Author Archives: marvinjrees

World Alzheimer’s Day 2023

Councillor Helen Holland is pictured, smiling, with Bristol Cathedral and trees on College Green behind her.
This guest blog is from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System, and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood Ward.

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, aiming to raise awareness globally and challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. In Bristol there are more than 4,000 people living with dementia, with as many as 3,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Our loved ones are our world and our world changes when we, or someone we love is told ‘you have Alzheimer’s disease.’ For anyone who is living with Alzheimer’s or supporting a loved one with the illness, we know that Alzheimer’s is more than ‘just’ losing memories or becoming forgetful, or simply just ‘getting older.’

Some people live well with the disease for several years and more, others simply will not. Alzheimer’s will progress too quickly, and the person will lose their memories and their ability to live a healthy, independent and full life.

Unlike cancer, there are no treatments to halt and stop the disease, no chemotherapy, no surgery to remove Alzheimer’s from the brain, no opportunities for a recovery. Across the city, dedicated dementia researchers are working hard to develop medications, treatments, and better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

BRACE Dementia Research, a leading local charity, has been funding important research in Bristol since 1987 with the aim of one day, defeating dementia. BRACE has supported the development of an early, accurate and fast Alzheimer’s diagnostic test, Fastball. The test has shown promising signs of accurately diagnosing the disease years before noticeable symptoms.

A volunteer is pictured wearing the wireless EEG cap and doing tasks on a laptop for BRACE's Fastball Alzheimer's diagnostic test.

Why is early diagnosis important?

To stop Alzheimer’s, researchers need to be targeting the disease at the earliest possible stages and this test offers hope.

The Fastball test is now being researched at the Bristol Brain Centre, thanks to the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) who have provided additional funding to the researchers who invented the test. If positive and accurate results are produced on a large scale, then the Fastball test will be developed for wider use across the NHS.

If researchers can accurately study Alzheimer’s years earlier than previously possible, which the Fastball test may be able to do, then it changes how the disease can be tackled and how treatments, including drugs, can be developed and how soon these can be offered to people living with the disease.

The new Alzheimer’s drugs hitting the headlines are an exciting breakthrough, showing positive research results in slowing down the disease, but there is still more work to be done, and perhaps Fastball may play an important part in this work.

Alzheimer’s and loved ones

While no one wants to receive the news ‘you have Alzheimer’s,’ an early diagnosis also gives an individual, and their loved ones, time to prepare and to choose the next phase of life.

What do they want to do, see, achieve in the next five years? Travel the world or make adjustments to their home to live there independently, for as long as possible, are just a few priorities.

Research also shows that lifestyle choices can protect the brain for longer, even once an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is given, such as stopping smoking, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.

I sincerely hope that in my lifetime there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s. We must keep talking about it, supporting people living with the disease and investing more into dementia research.

A red logo is pictured against a white background, with a microphone on the left of text reading: BRACE; Lets Talk Dementia.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s

If you are living with Alzheimer’s, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or interested in learning more, I encourage you to join BRACE at their free Let’s Talk Dementia event on Saturday 30 September between 10am and 5pm.

The free public event at Paintworks is a chance for families to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia in a friendly setting. Meet dementia experts, therapy dogs and enjoy many other family friendly sessions such as visiting the inflatable brain dome for a short show, or take part in an art session.

Tickets are free and it is recommended to book in advance:

Bristol’s Race and the City 3 events

Councillor Asher Craig is pictured, smiling, with greenery in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities, and Labour Councillor for
St George West ward.

Bristol is a wonderfully diverse city, one we should all be proud of, where we all do our bit to make sure no-one is left behind. However, we need to ensure that local organisations truly reflect the diversity of the people we serve. So, together with our city partners, we put race equality firmly on the agenda with ‘Race and the City’. This annual programme aims to break down many of the current barriers facing our racially minoritised communities in key aspects of local life such as employment, criminal justice and health.

Now in its third year, we have organised a great programme of events to take place between September and May next year, all led by the multi-agency Bristol Race Equality Strategic Leaders’ Group (BRESLG). This group looks at ways we can all work together as one city, to tackle some of the challenges we face and find ways to improve opportunities and experiences for our racially minoritised communities. BRESLG works closely with a range of sectors and includes representatives from local public sector organisations as well community groups and the voluntary sector.

