Bristol’s collaboration with the Prince’s charities

Bristol and its people, like all cities, faces challenges on many fronts. But by working with committed partners, we want to build a city which gives opportunity to everyone and protects the iconic buildings and heritage which make it what it is. The work with the Prince’s charities we are announcing today is an opportunity to embed experienced and successful organisations in initiatives working on these fronts in the city, and give them a better chance of success.

The Black Lives Matter protests and toppling of the Colston statue last June were in part a reflection of the growing structural inequalities that exist locally, nationally and internationally. Inequalities that are embedded within many of the systems that govern our lives and which mean not all people are treated fairly or have the same opportunities or life chances as others. These inequalities have been exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic this past year.

We were really pleased to discuss the possibility of a shared response to these socio-economic challenges in Bristol with two of the Prince of Wales’s core charities last year, following an introduction from Lord Simon Woolley and Shabir Randeree OBE.

We’re delighted to announce today that the Prince’s Foundation and The Prince’s Trust, with funding from The Prince’s Charitable Foundation, will work with Bristol City Council and a number of community groups, to identify practical projects in Bristol which would bring benefit to a wide range of local communities.

Ashton Court Mansion, at the heart of the much-loved Ashton Court estate, has been owned by the City of Bristol since the late 1950s. It’s a building of national importance, but following decades of underinvestment is in need of significant refurbishment. Public consultation has revealed a deep-rooted desire to maintain community involvement and public access to the Mansion. Which is why we’re really pleased to share that The Prince’s Foundation will be leading a community consultation on the future of Ashton Court Mansion from Spring 2021, which will bring together groups with an active interest in the building as well a wider network of community organisations. The Prince’s Foundation has over a decade of expertise in community-led heritage regeneration projects around the UK and will bring its skills and experience to bear on this exciting project.

Ashton Court Mansion

In addition to this, The Prince’s Trust will be launching a city centre programme of activities around Temple Meads which will focus on training, employment and entrepreneurship for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Prince’s Trust, which champions youth opportunity, began working in Bristol over 30 years ago and has helped tens of thousands of young people, through various programmes focused on education, employability and enterprise. Across the UK, The Prince’s Trust has helped over one million young people.

We are excited to be partnering with these charities in building Bristol as a city where no one is left behind, especially as we recover from the pandemic. Together we want to make Bristol a national example of more meaningful social and economic inclusion for everyone. Our shared vision will see us taking practical steps to tackle structural inequalities faced by disadvantaged communities, in particular some of our Black and Asian communities.

We also look forward to engaging with the city on how to restore Ashton Court Mansion, an important city asset, for future generations to enjoy.

Local groups will be at the heart of these projects, to ensure their success, and more details of our partnership and opportunities for community engagement will be shared in the coming months.

South Bristol Youth Zone: Working together for young people

Today’s guest blog is from Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive of OnSide Youth Zones, our partners for the world-class south Bristol Youth Zone – which will be the first of its kind in the south west.

News that the Council has approved proposals to move forwards with South Bristol Youth Zone is absolutely wonderful for the young people of the city.

OnSide Youth Zones are safe, aspirational places for young people to go in their leisure time, where they can meet friends and make new ones, while taking part in exciting and inclusive activities. Our charity, OnSide, has developed 14 Youth Zones across the country and we are so excited to do the same here in South Bristol and to partner with a fantastic organisation in Youth Moves to deliver it. Our Youth Zones support over 50,000 young people every year. As well as giving them an amazing place to go with over 20 activities every night of the week, our team of local youth workers establish invaluable relationships built on trust, giving them the vital support they need from brilliant Youth Workers.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

South Bristol Youth Zone will house only the best facilities for young people. It’s what they deserve. There’ll be a wide-range of sports on offer in our four-court sports hall, 3G kick pitch, gym and boxing and martial arts suite, as well as music, arts and crafts, a giant climbing wall, dance, cooking and a café serving hot meals for just £1.

