Freedom of the City: Val Jeal

On 7 November, Freedom of the City was awarded to Val Jeal MBE, the founder of local charity One25. I am proud to have seconded the motion which conferred Val with Freedom of the City, which recognises exceptional contributions to life in Bristol and beyond.

Freedom of the City is a rare honour, with Paul Stephenson and David Attenborough alongside former Prime Ministers and Nobel Laureates on the civic roll. Last month, Daryn Carter MBE, founder of Bristol Pride, was conferred with Freedom of the City.

Val’s contribution to building a better, more equal Bristol, and world, is truly inspiring: founding the Salvation Army Candle Project for street homeless people in St Pauls; volunteering in Genesis House, Chicago; founding One25 to support street-based female sex workers in our city; advising on similar projects in Greece, the Netherlands, and Indonesia; supporting the rehabilitation of male ex-offenders in Bristol; and setting up the Well and Naomi House. In 2003, Val was awarded an MBE and, in 2018, conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Bristol University.

Val Jeal’s Freedom of the City speech can be watched from 18:35 or read in full below. My speech can be viewed from 2:40.

I should like to thank all those involved in making the decision to confer this great honour of Freedom of the City of Bristol on me. Thank you.

I should also like to take this opportunity to thank my husband, Cliff, for his love and support. Without Cliff’s support, given in many ways, it would not have been possible for me to do the work I have done.

And, of course, I want to thank the amazing women I have worked with – those in One25 and those I met through the work. They have given far more to me than I could ever have given to them.

My life has been changed by the men and women I have been privileged to work with – for the better. I have learned so much about their courage in overcoming pain and hardship. It has indeed been a huge privilege that they have allowed me to share in their lives, often to a deep level.

I am delighted that the work of One25 continues – the need remains.

Finally, I accept this honour on behalf of marginalised women the world over who have no freedom, no voice and no power. Thank you.

Photos courtesy of Cliff Jeal.