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: www.bristol.gov.uk/libraryideas.

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.

Supporting small businesses from the Outset

A few weeks ago, I accepted the ‘Best Overall Small Business Friendly Council’ award from the regional branch of the Federation of Small Business (FSB) on behalf of Bristol City Council. This week, I want to highlight more of the work being done to support small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs in Bristol.

Last week at Filwood Green Business Park I attended the South Bristol Business Breakfast. Discussion amongst the 25 or so businesses there centred on planned workspace developments in Hengrove, Filwood Broadway and Cater Road Business Park. We also spoke of a new Enterprise Support and Workspace Project, starting soon with funding from the European Union and West of England Combined Authority (WECA). I’m looking attend similar events in other parts of the city.

Yesterday was a Celebration of Entrepreneurship event, organised by Outset Bristol to mark ten years of their support to local businesses. Bristol City Council has worked closely with Outset over those ten years, helping people to set up new businesses and supporting existing businesses to grow.

Over its ten years, it has been clear that Outset has a real passion and commitment for promoting an enterprise culture across the city, advancing the social and geographic reach of support programmes.

Recent research by the Black South West Network (BSWN) set out to map the BAME business community in Bristol and to understand the barriers to growth and sustainability that it faces. The main findings of this research identified a range of barriers to BAME enterprise. Addressing these barriers, including access to finance, support services, bureaucracy and networking, will form part of actions for a growing and inclusive economy. The City Fund is also looking at supporting entrepreneurship in deprived communities.

The latest joint project between us and Outset, has helped over 30 new businesses to set up in just 18 months and has a focus on our city’s more disadvantaged neighbourhoods and people, promoting entrepreneurship as a contributor to inclusive growth. I met Ellie Webb, one of the entrepreneurs helped by Outset, founder of Caleño Drinks. Ellie spotted a market opportunity for non-alcoholic drinks and has now launched Caleño – a tropical non-alcoholic spirit. Supported by Outset since 2017, Ellie now employs people, has the support of a major drinks supplier and Sainsbury’s will be stocking Caleño next month.

A significant part of Bristol’s economic strength is its spirit of enterprise and the city is widely recognised for being a good place to start a business. This diversity is something we can trade off as part of our own offer to draw other business here. A large part of our successful pitch to Channel 4 was our authentic and vibrant enterprise ecosystem. Bristol also has a higher ‘business survival rate’ than any other major UK city. But we know we have to continue working to improve Bristol’s enterprise environment, especially in pursuit of inclusive growth, as well as supporting more established businesses to provide the decent jobs Bristolians deserve.

Holocaust Memorial Day

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

This Sunday is Holocaust Memorial Day and as part of the commemorations I spoke at an event at City Hall. Holocaust Memorial Day is a national day dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered under Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Today was an emotional day that brought together young people and members of religious communities to hear inspiring speakers such as Iby Knill, a 95 year old Holocaust survivor. During the Second World War Iby was part of the Resistance Movement but was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and a slave labour camp at Lippstadt. She spoke movingly of her experiences.

Later, sixth formers from colleges across the city spent time exploring what could be learnt from terrible events like Auschwitz. We cannot stop persecution, but ensuring that young people appreciate and learn about these experiences and how the human spirit can prevail and overcome is unbelievably important.

I spoke about how the city council has worked with partners  to provide a home and safe haven for refugees, including from the ongoing conflict in Syria. Bristol is a city of freedom, equality and solidarity and became a City of Sanctuary in 2011. Long before that, it has a strong record of welcoming refugees, such as Jewish refugees during the war, refugees from the Spanish Civil war in the 1930s, Somali refugees in 2000s and Syrian refugees since 2016.

Bristol has gained national recognition for its work in welcoming migrants and refugees as part of the Inclusive Cities Programme. Bristol City Council has supported 80 families who have no recourse to public funds which includes vulnerable people who have been trafficked. The council also supports over 70 unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people who are looked after children. We have resettled 268 people from 50 families since April 2016 and are aiming to resettle a total of 100 families by March 2020.

Our health partners run a special clinic, the Haven, which offers a full service adjusted to better meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees and we work closely with voluntary sector organisations who work tirelessly to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol.

