Today is another big day for Bristol, as we continue to bring in more investment and create more jobs to solidify our city’s recovery from the pandemic. Thanks to two announcements in time for the longest day of the year, Bristol’s future is looking even brighter as we work to build a more sustainable and inclusive city.
Just last week, out and about on Gloucester Road visiting local traders, at the Area 51 comic book shop I heard once again how big events like comic book conventions, trade shows and major conferences have for too long skipped our city. Bristol has lost out to Cardiff and London because of the council’s historic failure to get stuff done.
Legal & General have confirmed an incredible £350 million investment in our city’s future for Temple Island, where we put our city’s long-term economic interests ahead of short-term politics. This boost will see Bristol get a real conference centre alongside a new hotel, office space, and hundreds more affordable homes. Temple Quarter is already one of the UK’s largest regeneration schemes, with the renovation of Brunel’s station underway and, working with local communities, wider work beginning to create 10,000 new homes and 22,000 new jobs for Bristolians.
This morning BBC Radio Bristol interviewed Mark Kelly, Managing Director at Ashton Gate, about their expansion plans, which follow on from the recent £45 million improvements to their current stadium. Mark was right to say that the city needs housing and that, without more conference facilities, which the Ashton Gate which also include, the city loses out. These plans and the Temple Island project are complementary developments, supported by the business community. This investment meets a need that’s been identified and talked about for some time, and will further strengthen Bristol’s role as the cultural, sporting, and economic centre of our region.
Today’s guest blog is from Forward Maisokwadzo, Mayor’s Inclusion Advisor.
‘On World Refugee Day it’s an important time to listen to the stories of people seeking sanctuary in Bristol and to reflect on what they can teach us about the city we are and the city we want to become.’
Dana* applied for asylum immediately when he arrived in the UK and was housed by the asylum support system in Liverpool. He got to know some members of the Kurdish community – but they moved on to Bristol. Dana’s initial asylum claim was refused. Although Dana appealed, he couldn’t find legal representation and he attended the court session alone. Sadly, Dana was refused again, and his asylum support accommodation and subsidence were immediately stopped.
With no support and nowhere to go, Dana remembered the community he had met who had moved to Bristol and followed them here. Dana was homeless sleeping in a small tent in Eastville Park. Dana’s mental and physical health were poor – he felt frustrated and upset. He struggled to access the medical care that he needed. After some time, he was able to find members of the community that he met in Liverpool and they helped him a bit, sometimes letting him stay on their sofas or giving him money for food. Sometimes a local Kurdish restaurant would let Dana eat for free. The community were truly kind. But even with this limited support times were difficult – Dana was constantly moving around – never sure where he could sleep or what support would be there. Dana was always in other people’s spaces – relying on their kindness and hospitality.
“Thankfully I have managed to get past that difficult time.”
In 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic the Central Government enacted a policy called Everyone In – which funded local authorities to temporarily house anyone who was homeless. This policy recognised that being homeless was a public health risk as it was not possible for homeless people to self-isolate to protect themselves or others from the Covid-19 outbreak. This policy applied to everyone no matter their immigration status. Dana was housed by Bristol City Council in a hotel.
“It was incomparable to where I was before.”
While in the hotel Dana received £10 per week destitution support from a local charity Borderlands. While being supported in the hotel however he had been put in touch with Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN) a local charity who provide hosted accommodation for individuals in Dana’s situation while they work to regularize their status. As Everyone In comes to an end Dana has been given temporary accommodation in a BHN house and receives a £20 per week allowance from them, this means Dana will not have to face homelessness in Bristol again.
“When I heard that the Everyone In accommodation wouldn’t be extended it was stressful. I was worried. But at least for now I get £20 weekly income from BHN and I have temporary accommodation from BHN too which is great.”
Dana’s story is not an isolated one. We have encountered several refused asylum seekers who are impacted by the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and the current Immigration policy. NRPF is a condition that is applied by the Home Office to individuals with a number of different types of immigration status. Those subject to NRPF do not have access to a wide range of benefits and support, which can leave them facing crisis and destitution without the safety net that most of us take for granted.