These latest events kick off with a large citywide recruitment event called ‘Our City, Your Jobs’ on Thursday 28 September from 4 to 7pm. Register for this free event on Eventbrite, it is taking place in central Bristol at City Hall and everyone is welcome to attend. We would especially like to encourage members of racially minoritised communities who are often under-represented within many city employers to come along and see the vast range of career opportunities that will be showcased. I am looking forward to meeting lots of people at the event so feel free to share the event as widely as possible among your friends, and networks.

Those who join us on the day will be able to speak to over 30 major Bristol employers and access a wealth of information about jobs, education and progressing in your chosen career. Attendees can:

  • find out about hundreds of live jobs and vacancies
  • learn about courses and other exciting opportunities that might be of interest
  • speak to experts about careers with the opportunity to ask interview related questions
  • get help and support with completing application forms if needed
  • discuss career goals and how we can match opportunities for you
  • see a variety of full time, part time and flexible working paid roles at a range of career levels
  • get information on available internships, apprenticeships and volunteering as well as other Board Member and School Governance opportunities

The event has been purposefully planned to coincide with National Inclusion Week, where we encourage more employers to ‘take action and make an impact’ so we can see more inclusive workplaces in the city and encourage more minoritised applicants to apply for a range of roles.

Following Our City, Your Jobs, we will be hosting other citywide events, which will be advertised shortly, to focus on areas such as criminal justice and health inequality.

We have received such strong support for our previous events, and we hope to see this continue as we all get ready for Race and the City 3 and build on the important work and progress made from the previous two years.

As a result of events such as this and other associated race focused partnership initiatives we have seen a continuous increase in the representation of racially minoritised communities in the workforce of Bristol’s major public sector organisations. 

During the previous Race and the City 1 and 2, we saw attendance from over 900 people from communities, sectors and organisations right across Bristol at our citywide recruitment events. Last year, 65 percent of attendees were from minoritised communities and 87 per cent of all attendees said the experience was either four or five stars (out of five). Feedback afterwards also indicated that people were able to identify opportunities at the event, make connections and find out new information including insights into career paths.

Other events focusing on a range of Bristol’s most significant race equality challenges also saw excellent attendance and engagement from the city. Developing and delivering Race and the City in partnership with sectors and partners across Bristol has been a key factor in its success and engagement.

A graphic shows a number of people placing their hands on top of one another's hands. Logos for 'Race and the City 3' and 'Bristol One City' are shown on the right in white, with the Bristol flare on the left of the image.

Bridges, bridges, bridges

Councillor Don Alexander is pictured, smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for transport and Labour Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Ward.

At 5pm today, the newly restored Gaol Ferry Bridge will reopen.

Our £1.5 million investment has saved the much loved structure from being lost. Inspections showed the bridge needed extensive structural work to make it safe after years of under investment in the harbour estate by previous administrations. These were, after all, the first major repairs in almost a century.

To celebrate restoring this vital and busy route, which links south Bristol and Spike Island, Wapping Wharf will be celebrating from 5pm today (Friday 8 September). After the patience of local residents and businesses, events will include live music, offers, and shops open well into the evening.

The repairs have given a new lease of life to this lightweight suspension bridge, which has been doing a lot of heavy lifting over the years as it is such a popular route with pedestrians and cyclists, and the bridge has been carrying more people than it was originally built for.

On top of structural repairs, Gaol Ferry Bridge has been repainted and looks fantastic, although we do have a small number of finishing touches to make. Some temporary decking has been installed in places, after the permanent decking that was being stored at the site was stolen – more has been ordered and will be installed at a later date.

Gaol Ferry Bridge is pictured with trees surrounding it.
Gaol Ferry Bridge

I am thrilled we have safeguarded the bridge for the future, however, there is an ongoing conversation to be had about the longer-term need for another bridge in the area. As we continue to tackle the backlog of repairs that we inherited, and as our city’s population continues to grow, our administration is also looking ahead to future opportunities for a new crossing. The previous administration cancelled plans for one over the New Cut (between the Coronation Road/Camden Road junction and Cumberland Road), despite planning permission and Department for Transport funding being in place. We are now in the process of revisiting those proposals as we look to reassess the business case for a new crossing.

The reopening of Gaol Ferry Bridge has followed the completion of the £3 million refurbishment of Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. I recently had a fascinating tour of the control room and the below water level bascule retraction chamber to see the inner workings of the bridge. With its remaining structural, mechanical and electrical repairs complete, the bascule span can now be lifted for larger boats. The new automation system means lifts can be supervised remotely.