Highlights from our communities’ contributions include:

  • Around 800 asylum seekers live in Bristol, supported by four welcome centres, one of which is run by and for refugee women.
  • The Government grants about 250 Bristol asylum seekers leave to stay each year and they are each offered one-to-one case work support by the Red Cross.
  • Refugee Week has now become Refugee month with a wide range of activities promoting the contribution of refugees to the city.
  • In Bristol there are about 150 destitute asylum seekers. We have families in Bristol who offer a room in their home for a destitute asylum seeker and welcome centres focus much energy on supporting this very vulnerable group. 40% of people using the welcome centres are destitute.
  • A local Housing Association works with a community organisation to organise neighbourhood conversations, pop-up interactive events, active citizen’s training and are making a film on Bristol Values.
  • Community activists organise Peace Feasts, befriending schemes, street parties, Inclusion days and a Community Iftar where over 800 people from different backgrounds shared food in 2018.
  • We have a strong mentoring programme giving asylum seekers and refugees emotional support when going to court and attending other difficult meetings.
  • A network of activists who support asylum seekers to sign on in police stations and raise money for transport. I should also mention that First bus double the money raised by this enterprising group.
  • A local citizens group is promoting community sponsorship of refugees based on the Canadian model, and the first community sponsorship family was welcomed to Bristol in 2018.
  • Ashley Community Housing, set up by refugees, has over 100 housing units for new refugees. It will also be running a positive action jobs fair this March to help 100 refugees to find work

I am really proud of all of this work. But it would not be possible without the people of Bristol and the work they do too in welcoming people as part of their everyday routines. Across Bristol and in our many different neighbourhoods, residents are working to build communities and secure futures for all of us and our children. We celebrate that it is this hard work that makes us a caring and vibrant city which is greater than the sum of its parts.

We have always been an outward facing city. Our population and our economy are growing, making Bristol an exciting place to be. We have a lot to learn from and to teach one another.

We also recognise that sharing, taking care of each other, and giving people the support we all need and a home to go to will make a great city even better. We all have a part to play.


Bristol’s Period Poverty Summit

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families.

Marvin and I welcomed over 80 people from around the UK to Bristol for a summit to discuss Period Poverty and Bristol’s response.

Period Poverty remains a subject that  many people are not aware of, despite a number of high profile campaigns. A report in 2018 by Plan International indicated that around 137,000 girls across the UK are missing school every year because they have their period. Many of these young people live in families that simply cannot afford to buy period products. There is also a growing body of evidence that links Period Poverty with bullying, social isolation and mental health issues.

Bristol City Council made a unanimous decision in November 2018 to be the first English city to attempt to eradicate Period Poverty, and our first action will be to ensure all Bristol schools are supplied with products accessible to all children from school year 5 to year 13.

Earlier this month at a gathering of Bristol’s key city leaders a vote was held to decide the three key city priorities for 2019, and the city voted to support our work to eradicate Period Poverty in Bristol.

With this collective power and resource in mind, today’s summit was able to focus on how we can best ensure that no Bristolian should have to worry if they can afford to have their period.

Today we shared ideas about accessing period products, improving education around the availability and environmental sustainability of products. Most importantly, we explored how we can build closer ties between all those working on this very important issue. Today’s speakers and discussions gave incredible ideas and focus that will lead to action. We truly believe that Bristol can deliver. We will eradicate Period Poverty.

We already have businesses and organisations in the city doing their bit to tackle period poverty and part of today’s summit was to share their experiences and practical advice. I am proud that we are taking on this challenge collectively, as part of our One City Approach, achieving our aim  that Bristol is a city in which nobody is left behind.

The Future of Libraries – Get engaged

Today’s guest blog is from Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig (Communities, Equalities & Public Health).

Have you got ideas or suggestions for your library and its building? Can you help make these ideas happen?

Last July the Mayor and Cabinet decided to keep all 27 libraries open and pledged to hold a series of community events to bring together local people and organisations to identify opportunities for community led activities and partnerships that will create a library service for the future.

We want to let people know how they can get involved and how the library team is going to be 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.