Today 20th June is World Refugee Day. And its theme “We Cannot Walk Alone” should challenge or rather inspire us to develop welcoming communities, including here in Bristol, a declared city of sanctuary. Dana’s story is a clear example. It’s true the Covid-19 pandemic has presented challenges to all of us and shown deep inequality in housing, health, economy etc. But it has also shown how interconnected we are and that we are part of a shared ‘us’. I witnessed the revolution of generosity across Bristol in response to the pandemic, people from our diverse communities supporting each other. And I hope this will be continued across the City and beyond.
These words “We Cannot Walk Alone” resonate across space and time including here in Bristol and across the world. The story of Dana demonstrates that by coming together and if we choose to walk side by side, share networks and resources we create deeper and longer lasting change than is possible alone. In Bristol we take a One City Approach to confront these challenges. Our collaborative work with the refugee sector to support people housed through Everyday In has shown working together produce better results. Lessons learnt from this work supporting people subject to NRPF can be accessed here.
As we celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution, let us use the occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognise their resilience in rebuilding their lives. As the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR says, “together we heal, learn and shine.” People seeking sanctuary like Dana cannot be left to walk alone.
This week’s blog is written by Amy Perrin, founder of Bristol-based charity Marmalade Trust, which is a national loneliness charity for all ages. This week is Loneliness Awareness Week, which Marmalade Trust launched in 2017.
One thing that has always struck me about loneliness, is the stigma and shame associated with it. Although, an unpleasant feeling, loneliness is a natural human emotion, something we are all likely to experience at some point in our lives and yet people feel embarrassed to talk about it. In 2017, we decided to start loneliness awareness week, to raise awareness of loneliness and reduce the shame associated with it. The interest and engagement in the week has grown enormously over the past 5 years. In 2019 we supported 800 events across the country, with many amazing individuals, businesses and charities getting involved in Bristol. In 2020 we ran our first digital campaign, due to the pandemic, which saw almost 20,000 organisations, individuals and companies get involved with the campaign. It reached 271.5 million people, with conversations about loneliness taking place every two seconds online on the first day of the campaign. We are already seeing huge interest in this year’s campaign and it’s great to see so many conversations happening across the UK.
After eighteen months of lockdown, social distancing and other restrictions so many more of us are experiencing loneliness or isolation, perhaps for the first time. We recently completed some research, which showed that 79% of respondents reported the pandemic has increased their understanding of loneliness. However, it also showed that 40% of people said they would not feel comfortable talking to anyone about it.
Loneliness is a natural human emotion, we view it as a warning sign that you need to address your human connections, a bit like thirst is a sign you need to drink. But of course, when loneliness continues for some time and become chronic, it can have serious implications on your health and wellbeing. Following an incredibly difficult year, we believe it’s now more important than ever to accept loneliness and remove the stigma attached to it. We are encouraging people to see loneliness as an experience not a condition. It doesn’t define us. By building a greater awareness and acceptance of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others manage the feeling.
Loneliness Awareness Week started in Bristol, which is a place with a strong sense of community, and we’re proud to see how that has now spread out into the rest of the UK.
Today’s guest blog is from Matt Gillett, Regional Education Officer at UNITE South West.
Unions have always played a key role in the learning agenda. From the education of our Union Representatives through to negotiating with employers to provide access to training for millions of employees through workplace learning agreements. Union education programmes have ensured that our Reps gain the knowledge and skills to effectively represent their members and operate effectively with employers to ensure positive industrial relations outcomes. Through these courses, for example, Health and Safety Reps acquire the expertise essential to their roles in helping in the prevention of accidents and incidents, instigating good practices and keeping workers safe in their jobs with fewer accidents and less sick absence.