Bristol City Council’s decision to support these plans is an historic moment for OnSide, as we begin work on the South West’s first Youth Zone. The North, the South East and the Midlands all have them so it’s about time we built one here! The capital cost of the Youth Zone is £8.4million with half of that coming from Bristol City Council, which will also contribute £400,000 to the annual £1.3million running costs. OnSide has committed to securing the remaining development and running costs, which will be combined with the Council funding to cover the construction and opening costs of the building. We will also work to build a group of donors locally to ensure the Youth Zone’s running costs are secured for the first three years.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to partner with such a fantastic organisation as Youth Moves, which has a well-earned reputation for supporting young people in the area. Youth Moves will run South Bristol Youth Zone and become a member of the OnSide network. We know from experience that Youth Zones deliver the best service when they work in partnership with other local voluntary and statutory organisations and the partnership with Youth Moves will help to achieve this. A Youth Zone is able to provide a new physical space for other organisations to deliver their activities or services to young people. We find that other local organisations are able to reach more young people with their service by partnering with the Youth Zone.  

The last year has shown that support for young people is more vital than it has ever been and youth services are absolutely integral in providing this. Bristol City Council’s commitment to South Bristol Youth Zone shows that it is putting young people first.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

Bristol Citizens’ Assembly

Today’s blog comes from Christine Betts, one of the members of Bristol’s first Citizens’ Assembly. She shares her reflections on taking part in the process in advance of the recommendations being published later this week.

Huge thanks to Christine and to all 60 assembly members for giving up their time to consider how Bristol can recover from COVID-19 and create a better future for all who live, work and study in the city. The recommendations will be shared publicly later this week and will then be presented to Cabinet and the One City Boards for consideration.

Back in the anxious days of November 2020 I was surprised to receive a letter saying that I had been randomly selected for consideration as a member of Bristol’s first Citizens’ Assembly and inviting me to indicate whether I would be interested in taking part.  I had heard of Citizens’ Assemblies in other contexts and, feeling somewhat disillusioned with parliamentary democracy, felt that they might offer an important alternative forum for difficult ideas and decisions to be examined in a less highly charged atmosphere away from party politics.  So I confirmed that I would like to be considered – and then forgot about it. 

By mid-December when I was told that I had in fact been selected as an Assembly member, pandemic anxiety levels were even higher and continuing lockdowns loomed on the horizon.  The prospect of discussing the challenges facing our city with a wide range of people that I would normally never meet was intriguing.   Such a shame that it was all going to be on Zoom – no meeting up in City Hall with opportunities to chat to other Assembly members between sessions over tea (and biscuits?). 

The actual process has been demanding.  Zoom sessions of two and a half hours, even with short breaks, are draining.  We were provided with huge amounts of detailed and fascinating information from a range of different speakers and then plunged into discussions in breakout rooms to exchange views with complete strangers. 

We started with agreeing “conversation guidelines” – over a long career I wished I’d had a pound for every training day that started with agreeing “the ground rules”!  In fact, contrary to my expectations, we never really had any heated debate.  All the Assembly members I came across were assertive but positive and respectful. 

Our groups were indeed representative of all the different sections of Bristol society and everyone came up with interesting ideas.  Sometimes we wondered how realistic those ideas might be but certainly within the groups that I worked with, we felt that we should be ambitious and radical given the massive and urgent challenges facing our city.

I was impressed with the organisation of all four weekends.  Everyone will be aware of the limitations of Zoom and I sometimes longed for the simplicity of a flip chart as I peered at the screen.  However, the facilitators did a great job keeping everything going to schedule, keeping us all informed and capturing our ideas in accessible form.  

I fell in love with Bristol as a student in the sixties.  Although I lived elsewhere after graduating, I leapt at the chance to return to the city in 1980 and have been a proud Bristolian ever since.  I’m retired now but for many years I worked as a lawyer for Avon County Council specialising in child protection, adult care and education so I have certainly been aware of the inequalities in our beautiful city.  I feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the Assembly’s mission of examining how Bristol can recover from Covid-19 and look forward to seeing how the Council and the One City partnership take our ideas forward.