But Gaol Ferry and Redcliffe Bascule bridges are just two in a series of Bristol bridges that need structural repairs. We have secured £16 million from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, administered via the West of England Combined Authority, to restore a total of six bridges that cross the New Cut as part of a rolling programme over the next five years.

In the coming weeks we will be moving our attention to Vauxhall Bridge, which links Southville and Spike Island, and Sparke Evans Park Bridge, which links the Paintworks development with Sparke Evans Park. Both of these footbridges need urgent structural work, and we are looking to close them temporarily later this year so we can assess their condition and design a programme of repairs.

Sparke Evans Bridge is pictured, with trees surrounding it and the park in the background.
Sparke Evans Bridge

Just like Gaol Ferry Bridge, we expect to carry out the repairs using scaffolding and working in a phased approach. More news will follow about these repairs along with signage at the bridges and diversion routes.

Work is also set to start soon on New Brislington Bridge, which will not affect use of the bridge as it will involve a detailed assessment on the condition of the structure. Work to assess the overall condition of St Philips Causeway will also take place in the coming months.

The remaining bridges on our list that we need to repair include Banana Bridge (Langton Street Bridge) and the twin bridges of Bedminster Bridge and Bath Bridge.

It is not only the harbour bridges that are part of our plan, as we’ll be starting work on the restoration of Kingsweston Iron bridge this month.

This will kick off with a detailed inspection of the Grade II listed cast iron footbridge. To do this safely, we will need to close Kings Weston Road on Saturday 16 and possibly Sunday 17 September.

A diversion will be in place, but we know it will cause some disruption over the weekend, so I would like to thank you for your patience in advance.

This is a key step in the project and will help us to plan how the bridge can be dismantled and repaired off-site. Not only will the restoration include repairing the structure, but it will also see us raising the bridge up and adding steps at either end, so it will no longer be at risk of being struck by passing vehicles.

Kingsweston Iron Bridge is pictured, with scaffolding on it.
Kingsweston Iron Bridge

Bridges are vital to our city and have been overlooked for too long; I am proud that our administration is tackling these difficult infrastructure projects to keep Bristol connected.

Speaking of Bristol’s important infrastructure, today will also see the reopening of the Chocolate Path after extensive work to stabilise Cumberland Road and the river retaining wall.

I am delighted this handy walking and cycling route away from road traffic will be open once again for everyone to use, and I will be taking my bike out the first chance I get and enjoying the views along the river.

Your chance to tell us about life in Bristol – Quality of Life Survey 2023

Park Street, Bristol is pictured with vehicle lights captured with long exposure photography – drawing red lights going up the road. Wills Memorial Building is seen at the top of the image.

As a large city with of the fastest growing populations in the country, Bristol’s residents are diverse and varied. While this brings so many positives to our city, it also brings about challenges. With so many different needs present in our local communities, it’s important that we continue to take time to listen to citizens to better understand them, especially in times of real need.

The Quality of Life Survey is an annual questionnaire that asks residents about their experiences of living in Bristol and what matters to them, and is sent to over 30,000 households at random. Questions ask for views on a range of topics from safety and public services, to sustainability and health.

This is your chance to have your say and voice your opinions. We want to know what you like about living in Bristol and what you think could be better.

Now in its 24th year, the findings of the Quality of Life Survey help us understand what residents want and need, and what they value most about where they live. The results also give us a picture of levels of inequality in the city and how quality of life varies between communities. We can then take this information and plan public services that will be fit for the future needs of the population, and so can city partners.

This week, invitations to fill out the Quality of Life 2023 survey will be arriving at 33,000 homes across the city. Households are chosen randomly to make sure that the sample is representative of our city’s diverse population.

If you receive an invite, please do put some time aside to take part and complete the questions before 23 October. The survey should take around 30 minutes to fill out and can be done online by following the link or scanning the QR code included on your letter. We will also be sending out paper copies later this month for anyone that isn’t able to complete it online.

It’s important that everyone has the chance to have their voice heard, but each year we typically receive fewer responses from minoritised communities. It’s so important that we understand your views, regardless of your background. We need responses from everyone so that we have a clear picture of life in Bristol. 

In 2022, around 4,000 people took part in the survey. The results unsurprisingly highlighted the substantial impact that the national cost of living crisis has had on people’s finances and mental health.