Trade unions have also been at the forefront of promoting lifelong learning. Engaging with companies and education providers we have established learning agreements giving workers the opportunity to access courses such as English, maths, digital skills, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and vocational qualifications, including adult apprenticeships. Many of these workers have been out of formal education for a long periods, and indeed may not have had the most positive experiences when they were at school. Through the provision of on-site learning centres and by working with companies to make sure courses take place at times that minimise their operational disruption we have been able to open up opportunities to countless individuals. Numerous employers across the city, including Bristol City Council itself, have been examples of the success of unions and businesses working together to the mutual benefit of the workforce and the employers themselves. Union Learning Reps who promote training and encourage their colleagues to take part are pivotal to the reach and success of these projects.
We remain heavily involved in the area of redundancy support, ensuring that those at risk of losing their jobs receive training in CV writing, interview techniques and job searching skills, as well as accessing those key qualifications listed above, to give them the best chance of securing new positions.
During the pandemic of course, classroom delivery of both Reps education and lifelong learning had to cease. However, thanks to the hard work and adaptability of tutors and providers, we were able to quickly move to online and ‘virtual classroom’ learning through Zoom and similar platforms. Many individuals have accessed online learning during the last 15 months and my own union Unite has long had an extensive online offer which has even more come into it’s own during this period. Meanwhile, activists have been able to continue to work with tutors and each other to share knowledge, experience and solidarity through our Reps education programmes. I want to pay tribute to the flexibility of those who have taken part in all these aspects of learning and training over the last year or so.
Adult Learner Week reminds us that as the economy reshapes the need to have access to learning, upskilling and retraining has never been greater. Trade unions will continue to play a vital part in making this possible.
On June 8th I was invited to Brandon Hill park to speak at the unveiling ceremony of a plaque for a tree planted in Anne Frank’s memory. It was a great experience and there were so many wonderful speeches.
When I was six years old, my grandma bought me Anne Frank’s Diary. I was too young to understand what it meant at the time, but since then I have read it three times. It inspires me and she is like an imaginary friend. She is in my head telling me to hang in there when I find something difficult. I feel like we are connected in some way.
Anne Frank is my heroine. She always found the positive. Even at the end of her life she still wrote about her dreams and hoped that she would come out of the war alive. When I have Anne by my side, I am not afraid. If she lasted through her terrifying experience for as long as she did, then what I am scared of looks easy.
Every day in the annex got worse for Anne and her family and they feared any knock on the door. Every day she lived in fear. What I find most horrific is how she almost made it to the end of the war. If she would have lived just a few more weeks, she would have survived and seen the world she longed for.
“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” That’s what Anne Frank believed. She also believed people should be treated equally. During her life in hiding, her writing showed her faith in humanity even though her situation was very dark. She kept on writing and she kept making her family happy. One of the most amazing things about her was her ability to keep going when everything was falling apart. She was one of the many children in the Holocaust who lost their lives. Jewish children like me and even children who weren’t Jewish.
During the ceremony on June 8th, there were some moving speeches. I was especially moved by the words of Edward Crowson (above) from the Holocaust Educational Trust when he described his guilt of being cold at Auschwitz and the depths of “how far human-kind could hate.” Edward continued, “How could I possibly complain of feeling cold… compared to those who were previously imprisoned in the camps.” This touches me because it shows how lucky we are to have the things we take for granted. Just as Edward said, they were freezing cold with nowhere to turn at Auschwitz. What’s also inspiring is what the Holocaust Educational Trust is trying to teach. Their aim is to share the testimonies of those who suffered during the Holocaust with as many young people as possible. It is very important that we share stories like Anne’s. Soon the people who lived those terrifying experiences won’t be able to tell their stories anymore. It is up to people like me to do it. I urge you to share their stories with as many young people as you can so it never happens again.
Anne said, “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. Even those I have never met. I want to go on living even after my death.” And she did. This tree proves it. This tree will outlive all of us and so will Anne’s spirit.
Today’s guest blog, in recognition of Carers Week, comes from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood.
