World Social Work Day 2019

Today is World Social Work Day.  It’s an opportunity to pause, recognise and celebrate the great work of our social work colleagues across the city and around the world. We’re grateful to have so many dedicated and passionate people making lives better for people every single day, often in challenging circumstances.  My guest bloggers are Principal Social Workers Maria and Vanessa, who both work for Bristol City Council.

Here, Maria tells us what it means to be a social worker.

I came into social work to make a positive difference to the lives of others and almost 20 years later I believe that social work is still the best way I can make that difference. We work in the places where people are at their most vulnerable, supporting them to take control of their lives and the way they want to live them.

I was speaking to a social worker last week who had been working with someone with dementia who was extremely reluctant to even open the door to us.  This incredibly skilled social worker was able develop trust, which ultimately meant she was able to offer support to help this person stay safe and well in their own home, despite enormous pressure from others to place them into residential care.

Another colleague stayed out late into the night last week to ensure that a very traumatised young adult in mental health crisis was safe until a hospital bed was available. She stayed with that vulnerable young person, making sure they were safe and supported.

Examples like these show how each day brings with it a fresh scenario you never imagined you might encounter. I don’t think we always realise the amount of creative thinking that is needed to be an effective social worker. Each day social workers explore different ways to support individuals to live the life they want to live in the context of people having access to often very limited personal resources. We work with people and their families to find a way through their difficulties by acknowledging their needs whilst highlighting strengths in complex and often emotionally demanding situations.

So this year’s theme for World Social Work Day is human relationships, which is very poignant for me.  Supporting people to maintain their relationships is essential to delivering good social care.  The importance of human relationships cannot be underestimated in terms of sustaining wellbeing for all of us and when these relationships break down so often does people’s mental health.  Social isolation and loneliness are key factors in predicting poor mental health.

I am observing a real shift in social work practice in Bristol.  Back towards having conversations with people to discover what they want from life and their care and support and moving away from traditional more formal solutions.   This, for me, is returning to social work’s good roots, and this makes me proud to call myself a social worker in Bristol.

Vanessa, who works with children and their families in Bristol, tells us about her chosen career.

Social working with children and families in Bristol is one of the most rewarding jobs that anyone can have. It’s fast paced and demanding but it is also really rewarding.  We work hard to help families stay together safely wherever we can and, where necessary, we take action to protect children from harm.

Our focus is always on building relationships with children and their families so we can understand what life is like for them, and working with them to make the changes needed to keep their children safe. We are also lucky to have such great colleagues in Bristol. We celebrate each other’s successes and help each other through harder times.

Today we are hosting a ‘Wellbeing’ afternoon for practitioners to mark World Social Work Day and to show just how much we value our social workers and what they do for people in our great city.  We are looking forward to welcoming to City Hall our guest speakers Dr Nina Smyth, senior lecturer from the University of Westminster, and Jane Evans, parenting specialist and expert in self-care.

Fizz Free and Sugar Smart

Last month, I took part in Fizz Free February to highlight the health issues associated with sugary and fizzy drinks. These include increased dental problems, obesity and diabetes, especially among children. In Bristol, more than half of adults and more than a third of children in Year Six are overweight or obese. Almost a quarter of kids in the city have at least one decayed, missing, or filled tooth. And more than a fifth of added sugar intake for 11-18 year olds comes from sugary soft drinks.

Bristol was one of the first places to achieve Sugar Smart City status two years ago, and the Council has since been running the Bristol Eating Better Awards to help local restaurants and takeaway to offer healthier options. We’re also looking to increase the exclusion zone around schools and youth clubs for new fast food places through the review of the Local Plan. One public-spirited local business in Southmead has installed a water fountain outside, which is also a good deal for the planet as it encourages the use of refillable bottles and cutting down on single-use plastics. Water is always the healthiest option, and should also always be the cheapest and easiest.

I was happy to meet with Labour’s North West MP Darren Jones and Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who also took part in the initiative, at Southmead Hospital at the end of February. Celebrity chefs have also backed Fizz Free and Sugar Smart and Tom has managed to reverse his own type 2 diabetes as a result of improving his health through diet and exercise. It was great to hear that the hospital has reduced the amount of sugary drinks sold, and meet NHS staff at Southmead about the work they’re doing to tackle these issues, but the scale of the problem is still shocking. I also encouraged the NHS to stay involved in our joined-up work across Bristol through the One City Plan.