We asked if people were “worried about keeping their home warm this winter” to which almost half (48 per cent) responded that they were extremely or moderately worried. There was also evidence of widening inequality between communities as this figure rose to 62 per cent in deprived areas. The same trend was seen when we asked people about their food security with eight per cent telling us they are now experiencing moderate to worse food insecurity, doubling to 16 per cent in the most deprived areas.

Last winter we had anticipated these concerns and responded to the national cost of living crisis by coordinating a network of 105 Welcoming Spaces in the city, places where people could go to keep warm, access support and socialise with others. It was important that we could respond quickly and as a city to support people in times of difficulty.

The Quality of Life survey is an important tool for shedding light onto inequalities such as these, and showing us where people’s worries currently lie. Read my previous blog for a full overview of results from 2022.

Each year the results are used by services across the council to help make decisions about policy, to inform planning and as evidence when securing vital funding for projects. Last year findings supported a range of work including suicide prevention, our drug and alcohol strategy, digital inclusion, and fuel poverty.  They also form the basis of all our Equality and Impact Assessments, ensuring that we accurately assess how our work is going to impact people in Bristol.

To find out more about the Quality of Life Survey and reports from previous years, visit the council’s website.

Don’t forget to complete your survey if you receive one before 23 October 2023.

The challenge we face decarbonising Bristol and where we are already

Councillor Kye Dudd is pictured, smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy and Labour Councillor for Southmead Ward.

Since we took office, much effort has been put in across Bristol’s communities to ramp up the work to lower our carbon footprint.

Bristol’s journey to becoming climate neutral and climate resilient by 2030 stepped up a notch three years ago, when the ambitious One City Climate Strategy was launched by Bristol’s Environment Board.

Since the council is responsible for just 0.5% of direct emissions in Bristol, to reach the city-wide climate goal, it’s essential that businesses, organisations and individuals also play their part.

To lead by example, the council have taken significant steps to generate the activity needed to reach that goal. Across every sector, and every community, the council, along with partners of all shapes and sizes, are putting in the hard yards needed.

Probably the most significant of those steps so far was the establishment of Bristol City Leap, our partnership with Ameresco and Vattenfall Heat UK, which plans to deliver some £630 million of investment over the next five years to decarbonise the city’s economy. This landmark deal is already seeing the partnership deliver programmes to introduce heat pump technology into homes, expanding the city’s vital heat network and working with the council to continue our success in decarbonising our buildings. By 2028, we expect to see over 1,000 jobs created and 150,000 tonnes of emissions saved, as well as wider social value return. In the longer term, the partnership builds towards £1 billion of investment.

The programme of decarbonising the council has been ongoing throughout our administration. It involves reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings, primarily through either reducing their energy usage or moving to more sustainable forms of electricity and heat supply. It also includes developing our vehicle fleet to ensure that we’re operating in the cleanest way possible.

This programme has seen much success to date with the council’s direct emissions being halved since 2015. We’re now into the phase of the programme that we always knew would be the toughest to deliver and have taken the steps necessary, such as the formation of Bristol City Leap, to have the tools available to meet our target of being a carbon neutral council by the end of 2025.

Later today, I will lay out the challenge ahead of us at the next meeting of the city’s Cabinet.

Our approach to continue the decarbonising of our estate includes prioritising the work to connect council buildings to the city’s heat network, installing alternative low carbon heating sources, moving some buildings onto a “green gas” supply, and increasing the use of electricity generated by the council’s own renewable energy assets.

The effort to develop a lower-emission vehicle fleet is also one we’ve been working to deliver since the early days of the administration. The latest proposals I will consider at Cabinet include recommending up to a £1 million investment in additional electronic vehicle charging infrastructure across five council sites as well as trialling the introduction of home-chargers for drivers of vehicles who take their council vehicles home overnight.

The overall investment required for this work is estimated to be around £31 million and is proposed come from a mix of our own investment, grant funding and the funding secured through Bristol City Leap.

These proposals follow other recent decisions I’ve taken at Cabinet to forward our net zero ambitions for the city.

In July, I approved the acceptance of £1.3 million of European Union funding to establish an innovative approach to generating the additional finance needed for the city to meet its goals. This decision will now see us lead the creation of a Net Zero Investment Co-innovation Lab – a multifaceted project that will research and pilot a number of methods of accessing funding for citizens, business and communities to invest in their projects to reduce emissions and to generate a return. As the programme develops it will bring forward a new scheme for citizen investment in climate action and open opportunities for philanthropic investment in projects all targeted at driving the city towards carbon neutrality.