Last year, with applause and cheers (and on some streets even fireworks!) on Thursday evenings, Bristol celebrated the value of care like never before. And yet within that crucial national recognition of the importance of care, thousands of people who carry out invaluable care work were perhaps still too hidden from our collective view. Specifically, those who look after family members or friends – unpaid – every day in our city.
The theme of this year’s Carers Week is “Make Caring Visible and Valued” – a challenge to us all to acknowledge and support the contribution unpaid carers make not only to their families, but to the whole of Bristol.
Few people will be aware of the sheer scale of carers’ contribution. The census in 2011 revealed that there are at least 40,138 unpaid carers in Bristol – and it is likely that this year’s census will show that this number has grown.
We know that Covid has had a significant impact both on the numbers of people who undertake caring responsibilities and in the amount of care they have provided for their loved ones and neighbours. The country has been heavily reliant on carers’ efforts: Carers UK estimate that unpaid carers’ work has saved the country over £135 billion during the pandemic.
This effort has, for too many, come at significant personal time and cost. Carers across the UK now provide a staggering 65 hours per week of care, and 64% have said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. 58% have seen an impact too on their physical health.
We know, therefore, that clapping for our carers is not enough. We need to make sure Bristol’s unpaid carers are visible and valued for everything that they do.
In our One City Plan, we have the goal of identifying, assessing, supporting and valuing all unpaid carers in Bristol by 2022, and recognising and respecting them as expert partners in care who contribute their skills, experience and dedication to our city’s care sector. We know many people who undertake care for relatives want to have the opportunity to use those skills by becoming professional care workers. Our Proud to Care website has advice and local job opportunities for anyone wanting to develop a career in care in Bristol. You can also read stories from people like Lindsey, who works as a Support Outreach Worker for Headway Bristol, having cared for her own partner who has a brain injury.
Independent and trusted advice is also crucial in order that those in need of care and their families can make informed decisions about how their care needs can be best met. In the coming months we will begin the recommissioning process for our advocacy services to make sure that carers have access to the right support at the right time.
I want Bristol to be a city that supports and values everyone who cares for a loved one. If you are currently providing care for a parent, relative or friend, information about the support available to you is available on our website.
Today’s blog has been written in partnership with Bristol City Council’s LGBT+ Employee Group
If you go past City Hall today, you may notice the Progress Pride Flag flying over College Green. This is to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), which since 2004 has commemorated and coordinated global action to promote LGBT+ rights on 17 May.
We want to make sure our commitment to making Bristol a safe city for LGBT people is visible, from lighting up City Hall for LGBT History Month to the forthcoming rainbow crossing we’re installing on Wine Street for Bristol Pride. But, as important as these visible symbols are, we also want to deliver real action. As a local authority, we’ve been working to put equality and inclusion at the heart of everything we do: from making sure LGBT staff have a meaningful voice in how the council operates, to improving representation and improving the city-wide response to hate crime.
We know that the pandemic has had specific effects on Bristol’s LGBT+ community. Loneliness and isolation have been particularly difficult for those cut off from their social spaces and contacts during lockdown. We also know that lockdown for many people – particularly young people – meant sharing their home with people who don’t know, or don’t support, their sexuality or gender identity.
The LGBT+ Employee Group have therefore made supporting colleagues through the process of easing restrictions a priority in the coming months. More broadly, I’ve pledged to commission a Mayoral Equalities report to look into and address anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in Bristol. We’ll work across the city to make sure Bristol is a city where everyone can thrive.
It’s not only through local action that we achieve equality. As a global city, we work with city networks across the world to promote human rights. In this spirit, we’re joining with our twin city Hannover in flying the flag to show our solidarity with cities who also want to make their cities safe and welcoming for LGBT+ people.
It is a deep honour to have been re-elected. My thanks go out to everyone who campaigned and voted for me, encouraged, endorsed and supported me in the many ways people have.
We will spend the coming weeks planning ahead, reconnecting with city partners and our regional, national and international allies, reviewing Bristol City Council’s corporate strategy, meeting council staff, refining our city priorities and getting on with delivery. It will be a busy time.