For people in the poorest parts of Bristol these problems and health inequalities are at their most acute. Food deserts – where there are limited options for fresh, healthy and affordable produce – still exist in the city. Some on social media made jokes when I opened a new supermarket recently, but access to a better food at cheaper prices and jobs which pay a real Living Wage are not sniffed at for a second by most Bristolians.

All of this isn’t to say that – as part of a balanced diet – the occasional fizzy drink or sugary snack isn’t ok. They are, but it doesn’t do anyone any harm to be more mindful about what we eat and drink. And policy-makers have a real duty to try to encourage healthier choices.

International Women’s Day 2019

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.

In 2018, I became Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, the only dedicated city cabinet member with responsibility for Women in the UK. No other city makes such a clear statement about the importance of a focus on women. In Bristol we know that unless we ensure our women are safe, free from violence and abuse, supported and healthy then our families cannot thrive. We consider childcare an economic issue and have made affordable childcare a city priority. We want to improve health outcomes for women; in some parts of Bristol they are amongst the lowest in the country. We are determined to eradicate period poverty in Bristol, an issue that affects too many of our women and girls.

The work of extraordinary women keeps this brilliant city moving, thriving and improving. And in my role, I am lucky enough to meet many great women whose names you may not recognise, but who give so much to their communities, organisations and in turn to Bristol.

In Southmead, women lead our community. Southmead has so much going on; from knitting groups to poetry workshops to a soap opera.  But there is one extraordinary  woman who is at the centre of everything. Deana Perry is committed to ‘resident power’, she fights to make sure that people living in Southmead always have their say (as well as running bingo, Team Southmead, Young Mums, going to Royal Weddings and playing skittles!).

Every community has a Deana, women who work tirelessly to make things happen and give so much of their own time to others. At Felix Road Adventure Playground, Mandy Watson has steered the organisation back from the brink and now chairs this  amazing space that really is ‘home’ for so many children. The playground is thriving with exciting plans for the future and Mandy continues to lead whilst showering children and staff with love and support.  

Saada Jumale does endless work in the Somali community and has done for the past 14 years, she runs a girls group, founded a women group and organises an elders women’s lunch. She quietly makes things happen and is a lynchpin for many Somali women.

Lorraine Bush has been a champion for Hartcliffe for many years. She is an inspirational leader, whose commitment to families and individuals with drug and alcohol problems never diminishes. Lorraine has ensured that Hawkspring has survived and grew, despite financial challenges in the past.

Nikki Lawrence leads the Family Nurse Partnership in Bristol, working with young mums and their babies, providing vital support in keeping families together and helping young women to access education. Her team are a lifeline for families across the city.

Unique Voice and Community of Purpose are two brilliant organisations, led by women, working to support our most disadvantaged children. Unique Voice, led by the unbelievably passionate Krystal Keeley, Claire Farnham and Cat Sparkes, uses drama and the creative arts to work with children on anti-bullying, internet safety and provides free holiday provision. Amy Kington and Holly Maurice at Community of Purpose champion Bristol’s amazing young people through the Bristol Young Heroes Awards  and their work combatting holiday hunger.

Debra Newick and Diane Bunyan led The Women of Lawrence Hill project , an amazing piece of work focussing on the development of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, over 100 local women contributed to ensure there will be employment opportunities for them. This research will be shared with Bristol City Council, and was led by Bristol Women’s Voice.

In business, Heather Cooper, at Hargreaves Lansdown is leading a cultural change.  Staff are encouraged to volunteer across the city and diversity and mentoring are championed. Heather’s Harbourside neighbours, We The Curious are shaking things up too. The organisation is now led by the effervescent Donna Speed and Anna Starkey who have led an incredible reinvention of one of Bristol’s key attractions and are determined to make We The Curious a place for all of Bristol.

Of course the list goes on. There are hundreds of women who deserve to be recognised for the work they do in Bristol and I wish I could name them all. Instead, we can all use International Women’s Day 2019 to recognise and thank the women in our communities and the work they do for all of us.