Bristol and amazing symbols of peace

To mark Commonwealth Day, today’s guest blog is from Michael Aregbesola, 2020 Commonwealth Shared Scholar at the University of Bristol. The Commonwealth is made up of 54 countries, including the UK, from across the world.

As we celebrate Commonwealth Day with the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating and Transforming”, I am poised to say that the pathway to connecting is open communication through peaceful relationship and acceptance of the diversity that defines our daily existence. When peaceful relationships are established, innovating becomes an easy adventure and social transformation an unavoidable outgrowth of peaceful relationships. I strongly believe that the way to innovation and transformation is mastering the art of peace in our diversity.

In 2020, I won the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to study Development and Security (MSc) at the University of Bristol. This was gladly accepted as I see it as another push in my career trajectory to be a Peace, Conflict and Development Specialist. In my development impact statement for the scholarship, my proposed study relates to strengthening global peace, security, and governance. So, I entered the University of Bristol with the mindset of acquiring knowledge and skills on how to promote peace across societies and achieve sustainable development.

However, as I began to explore the City of Bristol reputed as the 2015 European Green Capital, I began to practically understand how peace can be built and sustained overtime having experienced some symbols of peace in my exploration of the historical dynamics of the City. The Brandon Hill Park (giving people of different nationalities the serene environment to meet and share values), Bristol’s Food Connections (like 91ways, and International Peace Café giving people of different backgrounds to meet and share their stories), and the Hodgkin House housing postgraduate international students from more than 50 nationalities are all good examples of Bristol’s reputation as a City of Peace. Among these symbols of peace however, the Hodgkin House has demonstrated the power of building collaboration and mutual understanding through peaceful inter-racial and inter-ethnic relationships.

Michael and Janet at Brandon Hill. Photo credit: Ayoola Ademolu

The Hodgkin House, located in Clifton, is an accommodation for International Postgraduate students of all faiths and none. It has its history traced back to 1961 when discrimination was still rampant and as a result, 5, 6 and 7 Meridian Place were set apart for male students from abroad as a hostel. So, the hostel was created to challenge racism in the housing sector premised on the belief that people of diverse background can benefit from the interplay of their tradition in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust.   

While in Nigeria, I was able to secure a room at the Hodgkin House through a recommendation from Janet , the Chair of the ‘Friends of Hodgkin House’ and a trustee of the Bristol Commonwealth Society. My experience at the Hodgkin House was laced with enthusiasm, open-mindedness towards other cultures and traditions and an evergreen memory of personal friendships with Joseph from Italy, Wahid from Iran, Ogun from Turkey, Shivangi from India, and other warm communication with other residents with mind blowing expositions of realities of life across cultures. Interestingly, Jacquiline, the Manager of the Hodgkin House shared a story of two students who met at the residence and eventually got married. Jacquiline told me she travelled to India to attend the wedding ceremony. This soothing story and my personal experience while living in the accommodation made me realize that to build and sustain peace across societies, we must be willing to accept other cultures with open-mindedness, shunning biases, engaging positive communication for better relationship, and trusting and respecting people to grow the spirit of love so that peace can become the normal currency for societies without necessarily having to take harder options to make peace.

Michael and other Hodgkin House residents. Photo credit: Ogun

Letter to childcare providers

Plain text version:

Dear colleagues and childcare providers,

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been working in early years settings during the pandemic. Thank you for the high level of care that you have given to Bristol’s children, providing a lifeline for key worker parents and offering a safe haven to some of our youngest residents during a truly tumultuous year.

Over the last year you have demonstrated your unwavering commitment to our city’s youngest children. You have provided a space for our children to continue to grow, learn and interact in circumstances that are constantly changing, providing security in uncertain times. Bristol is hugely grateful for your impressive dedication. 

We recognise the challenges that our early years settings have faced over the past year. The pandemic has had a huge impact on funding due to a fall in demand for childcare places since March 2020. In addition, Government’s proposals for the early year census are risking future funding levels at this critical time. It is not clear whether proposals to use current registration levels will be a good basis for future funding and we support calls for a guarantee from Government that they will provide the necessary top-up funds if numbers do increase in coming weeks and months. This will be vital to ensure that critical early years settings like yours remain financially viable, enabling you to continue your essential contribution to our city’s recovery.