The themes we will be working to over the next three years are shaped by the following:
Bristol is a city of contrasts and contradictions. We have great wealth and opportunity living alongside poverty and hopelessness. The challenge of inequality will become more significant following Covid because its the most vulnerable who have been hit first and hardest, and its they who will be least well placed to participate in the recovery. Providing quality jobs, affordable homes to underpin and inclusive economic recovery must be at the heart of all we do. This is not only an issue of social justice. Unequal societies waste talent, cost more in terms of public services and are more unstable. Building a city in which everyone has hope is in our collective enlightened self interest.
We need to meet the economic challenge in the face of the climate and ecological emergencies. Decarbonising and building nature in the energy, transport, housing and other city systems we depend on must be at the heart of what we do. The pace and scale of change we need cannot be delivered one lifestyle decision or project at a time. This will take a wholesale city redesign. Our climate and ecological strategies set the framework and working through the City Office and One City Plan we will be able to approach this challenge as a whole city.
There is great opportunity in this. Investors are looking for opportunity to put money into decarbonisation and places that are more resilient to future global shocks, be they social, economic or environmental. We in Bristol already have a strong global reputation in particular for the work we have done to put the UN’s Global Sustainable Developmeant Goals at the heart of our One City Plan. The opportunity is to win investment, generate jobs and build an economy that is diverse, more resilient and minimising the contribution it makes to the likelihood of future shocks.
We have to bear in mind also that we are not just taking these challenges on for the 466,000 people who call Bristol their home today. Bristol is forecast to grow by around 100,000 people by the middle of this century. For that greater population we must ensure Bristol provides inclusion (tackling inequality) and reduces impact (carbon and impact on nature) today. Our plans must take into account the increasing numbers of people who will grow up here, and travel to Bristol for work, education and leisure.
I was sent an incredible quote from Raymond Williams during the campaign by Professor Tom Sperlinger:
“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”
This is a huge challenge. But it also presents a huge opportunity. I hope we can all hold that observation tight.
Today, 21 March, is Census Day: a day when a snapshot of households across England and Wales is captured. It’s our chance to be counted: census.gov.uk
The Census takes place every ten years and has done so since 1801, with the exception of 1941. The information that is gathered from the census helps a range of organisations plan for the future. Bristol City Council uses the information to help plan services, and anticipate the need for childcare, housing services, and skills training. Data from the last census in 2011 has even helped us to plan for our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities, and charities use census information to help get the funding they need.
So its really important you fill your Census out to make sure there is a true representation of Bristol and people get the services needed. I can assure everyone that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is independent from the government, and all personal information is completely confidential for 100 years. The information you provide will not be used to identify you for things like benefits, immigration, your income, taxes, and housing. Neither your landlord or anyone else will be able to see any of your personal information either.
Bristol is a diverse city with many different ethnicities, languages spoken with newly arrived residents such as students who also need to be counted. Bristol City Council has been working with the ONS to make sure that everyone is aware of what the Census is and how it benefits everyone in Bristol. We have been reaching out to homeless people, minority groups, students and the digitally excluded to ensure that everyone has the chance to be counted. There is information on the Census in over 40 languages and local community engagement staff have been delivering presentations in Somali over Zoom. Our equalities team has been working in partnership with the ONS making sure information and support is available to as many Bristol people as possible.
Today is the day to be counted, you can fill yours in online or request a paper copy, it only takes around 10 minutes to complete. If you have lost your code, don’t worry you can request a new one.
20 March’s guest blog comes from Alex Raikes, Director of Bristol charity Stand Against Racism & Inequality.
What an honour to be chosen as the Mayor’s guest blogger to mark UN Anti-Racism Day 2021 and what a year to be tasked with this!
Firstly, the history – “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.” This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against racism’ to recognize all that’s brought to the international fight against racism by our younger generations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-racism-day.