The first few weeks

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

When the Mayor asks anyone to join his Cabinet it’s a very great honour. For a born and bred Bristolian like me, it is doubly-so.

The change in role hasn’t been without its humour. The irony that I am the newly appointed cabinet member for Waste wasn’t lost on me when my own recycling collection was recently missed in the aftermath of the snow! But I’d like to repeat Marvin’s thanks for all the hard work done during the disruption caused by the inclement weather.

The new fleet of vehicles should begin arriving at Bristol Waste over the next few weeks and months. This should see a steady improvement in the reliability of the collections that residents get as the older, more unreliable vehicles are progressively retired from service. Keep an eye out for the new trucks.

The city should also see increased activity around our Clean Streets agenda as we continue to raise the profile of this work still further by making the streets measurably cleaner by 2020. The public has a right to be able to take pride in the state of our city. I am proud to see the large army of volunteers and committed community groups to tidy our neighbourhoods. We will come down even harder on the minority that seem to think that littering and fly-tipping restrictions are things that other people should take heed of, not them.

We’re progressing with (what I will insist on calling) our Household Waste Reuse & Recycling Centres at Avonmouth and Hartcliffe Way at a pace that was started by Kye Dudd, my predecessor. The team is working hard to get these built and operational as soon as we can. I receive fortnightly reports on this work. This was not only a manifesto promise; it’s a matter of the city’s carbon footprint and a financial & social benefit too.

Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and I had a very exciting meeting with members of the Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance in the last couple of weeks following the debate at January’s Full Council on the use of glyphosate to control weeds. We will work on a One City basis to develop new methodologies to control weeds that are less dependent on pesticide use, especially glyphosate. Not just on council owned land but across the city. Watch out for more news on this work in the coming months.

My promotion to the Cabinet hasn’t been without an element of sadness but relinquishing my Licencing, Scrutiny and Audit committee roles goes with the territory. I give thanks to the team in Licensing for their help and support over the last few years, both elected members and officers. Not only has it been a total blast but I’m certain that we’ve saved lives and made Bristol’s night-time economy a safer place to be. I know that they’ll continue the great work.

The Scrutiny team will joke that I’ve joined the Dark Side but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time on several of our Scrutiny Commissions over the years; for a while serving as Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Management Board. Again I want to thank friends and colleagues, for their kindnesses. Their help and advice over the last several years have helped to secure this new opportunity for me. I couldn’t have done it without you.

And there’s more. But I suspect my editor will already be losing patience with me because of the length of this piece. Three hundred words, I was told. That was never going to happen. So I’ll just have to elbow the Mayor to one side on another occasion if I’m to blog about some of those other things!

Apprentices building Bristol’s economy across all sectors

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Anna Keen, cabinet lead for Education and Skills.

Apprenticeships play a huge part in our efforts in building an inclusive, flourishing economy that doesn’t leave people behind.  They bring together training and real life experience to ensure the individuals completing each programme are work-ready, demonstrating first class experience of work, transferable skills that most employers look for and high quality qualifications.

Yet there are still myths about apprenticeships, who can do them, the types of subjects they cover and they often still come with a stigma of being a second class choice. I often see schools and parents guiding their young people towards other options, perhaps not fully understanding a modern day apprenticeship.

This week is National Apprenticeships Week, which shines a light on apprentices and their employers across the country and how much apprenticeship programmes have changed over the years.

Did you know…

  • Apprenticeships are suitable for anyone aged 16 or over?
  • Apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from Level 2 for those just starting their career to Level 7 Master’s Degree equivalent across professional and management roles?
  • Apprenticeships cover a range of sectors, including law, finance, education, sales, marketing, IT as well as more traditional subjects?
  • Doing an apprenticeship can increase your long term earning potential and are also great for those returning to work or changing career?
  • Apprenticeships offer a competitive salary whilst all your training costs are paid, including at degree level?

For the employers that take on apprentices, the benefits are far-reaching. Across the UK, 78% of these organisations reported improved activity across the workforce, 74% reported improved product or service quality, 65% recognised the new ideas that apprentices bring to their organisation and 83% would recommend other business take on apprentices (Learners and Apprentices Survey 2018 report).

