Bristol’s response to the national cost of living crisis has been incredible. Across our city, people have come together to provide residents support during difficult times. This afternoon, we hosted an event at City Hall to thank everyone for their tireless efforts over the winter.
One of the outstanding things about Bristol is that we are a city of doers, people who ‘can do’ and who want to make a difference. We saw this so vividly during the pandemic. We are so fortunate to have a wealth of citizens, community and voluntary organisations, and faith groups who offer a warm welcome every day. It is these community connections which strengthen communities, produce wellbeing, and build our resilience as a city so that when we need to respond to a crisis or emergency we can.
In March 2022 we were discussing the alarming rise in fuel prices and cost of living and the implications for the coming winter. We talked about the idea of warm spaces, and social justice has been a key principle. It was very important to everyone we didn’t create places where people would feel stigmatised, so we called them Welcoming Spaces. Our idea was that anyone and everyone would be welcome, no questions asked and the more people the better.
Early on I was approached by a private donor who was willing to fund Welcoming Spaces in the neighbourhoods where the impact would be greatest. Thank you to them.
We were able to work with Quartet and the Integrated Care Board to establish a One City fund to support a whole range of welcoming space activity, community hubs to extend the reach of advice organisations and emotional wellbeing support. Thank you to everyone who, with with Bristol City Council, contributed funding.
We could not have imagined, that we would have a network of over 100 Welcoming Spaces and that 86% of Bristol residents would be within 10 mins walk distance. This has been a true One City collaboration where we each play to our strengths and share what resources we have.
Thank you to every one of you who has given your time and energy to make something happen in your community. What you do is priceless, it is what builds community and makes things possible.
Thank you all of you from the many community and voluntary organisations who work so incredibly hard keep so much of our community infrastructure going, building trusting, lasting connections with the communities you are part of. It is ongoing, difficult work requiring tenacity, ingenuity, and deep commitment. We know it doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t come free.
Thank you to city partners and Bristol City Council colleagues who have committed time, knowledge, and expertise to build this response. These things don’t happen because we will it; they happen because people see what needs doing and take action.
As a country we are in a very challenging place. Life is hard for many people and looks set to get harder for many people. The public sector is facing significant financial challenges as are community and voluntary sector colleagues. Resource comes in many forms, our job as city leaders is to harness those resources and make them available to communities.
We have achieved a lot and learned a lot in the past year. Today was about saying thank you, taking time to reflect on what we’ve learned as we move from crisis response to a lasting approach to build resilient communities.