inquiry has now ended, and I held a parliamentary debate to reveal its findings. I called on Ministers to implement the Children’s Right2Food Charter, which was drawn up in response to the evidence we heard over the course of the year.

The Charter calls for all children to be guaranteed a healthy lunch at school, and for parents and carers to be helped to put healthy food on the table at home. Other measures include reducing the stigma around free school meals and limits on the advertising of junk food.

This Government has done little to address the food poverty crisis facing our society, which the UN Rapporteur called ‘a social calamity and an economic disaster’ in his recent report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK.  I am proud that individuals and organisations across Bristol are, however, leading by example.

Food insecurity and hunger are very real problems in Bristol, with 1 in 3 families living in poverty. This already distressing statistic rises to a shocking 50% in more deprived areas like Lawrence Hill.

The school holidays are a particularly difficult time for those families who rely on free school meals during term time; sometimes this could be a child’s only decent meal of the day. Last summer Feeding Bristol – a local charity which the Mayor and I helped set up – ran a holiday hunger scheme across the city, providing around 3,000 meals to children who would otherwise have gone without. We did have some Government funding for a pilot last year but, despite its success, we have not been given any funding for this year. We are therefore appealing to the business community for funding to carry out this crucial work.

For many low-income families the difficulty of putting food on the table is compounded by a lack of access to affordable shops or greengrocers selling fresh produce. Such areas, where it is difficult to access good-quality and affordable food, are known as ‘food deserts.’ A national study last year by Kellogg’s identified three areas in Bristol as food deserts including Hartcliffe and Withywood – which were, shockingly, deemed the second and fifth worst in the whole country.

Poverty is also a factor in childhood obesity, as junk food is often cheaper and more easily accessible than healthier alternatives. There are more takeaways in poorer areas than in the more affluent parts of the city. Two Bristol mums – Suad Yusuf and Sahra Hasan – have done great work to expose the inequalities of takeaway culture in our city, recently featuring in a BBC documentary about the number of fast food restaurants in their home of Easton compared to those in Clifton – a staggering 44 to seven.

While this may all make for rather bleak reading, the positive news is that pioneering work is taking place across the city to promote healthy and sustainable food. Bristol already holds a Silver Sustainable Food Cities Award – just the second city in the UK to do so – which recognises efforts to transform Bristol’s food culture through things like safeguarding the diversity of food retailers, increasing urban food production and supporting community food enterprises. Bristol has now launched its bid to become the first Gold Sustainable Food City in the UK by 2020, and improving food equality will rightly be key to achieving this, along with a focus on procurement and on tackling food waste.

I will have a further opportunity to raise the findings of the CFFI in a parliamentary debate in the coming weeks, at which point I hope to see Ministers taking child hunger seriously by supporting efforts – like those seen in Bristol – to end food insecurity for all.

The Grand Iftar

Today’s blog comes from Easton ward Councillor Afzal Shah.

Ramadan Kareem! The month of Ramadan, for Muslims, is a period of reflection, self-restraint and solidarity, and involves fasting from dawn until dusk. Ramadan is not an individual experience, but about community.

This year, Bristol witnessed its third annual “Grand Iftar”, bringing together thousands of people from diverse backgrounds to collectively break-bread.

There were a number of engaging speakers, including renowned American scholar, Sheikh Afdal Feroze, who spoke about the need to promote greater friendship and understanding, as well as the significance of the holy month of Ramadan. We also had the opportunity to gain a brief insight into the Islamic contribution to Astronomy, in an enlightening speech by Robert Massey (Dep-Director of the Royal Astronomical Society), and were also joined by local leaders including Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig and Kerry McCarthy MP.

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, spoke about how Bristol’s Grand Iftar has inspired other cities around the globe to get in touch via the Global Parliament of Mayors. Bristol, indeed Easton, can be immensely proud of what its achieved – this is the best antidote to the politics of division that we are currently witnessing.

There was a heightened atmosphere of excitement and solidarity, buoyed by the beautiful Islamic inspired “nasheed” music gently playing in the background, the evocative call to prayer made by the Imam of St Marks Road Mosque that echoed across St Marks Rd, and the wafting fragrances of the food being prepared. We were also treated to a video, commissioned by myself and Mohammed Elsharif (Grand Iftar co-organisers), detailing the preparation, and how the event has further united the city’s Muslim community. An inspiring performance, too, by former poet-laureate, Miles Chambers, as he read his poem, “Bristol, Bristol”, paying homage to the rich diversity to Bristol.

As we were preparing to collectively break the fast, we were reminded that this event simply wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers, and of course the contributions of local businesses and support of the emergency services. Preparing 6,000 meals is no mean feat! A huge thanks to everyone who attended yesterday evening. Bring on Bristol’s Grand Iftar 2020!

Hit for Six – Cricket World Cup comes to Bristol

CWC photo 2Hosting three men’s ICC Cricket World Cup tournament matches next month is another landmark achievement for this city. It’s a reminder of the priority we place on sport, not just as a means to connect globally but to celebrate the inclusiveness of Bristol.

Reigning champions Australia, past winners Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in action in group games at the County Ground between 1st – 11th June. And with South Africa, the West Indies and New Zealand also playing pre-tournament warm-up games here this month, there is no better opportunity for our city’s diverse communities to enjoy a global sporting event together.

Bristol successfully hosted eight ICC Women’s World Cup matches in 2017 and our status as a host city for the men’s tournament this summer continues to show we are delivering world class sports events to the city.

The Circuit of the Mendips, the Tour of Britain and a future for T20 cricket internationals in Bristol are among events to have been hosted or secured in recent years. We have also declared our ambition for Bristol to be a host city for the football’s 2030 World Cup, should a bid from this country proceed.

But securing major events is only one of several priorities within our approach to sport.

Bristol was named as a European City of Sport for 2017 because of our sporting facilities, level of participation, success of local teams and sporting events – and our Bristol Active City website continues to promote activities taking place across the city.

Our proud cultural and sporting history is a core contributor to the ongoing success of the city and to making Bristol a better place to live. Our ‘City of Openness, Imagination and Originators’ strategy sets out our ambitions to ensure that every citizen should be able to participate in and benefit from the city’s cultural and sporting life.

Bristol is the most active of the Core Cities, with over 70% of citizens meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s Guidance on physical activity, but the challenges posed by economic and social inequalities remain.

Sport and general physical activity plays an important role in both physical and mental health and well-being. We want to inspire all people to get involved, be it by providing services, being open to ideas and enabling others to run events, or continuing to work with community groups to promote sport and physical activity in under-represented groups.

Campaigns such as ‘Bristol Girls Can’ aim to break down the barriers around exercise and inspire more women to get active, while the Empire Fighting Chance boxing project challenges and inspires young people to realise their potential. Run4Life has been delivering Beginner Running Courses across Bristol since January 2015 and the 16th June Let’s Ride cycling festival, in partnership with British Cycling, is an example of a fun activity open to all.

I hope that the arrival of the men’s Cricket World Cup in Bristol will connect, entertain and inspire our citizens and visitors alike, helping us to achieve the goal of creating healthier and more resilient communities.