At Bristol City Council we currently have 160 apprentices across all areas (including one in the Mayor’s Office) and aim to increase that to 200 by 2020. Some of the council’s apprentices recently interviewed Mayor Rees on what apprentices bring to Bristol and the organisation.

This week there are a number of opportunities across the city to find out more about apprenticeships, including:

  • A digital open day on Wednesday 6 March, 10am-3pm with a range of organisations answering questions about apprenticeships on Twitter.  Anyone with an apprenticeship question can get in touch with one of the participating organisations via Twitter using the hashtag #ApprenticeOpenDay 

Drop in sessions at The Mall, The Galleries and City of Bristol College

  • Employer events at Aerospace Bristol

For more information about all of these events, visit

This week also sees the launch of a brand new website, as part of the Healthier Together partnership, which promotes apprenticeships across the region’s health and social care services.

Bristol is also taking part in the government’s Five Cities Apprenticeship Diversity Hub project, which is a pilot scheme designed to broaden the appeal of apprenticeships to more diverse audiences. It includes Bristol alongside Birmingham, Leicester, London and Manchester. Locally it is also supported by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

Apprenticeships provide us with a talent pipeline for the future and help us develop leaders for the future – I am proud to be supporting National Apprenticeship Week as a celebration of the energy and passion that apprentices bring to our city.

Diversity is one of Bristol’s Greatest Strengths

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Sultan Khan (Labour – Eastville), who organised the 67th International Mother Tongue Day in Bristol on 21 February.

International Mother Language Day commemorates the anniversary of Bengali/Bangla being restored as the official language of Bangladesh, after years of protests over Urdu being imposed by the then-Government in Islamabad. Later, in 1971, Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan.

After Bengali was reintroduced, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) stepped up efforts to recognise the world’s cultural diversity. Then, in 2008, the UN General Assembly recognised Bangladesh’s Mother Language Day as an international day of commemoration to celebrate the languages of all peoples.

This of course includes all of the nearly 100 languages used by our communities all across Bristol, including sign language. This diversity so enrichens Bristol’s social fabric, and is one of our city’s greatest strengths.

Learning languages is important for people of all ages, improving our skills in an increasingly international economy but also to preserve and protect languages as a vital part of maintaining our history and culture.

It was therefore a pleasure to be joined by so many Bristolians, including city councillors, the Deputy Lord Mayor, the High Sheriff, the Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, and lecturers in linguistics for this year’s commemoration. I am proud to have helped raise the flag of Bangladesh outside of City Hall this lunchtime, and to have been joined by colleagues from the Bangladesh Association – Bristol, Bath, and West at a reception around the corner.

Modor gorob moder aasha. A’mori bangla bhasha!

Engaging with the future of your local library

In Parliament today, the House of Lords discussed the impact of the closure of local libraries in England. Over the last year alone, nearly 130 static and mobile libraries have closed, bringing the total number of closures to an estimated 800 since the coalition government 2010.  Here in Bristol, we understand how much people care about their libraries and took this into consideration last July, when my Cabinet and I decided to keep all 27 libraries open, pledging to work with community groups to explore sustainable options for the future.

“Libraries change lives for the better, including in tackling social isolation” it was noted today, as peers referenced the findings of a recent libraries taskforce, and this is certainly something I would agree with.

With the council’s footprint reducing and with many libraries needing investment, it’s particularly important therefore that we adapt to ensure we have a sustainable library service that people across the city can enjoy. Our library team is currently working alongside residents and organisations to come up with solutions for extending the service and the use of the buildings, while also looking at the wider needs of the local community.

Last month on this blog, my Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Communities, Asher Craig, highlighted a series of community events being held to bring together local people to consider opportunities for the future of their local library. We want to use this period to explore how we can work with communities to make these spaces more appealing and tailor them to fit the needs of the local area – there is certainly no one-size fits all approach.

Through discussions held so far, our team have received a wide range of new ideas and suggestions for collaboration, whilst our upcoming library strategy will build on this work by presenting a vision for the future of services in the city, plans on how to make each one financially sustainable and the best location for them to be placed.