The barbaric killing of George Floyd in May 2020 led to a resurgence of anti-racist activism but this must not be a temporary drive. The case shocked the world. A Black man killed, in broad daylight, by an officer meant to uphold law and order; hands in pocket; seemingly relaxed while his colleagues looked on. This Black life worthless to them. Effectively a public lynching in 2020s USA. But the brutal reality of racism is that Black men are killed on a daily basis by its evil.
Yes, people of all colours and backgrounds have marched, mobilised and spoken up about the responsibility we must personally and professionally take to see meaningful change. Employees throughout the UK have spoken out. Some leaders (but sadly not all) of organisations have renewed their pledges for race equality. But to be true to these vows, all must persist for the long term and not just when Black Lives Matter reaches centre stage. Otherwise, steps towards elimination of the institutional racism that caused the Slave Trade, Apartheid, the brutal shooting by police in South Africa 61 years ago, will just be another vicious circle back to the taking of more black lives.
In Bristol, Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI) – www.sariweb.org.uk – founded by race equality campaigner Batook Pandya MBE DL in 1991, still works round the clock to tackle racism. Annually, we respond to over 700 referrals. In June 2020, we took on the case of a racist murder in Weston Super Mare – the police did a brilliant job of bringing the offenders to justice – the main protagonist is now serving a life sentence. In July 2020 we saw the racist hit and run of K-Dogg – a 21-year-old Namibian man – as he left work at Southmead Hospital. He now has lifelong scars – physical and psychological. His family is traumatised. His attackers remain at large. These are 2 out of hundreds of lives we saw scarred by the scourge of hate crime last year.
I joined SARI 30 years ago because of my experiences of racism as a mixed-race child growing up in the 70s and 80s. I was light skinned. But my brother and father weren’t. They got the physical brunt of racism; the negative police and authority attention. I just got verbal when people found out I was related to them. This story is common to many mixed-race people of my generation and sadly today’s generation too.
Bristol is a City of contradictions. It has a dark history of wealth inextricably linked to the Slave Trade, but also stands proud of pioneering acts to ‘eliminate racial discrimination’ such as the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott, run by Roy Hackett MBE and Paul Stephenson OBE alongside Owen Henry, Audley Evans, Prince Brown and Guy Bailey. One of the first black-led campaigns against racial discrimination in the UK which over-turned the colour bar of the Bristol Omnibus Company and preceded our first race relations legislation in 1965. Bristol boasts the UK’s first directly elected Black mayor, Marvin Rees, first Black female Lord Lieutenant and Black High Sheriff, Peaches Golding MBE and has a Cabinet with Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and Cllr Afzal Shah making history for Bristol’s Black and Asian communities. The toppling of the Edward Colston statue in June 2020 pre-empted a global challenge about historic artefacts with links to the Slave Trade. Universities, cathedrals and authorities are seriously reflecting on who stands on their pedestals to celebrate history for our future generations.
And yet Bristol is cited by the Runnymede Trust’s ‘Drifting Upwards or Sliding Back report as the 2nd worst authority in England and Wales for Ethnic inequalities for Black men and 7th worst for all Minority Ethnic residents in education, employment, health and housing.
White privilege and racism are a pandemic that, unlike Covid, has no vaccine. Racism remains inextricably woven into the fabric of our society meaning frameworks meant to protect us, too often present a disservice to ethnic minorities.
So, the answer? According to the UN Website, “The United Nations General Assembly reiterates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. In its most recent resolution (in December 2019), the General Assembly also emphasized that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races”.
We need to see racism as big a threat to our planet as the Climate Crisis. The fight for race equality and human rights must be compulsory if we want safety for our children and our children’s children.
To end with hope, Kamala Harris has just become the first female, Black, Asian-American Vice President and the beautiful, young Black phenomenal Amanda Gorman delivered her awe-inspiring Poem for Biden’s Inauguration, ‘The Hill We Climb’. What better way to end my blog – given the UN’s theme of ‘Youth Standing Up Against Racism’ than with her line: “When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”