The decarbonisation of our economy will generate substantial business opportunities and will require all individuals, businesses and organisations to make changes, in the bid to avoid the worst effects of climate change. For inspiration and personalised advice visit Bristol Climate Hub.

Whether you’re well on your way to net zero, or just beginning your journey, join your fellow businesses and sign up to the Bristol Climate Ask. There’s help and support available to get you started.

To help inspire others to take action, if your business or organisation has a story to tell on its journey to net zero, publicise it on your website and social channels using the hashtag #BristolClimateAction

For residents, a wide range of energy-saving measures are available to low-income households through Bristol City Leap’s Bright Green Homes scheme, which offers free solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. Visit the Bristol City Leap website for information on the Bright Green Homes scheme and to check the eligibility criteria.

Protecting the mental health of Bristol’s night-time economy workers

From left to right: Lynn Stanley, Cllr Ellie King, Carly Heath and Christina Gray are pictured, smiling, holding the Thrive at Night Managers' handbook.

Bristol’s night-time economy plays a key role, directly or indirectly supporting the employment of over 116,000 people, representing 38% of the city’s overall jobs and including nearly 1,100 licenced premises in Bristol.  

The sector is driven by the strong workforce that keeps it running from 6pm to 6am. This workforce is the engine that drives our renowned night-time economy and is also its greatest asset. Prioritising the wellbeing and safety of Bristol’s night-time workers is vital to the continued success of the sector.  

Thrive at Night is an initiative by Bristol Nights to provide free mental health and wellbeing support for all those working in the night-time economy. Councillor Ellie King and Carly Heath were proud to launch this work in June 2023.

Late night work can be rewarding, from meeting great characters to helping create the atmosphere in our venues that fellow Bristolians love. But this work can also be demanding. From dealing with challenging customers to the shifts that leave staff getting home in the early hours, there are many potential challenges to maintaining good mental health.  

Thrive at Night handbook is pictured with a purple cover and cartoon designs. Black text reads: A workbook helping you to Thrive at Night.

Immense pressure has been placed on the mental health of staff over recent years: the pressures of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty caused by furlough, the rapid recovery post-pandemic, and now a national cost of living crisis. These are all major challenges that have impacted people across Bristol, something that, as One City, we must take steps to address.  

Thrive at Night includes a comprehensive range of mental health resources and training for local hospitality businesses, including bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The package of support includes:

  • A managers’ guide to creating mentally healthy workplaces
  • A workbook for night workers
  • Monthly workshops and training

Businesses who have already benefitted from the training workshops include Motion, Pasture, The Assemblies Bristol, Thekla Bristol, Team Love, Under the Stars and more.  

The Deep Dive Wellbeing workshops include sessions on stress relief, how to embrace a healthy lifestyle as a night worker, boosting wellbeing and productivity, and how to improve team dynamics. Additionally, the monthly Introduction to Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace workshop will provide organisations with the tools and support needed to create and implement their own mental health and wellbeing policy.  

The Thrive at Night Managers handbook is pictured, with pink cover and cartoon designs.

The Managers’ handbook is an important tool from Bristol Nights. It is a thorough guide that helps business owners, organisations, and managers create emotionally resilient and compassionate teams.  

The workbook for night workers is designed for individuals to work through. It’s packed with tips and techniques to give you the ability to cope with stressors and challenges you might be facing at work or at home.  

I want to thank all staff in Public Health and at Bristol Nights that have put so much work into this programme. They have shown that Bristol working as One City is committed to protecting front line staff and its thriving nightlife.  

Visit the Bristol Nights website for further information and resources on Thrive at Night.

Jez Kynaston, Managing Director of The Assemblies, says “I thought the course was really very good. It was like it was written for our company which can only show how in touch it was/is with what’s needed right now.”

And Daniel Ducz, Assistant Manager at Motion, said “We are proud supporters of Thrive at Night and are very happy that we were able to contribute to its creation, right from the beginning.”

The Thrive at Night deep dive session poster is pictured, with a yellow background and cartoon designs. Black text in the centre of the image reads Thrive at Night Deep Dive Session.

Empire Fighting Chance in Medellín


Martin Bisp is pictured, smiling, standing inside a boxing ring, leaning on the ropes.
Today’s guest blog is from Martin Bisp,
CEO of Empire Fighting Chance.

Last year Empire Fighting Chance was invited to take part in a global United Nations & Brookings Institute initiative around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 17 Rooms. My group was working on SDG 16, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.