These meetings will offer an opportunity for collaboration and will consider the support needed – both financial and practical – to take ideas forward that will become pilot projects.

We want people to come to these events with suggestions and ideas – small ideas that could be developed quickly, and bigger ideas that make a significant difference to how a library service is provided in the future. This is not about saving money, it is about the community finding sustainable solutions and working with us to deliver them.

It is a busy time for libraries. While the community events are taking place, the council is developing a library strategy to help modernise the service and take it forward. The strategy will propose the following areas of priority: reading and learning, digital inclusion and access, extended access and Knowledge Hubs. The strategy will align with the proposed community engagement events which will look in detail at local ideas and solutions for each library.

Libraries continue to provide key services for local communities, but what residents want from them is changing, and the service needs to change with this. We want to hear from community organisations, current and potential library users, businesses and councillors. The idea is that we work together to find the best possible solutions. We are looking for people to come forward with workable ideas for their local library – we are open to discussing new ideas and are keen not to stand in people’s way. This will be different in each area as it needs to be targeted to what that local community wants and needs. We understand that there is no one-size fits all approach.

For those that cannot attend an event there will be an online ideas form where people can share suggestions.

To find out more about the community events or take part in the survey please visit: www.bristol.gov.uk/libraryideas


Rose Green Centre, 65 Gordon Road, BS5 7DR

  • Tuesday 29 January 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 29 January 7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Hillfields, Fishponds, St. George, Junction 3

Withywood Community Centre, Queen’s Road, BS13 8QA

  • Monday 4 February  10am-12noon
  • Thursday 7 February  7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe, Whitchurch

City Hall, College Green, BS1 5TR

  • Tuesday 12 February 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 12 February 6-8pm

Libraries being discussed: Central, Clifton, Redland, Bishopston, St Pauls

The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Knowle, BS4 1DQ

  • Tuesday 26 February 10am-12noon
  • Saturday 2 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Wick Road, Knowle, Stockwood, Filwood, Marksbury Road, Bedminster

Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, Southmead, BS10 5PY

  • Wednesday 6 March 10am-12noon 
  • Saturday 9 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Southmead, Westbury, Henleaze, Horfield, Lockleaze

Shirehampton Public Hall, Station Road, BS11 9TX

  • Monday 11 March 7-9pm
  • Wednesday 13 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Henbury, Shirehampton, Avonmouth, Sea Mills

The Lunch Club

Last November Bristol was accepted as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly Communities. This is thanks to the work of the Bristol Ageing Better partnership, the council and so many older Bristolians who have been involved as well as the lead of my cabinet colleague Helen Holland.  This global network represents cities and communities across the world who are all committed to making their areas better and more inclusive for older people, which also has a positive impact on the community as a whole.

Bristol’s membership is a statement of our commitment to enable older people to feel safe, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Figures show there are between 6,300 and 11,400 older people who are socially isolated in Bristol. By working together with the Bristol Ageing Better partnership and our city partners, I want to tackle this and ensure our city becomes a better place for everyone to grow old in.

This ambition will require us to become a more closely connected society where people work together and support one another. I saw a great example of this in action when I visited Avonmouth Community Centre yesterday to attend their weekly lunch club.  I had the opportunity to meet a range of volunteers and staff and to see how this weekly meet up enabled local citizens to not only enjoy a hot meal but also served as an opportunity for the community to get together.

Many people experience the isolation of loneliness at some point in their lives so I welcome the news that several organisations based within the city region have received funding from the government’s Building Connections Fund – the first ever fund dedicated to reducing loneliness – targeting people from all age groups and backgrounds.  It is only by supporting a wide range of partners, organisations and citizens that we can collectively solve some of the challenges of growing an inclusive city, challenges such as social isolation. This ambition is further reflected in our One City Approach and our drive to work better together and deliver real improvements which people can see and feel.  

For the first time, our upcoming joined-up action plan across the public, private, voluntary and academic sectors will look to use the collective power of the city’s key organisations to make a bigger impact for those who feel less connected within our society. I look forward to working with our partners as Bristol moves forward to becoming increasingly a city for all.