There’s no denying that public libraries can be beacons for knowledge and for communities across the city, particularly because they are trusted places that welcome everyone. Their services will play an important role in supporting future generations, something reflected in our One City Plan that looks to see Bristol become a ‘Reading City’ by 2020, building on international projects that encourage reading to and with children from early in life.

We have the opportunity for us and local communities to pilot new approaches and explore new partnerships as we work together to find the best possible options for the future and I hope you’ll get involved in this conversation. To find out more about the community events or take part in the survey, please visit:

Making Bristol an ACE Aware City

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.

Addressing the ACEs Bristol Conference on 17 January

I wanted to take this opportunity to write about an important journey we are embarking on as a city, which I see as being key to our administration’s aim of ensuring that Bristol is a city in which nobody is left behind. Last month, we held the first ever Bristol Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Conference at We the Curious, alongside our partners at the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Over 450 delegates attended the conference from across the public, private and third sectors. ACEs are negative experiences in early life and childhood that can have an impact on health and well-being throughout life. There is no universally agreed definition of an adverse childhood experience, but studies addressing the issue have mostly converged on a similar set of experiences:

  • direct harms: physical, emotional or verbal abuse and physical or emotional neglect
  • indirect harms (‘household challenges’): domestic violence, parental drug/alcohol misuse, parental criminal behaviour/ incarceration, parental mental illness and bereavement (linked to death or separation).

The draft ACEs vision statement circulated at the conference

Research has shown that stressful experiences during childhood have a significant impact on a person’s life chances, both in terms of physical and mental health, as well as social outcomes. In short, paying attention to people’s ACEs is about asking “what has happened?” rather than “what is wrong?”.

The conference was an important opportunity to collectively set out the first steps we are taking as a city to achieve the following goals set out in the One City Plan: By 2050, everyone in Bristol will have the opportunity to live a life in which they are mentally and physically healthy. Children will grow up free of adverse childhood experiences, having had the best start in life and support through the life course. These are clearly ambitious goals, but I believe that we can achieve them by bringing our collective expertise together as a city.

ACEs are not inevitable, and nor is it inevitable that the people who experience multiple ACEs will not go on to do well in life with the right support. This is why our citywide commitment to tackling the cycle of ACEs across generations focuses not just on prevention, but on how we can help enable those who have experienced them to flourish, and to prevent them from happening to their own children. Some of our partners are already paving the way in their adoption of ACE aware approaches, including Family Nurse Partnership, which works with young parents to improve the future health and well-being of their children, as well as support parents in planning for their future.

The Mayor addressing the conference

In Bristol, being ACE aware is not about a set of new interventions or the use of checklists to guide the support offered to specific people. Rather, it is a commitment to developing a holistic ACE approach across the city, with a focus on recognition, prevention and early intervention and the cultural change that may be needed to support that. It is also about ensuring that communities are empowered to solve problems and find long term solutions through their understanding of the impact of ACEs. The evidence shows us that preventing ACEs can reduce health harming behaviours, as well as reducing, for example, unplanned teenage pregnancies, binge drinking, violence perpetration and incarceration. As well as increasing people’s health and wellbeing, there are economic benefits to an ACE informed approach through increased employment levels and reduction in the involvement of the health, social care and criminal justice systems. We have a long way to go, but I believe that, in the spirit of the One City Approach, by working together we can break the cycle of ACEs and ensure that everyone in the city has the opportunity to flourish in life.

Social and environmental justice

Today’s guest blog comes from Professor Rich Pancost, Head of School for Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

This is Bristol: Numerous green businesses and voluntary organisations, a multitude of cyclists, recyclers and circular economists; ethical banking and a local currency; a Council-owned windfarm, Energy Company and low-carbon investment strategy; local food production, community energy, sustainable housing developments.  The 2015 EU Green Capital and the owner of the most rapid and extensive decarbonisation ambition of any city or nation in the world.

This is also Bristol: Congestion, polluted air and a polluted harbour, heat-inefficient Victorian homes, fuel poverty and food deserts. Economic inequality magnified by environmental inequality. 

Bristol has been a leader in the environmental movement for decades, and it has been a leader in tackling climate change. I’ve been studying climate change for 30 years but am still in awe of the Bristol spirit.  And since arriving in Bristol, I’ve tried to help my small bit: I was with George Ferguson in Paris when he pledged carbon neutrality by 2050; I also collaborated on the Council’s Resilience Strategy and, more recently, Marvin Rees’ One City Approach, and especially its environmental theme.