As the rollout of the vaccination programme continues, we are hopeful that children will once again return in their numbers to early years settings and that staff and children alike can socialise, play, learn and grow free of the challenges of the current environment. But until that day arrives, we want you to know that we greatly appreciate and admire your efforts through this difficult time, and the service you provide has proven itself invaluable to our city.

Yours sincerely,

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol                                    

Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families, and Homes, including Children’s Services

Bristol Living Wage City – celebrating success and building back better

It’s over a year since we formally announced our recognition as a Living Wage City, and whilst there’s plenty to celebrate, there’s also much more progress to be made.

I was delighted to hear that the University of the West of England and the West of England Combined Authority have both recently become Living Wage accredited employers, and we’ve already hit one of our three-year targets, seeing 1,900 more people uplifted onto a Real Living Wage.

This is a real achievement, especially in the context of Covid and an economic recession.  So I’d like to congratulate the 39 organisations who joined the initiative in the West of England in 2020. Each person raised to the real Living Wage gains 59pper hour (that’sover £21 a week, £1,135 a year above the national living wage. The difference that uplift will make to many in our city should not be underestimated.

The past year has undoubtedly shone a light on many of the cracks in our labour market. Too many people find themselves in precarious or low paid employment, and many of those who have worked so hard on the front line during the pandemic still don’t receive the Real Living Wage.

That’s why the Living Wage Foundation are choosing to focus on key workers as a priority group for the year ahead, with an ambition of lifting more health and care staff, cleaners and transport workers out of in-work poverty. I think that’s the very least they deserve, and our Bristol Living Wage Action Group will be seeking to improve pay in key-worker occupations at a local level too.

The moral case for a Real Living Wage is compelling, but there’s a strong business case too. 93% of Living Wage businesses report benefits after becoming accredited – 86% say it’s improved the reputation of their business and 75% say it’s increased motivation and retention of employees, cutting business costs and benefitting the bottom line. Not only that, but more money in worker’s pockets means potentially £2m extra spending in the local economy.

As restrictions slowly begin to lift, and we move into a recovery period that we hope will see our city emerge fairer, stronger and more resilient than before, achieving a Real Living Wage for all will be critical. That’s why you’ll see it prioritised in our One City Economic Recovery Strategy as a key part of our ambition to work with employers to support inclusive growth.

But we can’t do it on our own. We need more employers to get involved and become accredited. The process is simple and there are people on hand to support you through it.

To find out more, you can go to the Living Wage Foundation website or you can join one of our upcoming Action Group meetings – just email business@bristol.gov.uk.

As a city, Bristol does things differently. When it comes to business, let’s lead the way in creating an economy that works for everyone.

Spring Budget

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, set out the national government’s Spring Budget. It was a chance to get us firmly on the road to recovery, to frontload investment in green infrastructure and lay solid foundations to rebuild after the pandemic. As with all national Budgets, we have questions about what it means for Bristol and will continue to look closely at how it might help us to rebuild a more inclusive and sustainable city.

We have worked with Bristol’s businesses and trade unions to call for an extension to the furlough scheme, and so welcome this decision. Further support for self-employed people is also positive, but still unfortunately leaves millions without any support at all. Doubling the payments made to employers who hire new apprenticeships is a step in the right direction. We are proud to be among of the city’s leaders on quality apprenticeships and expect to employ more than 200 apprentices by the end of the month.

It is also welcome to see some £800,000 of new core funding for the Western Gateway, which we founded with Cardiff and Newport to bring more investment to the region – similar to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. Hopefully this further show of confidence from the Chancellor will soon be matched by funding for Temple Quarter. We do not want a blank cheque, but instead a bankable partnership – so that we can work together as reliable partners to deliver and get things done for Bristol.

After passing our fifth balanced Bristol budget last month, pressures remain after ten years of national austerity and the finances we inherited. Along with other councils, including the dozen or so said to be in rescue talks with Westminster, we will have to wait until later this year with the Comprehensive Spending Review to hear about Government plans to meet the longer term sustainable funding requirements of local authorities. The Treasury has also confirmed plans for a £30 billion cut to day-to-day spending on health and social care, at a time when there are close to quarter of a million people waiting for treatment. With adult social care making up the largest, and still increasing, proportion of councils’ budgets, the continued absence of a long-awaited plan for reform was another glaring omission.

After clapping our inspiring key workers last year, the Government is sadly ploughing ahead with plans freeze their pay. Westminster is also set to freeze tax thresholds, which is likely to make 1 million low-paid workers worse off. There is also a real-terms cut to statutory sick pay – at a time when around 70% of applications for national support to self-isolate are refused. Another cliff edge has been set for September, when the uplift in Universal Credit for Bristol’s poorest families is now set to expire, against the warnings of leading anti-poverty charities.

Questions are already being asked about the Levelling Up fund, including how Bristol – with dozens of the most deprived areas in the country – has been left out of the top 100 priority areas. We will though be able to bid for investment for transport projects, with an additional bid possible through the West of England Combined Authority – who will also be the lead authority for bids into the UK Community Renewal Fund.

My letter to Bristol

Today marks a significant day for Bristol.

Twelve months ago, Bristol registered its first confirmed case of COVID-19 as the city began its response to the pandemic that has swept the globe.

Since Wednesday 3 March 2020, your efforts to protect lives, help the vulnerable, limit the spread of the virus and support one and other has been a source of city pride.

During that time over half a million tests have been taken with 29,500 positive cases being recorded.

This pandemic has affected our lives in different ways and tested every feature of our city from business to education, to transport to even elections.  It has been extremely challenging for all of us, but hit our most vulnerable communities hardest. We know that the underlying drivers of inequality will worsen. But we will do all we can to win support to protect jobs and urge government to front-load investment in green infrastructure to generate jobs and decarbonise the economy.

Despite these challenges we have faced, Bristol has responded and is rebuilding. Through a One City approach we are working together to organise the city to take challenges on. We have an incredible voluntary sector that has rallied around to support our most vulnerable residents. Through Can Do Bristol we’ve had 4,000 people pledge to help in their communities, and around 3,000 vulnerable residents have been supported with things like befriending, collecting shopping and prescriptions and dog walking.

We are all missing out on the things we love, and many of us have lost people we love as well. Sadly, 563 people in Bristol have tragically lost their lives to this virus over the last year. Each and every one of them will be remembered and to everyone who is grieving, I send my deepest condolences. I thank the faith leaders across the city for coming forward to reach out and support those would have had to face loss alone.

Our community testing programme over the last twelve months has seen over half a million tests taken, through rapid testing at workplaces and symptomatic testing at established Local Testing Sites. Now, as we look ahead to cautiously easing out of national lockdown restrictions from Monday 8 March, I ask you to be patient.

I know many people are looking forward to the coming months where national restrictions will begin to ease, particularly those who have sadly been unable to work and all of us who are desperate to see friends and family.

The speed of the roll-out of the national vaccination programme is an incredible testament to our NHS and healthcare colleagues and provides an important vision of hope for us. I’m pleased to see that over 100,000 people in Bristol alone have already had one dose of the vaccination. We will continue to support healthcare colleagues in this successful role out.

However, we must not throw twelve months of effort away now. We want this unlocking to be for the final time, no more lockdowns and no further restrictions. Achieving this is our personal responsibility. It is the actions of the individual that will determine whether this truly is the last lockdown needed.

We must take each step of this roadmap to easing restrictions one at a time, and only once the data and the impact of unlocking tells us it’s safe to do so, take another step to getting back to what we love.

If you need support, know that we are here for you. Our We Are Bristol helpline is open seven days a week on 0800 691 0184.

Thank you for all you are doing and have done over the last year – we will get through this together.