Consequently, I was enthused to see Bristol pass a motion of intent, declaring a Climate Emergency and a desire to become carbon neutral. Carbon neutral across all sectors. By 2030. This is the ambitious Bristol that I love.

And yet I am wary.  I am wary that in our fear of catastrophic climate change and in our urgency to declare a Climate Emergency, we fail to build a genuinely inclusive movement.  And such a movement is needed to achieve the tremendous change that is required.  

We must drive our society towards sustainability, circularity and carbon neutrality. It is necessary to protect our civilisation, to protect all of us and our planet.  But most of all, we must minimise climate change because climate change is unjust.  It will affect all of us, but it will affect some of us more.  It will affect children more than their parents. The young more than the old.

And it will affect the poor, the vulnerable, the isolated – and it will do so not just because of the unfortunate coincidences of geography but because of the structural inequalities in that same society that we are fighting to save. Heat waves kill the poor, they kill outdoor labourers, the working class. Sea level rise will trap, drown and infect the poor, those without the means and wealth to freely move among nations. The volatility of food production will be particularly devastating to those who already struggle to feed their families, who already lean on food banks and charity. Hurricanes and storms will continue to devastate the communities with the least recourse to escape, who likely already live in flood-prone areas, who can be sacrificed, like those in Puerto Rico, with minimal political repercussions.

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

But 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 that movement.  They must lead the movement.  And if they are not, those of us who claim the title ‘environmentalist’ cannot ask why they are not engaged, and instead must ask how we have failed.  We must challenge ourselves, our privilege, our dialogue and our institutions and understand how we have excluded them. Have we invited marginalised groups to participate in our events and our agenda?  Or have we honestly co-created an open space for multiple agendas?  Have we recognised that destroying inequality is a legitimate starting point for fighting climate change?  Have we recognised that many of our proposed solutions – entirely rational solutions – can be implicitly racist or sexist? 

If we are going to prevent catastrophic climate change, then we must act fast and with unrelenting persistence. But at the same time, we must be patient, check our privilege and listen to those who have been marginalised by past environmental movements. This is especially true because it is those same marginalised groups who will most likely bear the greatest burden of climate change. We assault these groups doubly if we do not centre their voices in our common cause.  And because the environmental movement is unstoppable – technologically and socially inevitable and therefore economically inevitable – exclusion from these opportunities is yet a third assault.

I am by no means an expert on co-creating powerful social movements, fuelled by equality amongst the participants and effective in achieving change.  But I have been lucky enough to work and learn from those who do. They have shown undeserved patience and understanding and trust.

They taught me that it is vital to recognise not just your own privilege but the economic, historical or social privileges of the institutions one represents. In my case, a world-leading university.  In other cases, a business or a trust – even a small green business or cash-starved charity. And even a movement, especially a movement perceived as being by and for the white middle class.

Having recognised that privilege and in many cases the structural racism, sexism and wider inequalities that come with it, it is our obligation to decolonise those institutions rather than to plead for yet more labour from those our institution oppresses.  It is our obligation to do our own research and to commit our own emotional energy and labour. And when we do work with marginalised groups, we are compelled to respect their expertise by paying them for their services.  Major institutions will pay consultants 100s of thousands of pounds for a re-brand or governance review but ask marginalised groups to help address our diversity challenges by serving for free – by serving on our Boards, attending our workshops, advising on our projects.  It is insulting to imply that the privilege of entering our institutions and projects is adequate compensation for their time, their re-lived trauma or their expertise.

Of course, a recognition of the limitations of our institutions, our organisations and our movements is only the start. The next steps involve a fundamental reckoning with the word ‘our’ in those projects – who has owned these, who owns them now, who will own them in the future?  And given those answers, are they fit for the challenge at hand? Are they projects capable of becoming genuinely co-owned, co-creative spaces, where not just new members are welcomed but also their new ideas, challenges and perspectives?  Or are these projects that must be completely deconstructed, making way for the more energetic ones to come?  Do we ourselves have the humility to deconstruct our own projects and cede our labour to those of someone else?

These are challenging questions and the answers are not as simple as I imply.  Those of us who have been fighting climate change, plastics in the ocean, toxins in our soil, pollution in the air, and the non-sustainable exploitation of our planet are deeply invested in the struggle and in the solutions we have forged. It is not trivial to patiently draw in new perspectives nor to have our ideas questioned – we have been fighting an establishment for five decades that has been guilty of predatory delay and manipulation of public understanding.  We are right to be wary of anything that delays action, right to be uncivil, impatient and intemperate. 

But it is also time to concede that a thousand ripples have yet to become a wave.  Certainly not the wave needed to dismantle the environmental degradation that has become a near-inextricable feature of our society.

In Bristol, we have the potential to create this wave together.  We have a Partnership, a One City Approach and a cross-party ambition without precedent. This is the time to re-invigorate our environmental movement, to align it with our other challenges, to become genuinely inclusive and diverse.  It will not succeed with a simple majority, with a mere 52% of the vote.  It will have to be a new political project but with an apolitical community that rejects the discourse of division and embraces new and unexpected collaborations.

It will be a community that makes use of all of our talent and is united not with a single strategy or action plan but a common cause and shared values. It will be a community that thrives through a multitude of equally respected agendas.

Boxing Clever

There has been a boxing theme to many of my activities over the past few weeks. Boxing was a big part of my teenage years and taught me discipline, self-control and how to overcome set-backs. I’m a firm believer that sport and physical activity improves people’s lives.

At the end of last year we were pleased to offer Skemer’s Amateur Boxing Gym a Community Asset Transfer lease to manage Jubilee Hall in Knowle as a community boxing club.  Skemer’s have a strong reputation in supporting young people from the local community through boxing, providing structure and discipline, which helps to build their confidence and employability. Their ‘Bully Busters’ project seeks to help and encourage young people who experience harassment on social media and in the street.  As part of the lease, they have been asked to make the building available for other community-based activities. Skemer’s will bring Jubilee Hall back into full use and make it the hub of the local community again.

It was great to bring international amateur boxing to City Hall last month when we played host to boys’ and girls’ school, junior, youth and elite level fighters in a England v. Ireland bout.  This is the first event of its kind to take place in City Hall as I am committed to it being a space open to all. It was a great example of the type of event City Hall can host. As the city’s most pro-sports administration bringing international sport to the city is evidence of the growing reputation we’re earning.

Last weekend I dropped into Broad Plain Amateur Boxing Club to support Bristol boxing legend Dennis Stinchcombe’s  Boxing for Parkinson’s campaign. Under Dennis’s leadership, the club has already received national recognition for the positive impact it is having on young people from deprived areas of Bristol who might otherwise lack direction and focus. Now working with those with dementia speaks to the importance of sport for all for all physical, mental and social health.

Of course I can’t write a blog about boxing and not mention the visit last Friday of HRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to the Bristol Boxing Gym to see the work of Empire Fighting Chance. As a long-time supporter of and ambassador for the charity I was especially proud to witness the time Harry and Meghan spent talking to the young people who benefit from the time and dedication shown by the staff.

The Empire Amateur Boxing club has existed in inner-city Bristol for more than 50 years, working with thousands of young people and producing national champions and international representatives. Through former Empire boxer and now Empire Fighting Chance Ambassador, Chris Sanigar, we have produced British, Commonwealth, European and World Champions. Working with youngsters for whom poverty, poor housing and parental unemployment is the norm, the combination of education, mentoring and physical activity effects a powerful change.

I asked Martin Bisp, Chief Executive why he thought the royals had included the gym on their visit to Bristol: “I think that we are getting the attention due to a combination of our credibility, longevity and innovative delivery. This includes things such as embedding psychology throughout delivery and ensuring that we meet an ever changing need.

“In many ways I think we have the Bristol attitude. Things weren’t right, we weren’t convinced by the system so decided to do something about it. Not sure you get much more Bristol than that”.

I couldn’t agree more and was particularly impressed by how genuine the couple were in their interest in the work that Empire does.

Within a few years I hope to see a venue in Bristol that will be large enough to host big name boxing.