Rewilding College Green

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of climate activist Greta Thunberg’s visit to Bristol, this weekend the Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation are announcing their Rewilding Project for the enhancement of nature at College Green. These plans are only possible because of the £15,575 raised by the public after the Fridays for Future demonstration. The Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation became custodians of this fund, which is now being brought to life in partnership with Bristol Cathedral, Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate and Bristol City Council.

College Green’s lawn was successfully reseeded over the last spring, so now the foundation plan to roll out their phased approach for further improving the green space. Working within the spring and winter planting seasons, their plan will encourage pollinating insects to thrive and plant life to absorb carbon emissions in the centre of the city.

Phase one, which will be initiated in April, involves creating seven wildflower meadows on a patch of rarely used lawn adjoining Bristol Cathedral. The meadows will be a planted with a mix of plant plugs from the Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildflower nursery and quick growing meadow turf. We can expect the meadows to flower two to three months after planting and offer colourful seasonal displays.

An information board explaining the importance of the meadows will be written and designed by Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate, the youth-led organisation who arranged Greta Thunberg’s visit to Bristol last year. The site will continue to be maintained by the council with support from local volunteers. Further plans for phase one include planting a native hedgerow, bulbs and flowering trees in the autumn months.

The council is proud to be part of the work being undertaken, after declaring an Ecological Emergency last year in response to the escalating threats to wildlife and our ecosystems. While the coronavirus pandemic has rightly dominated the local and national conversation, the threat to the species which inhabit Bristol hasn’t gone away. In addition, the benefits of a sustainable, nature-rich city to the everyday lives of Bristolians are undeniable after the events of a year which has seen most people with even more time to enjoy Bristol’s many parks and green spaces. This project demonstrates that all of us – from individuals to large city organisations – can take effective actions which protect both people and planet.   

Artist’s impression – Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation

LGBT History Month

Today’s guest blog comes from members of Bristol City Council’s Staff LGBT+ group.

Community histories, much like local histories have a huge importance. A careful and accurate look at events which have directly affected a community, as well as a record of its collective achievements and success, provides two really important things. For those in the community, it gives a sense of origin, vital for a sense of belonging; and a sense of worth that is the foundation of self-esteem and values. The second is also a connection point for allies to engage with the community, the place where by learning the history they can strengthen their support and connection with the community. 

I’ve been very careful so far not to mention which community. I think what’s true is true for all communities; be they defined by location, or common interest. But particularly those communities whose voices are unrepresented. When you’re removed from history, it’s implied you have no voice in the present. The removal of local galleries, museums and libraries would cause outrage. Rightly so, but their necessity is the same necessity for both LGBT History month and of course Black History Month. 

History isn’t just an archive of facts and dates. Grievances, achievements and celebration. It’s living, incomplete and a vital connection point. When you watch a TV programme like It’s A Sin, Gentleman Jack or Pose; you can’t treat it as a history lesson per se, but it is the beginning of a conversation, maybe even an exploration into stories of people and groups you couldn’t otherwise know about. Stories that will hugely benefit us all. History month reminds us that it is not one simple narrative either but an intricate and complicated web of stories that overlap and diverge in furious chaotic patterns. That can be scary, I think that’s why the rise of nationalism here and abroad has been so effective. It only allows for one narrow brittle strand of history. That’s why our histories deserve their months – not because for the other eleven months we should be quiet and just recite the kings and queens of England – but to remind us to diverge from our mainstream and explore other communities and cultures. To find out the stories which didn’t make it into your Year 9 history lesson or The Crown. So my encouragement to you, is not to wait until it lands in your lap but go exploring and find out more about the people around you. 

Did you know that The Radnor Hotel on St Nicholas Street which opened in the 1920s was the first known gay pub in Bristol? 

Or, did you know that after the concentration camps were liberated in 1945, some men were re-imprisoned because homosexuality was still a crime? 

Did you know that Ireland was the first country in the world to hold a referendum, and collectively as a nation vote for marriage equality? 

Did you know that the Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard was set up by Dale Wakefield in Totterdown in 1975?

You can find more information about local LGBT+ history at Outstories Bristol.

Bristol Pride marches through the city centre. Photo by Dan Regan. Via Visit Bristol