The working group consisted of leading academics on violence prevention, policy makers (including people who worked with Presidents Obama and Mandela) and a small number of practitioners. We were the only UK organisation present. 

We were given an opportunity to speak, but rather than it be from a leadership perspective, we asked a young person to give their thoughts openly. Serena spoke brilliantly about feeling excluded in her city and how violence can manifest itself in different ways. She was brilliant and was asked to input further to an academic volume around Identity Based Violence, challenging the world to change!  

One of the practitioners was Santiago Uribe Rocha, the CEO of Medellín Resiliente from Colombia. Coincidentally Santiago and I and messaged each other at the same time as we both wanted some more information about what each other did.  

I wanted to learn how they moved institutions to tackle things differently in a city that was once the world’s most dangerous place. Santiago was fascinated by our model and approach and was interested in whether we could operate in Latin America.

I didn’t know much about Medellín, to be honest I hadn’t even seen Narcos, but I knew of Pablo Escobar and the violence the city had suffered.   

We then met fortnightly, exchanging ideas and context and, after six months, Santiago invited a team of seven to Medellín to create a formalised knowledge exchange. The trip also lead us to be invited to join the international network of Peace in our Cities, who seek to galvanize mayors, city governments, and civil society organizations to halve urban violence by 2030.  

We have since returned to both Medellín and Palmira as a guest of Peace in our Cities, where we presented our partnership to an audience of global city leaders.  

Empire Fighting Chance employees are pictured, smiling, wearing blue Empire t-shirts. A Peace in Our Cities sign is seen in the middle of the image.


The initial drive for learning was simple – a young man we worked with and cared for was killed. This made us realise we needed to do more, to learn from world leaders in violence prevention and reduction, to be better.

A knowledge exchange on tackling youth violence with Medellín was an unmissable opportunity to grow our impact. We saw that the city is a living model for how people can come together to create profound changes to the places they live, how we can make the difference.  

Medellín moved institutions, transformed attitudes and communities so I wanted to know if we could.  

What we did

We toured the city with Santiago and his co-founder Jean incorporating discussions with policymakers, academics, visiting infrastructure projects and meeting people from the local community.  

These weren’t sterile visits but ones that meant we started to understand the city, its thinking, and its people. We listened to their stories, their perceptions of violence and the challenges they are still facing. The visit was full of opportunities for reflection. The big question for every visit, every conversation was what could we learn and what could we apply to Bristol?

We reciprocated Santiago’s hospitality recently where Santiago met different communities here and understood how not everyone has equal access to, or experience of, the city. Working together we focused on our programmes and model plus understanding how the wider context in Bristol affects what we can do.  

What it means

A group of people are pictured, smiling in Medellin. As apart of a collaboration to tackle youth violence between Empire Fighting Chance and Medellin Resiliente.

Santiago is a world leading expert in violence reduction and prevention. He has worked in 52 countries and over 300 cities and believes that our programme is in the top two or three he has ever seen. Santiago will be working with us to help us do more.  

In exchange Medellín want us to work there and across Colombia. Their political leaders are interested in our model and how we can make their cities safer. They also see ways in which, by combining our knowledge, we can make both places safer.

Bristol will benefit, at no cost to itself, from worldwide experts looking to work here to help the city. These are being funded externally thanks to this relationship, help us form alliances and take a global approach to make this city safer. In an environment where three young people we worked with have died through knife crime, we have to find ways to learn, innovate and work together.  

WECA’s wrong road in Brislington

On the A4 from Bristol towards Bath there is a pub named after a type of bus produced by the Bristol Commercial Vehicles company, the Lodekka. Once a recognisable part of public transport in England, they are a symbol of a bygone time of publicly owned buses in the city. We know that public transport in Bristol needs ambitious plans if it is to reduce congestion and accommodate the continued population growth expected both here and in the wider city region.  

The Lodekka pub stands where the factory used to be, in Brislington. We know this is one of the most congested routes in Bristol, and the junction with Callington Road is massively over capacity, causing huge delays for people travelling into the city for work, and local people trying to get around.  

The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is now consulting on new options for a transport corridor along the A4 Bath Road. This includes options which my administration has already rejected. WECA were tasked to find a mass transit solution that does not use Bath Road apart from where there is space for fully segregated mass transit options. That has yet to happen. 

We will not support the Combined Authority’s proposals to convert any part of the old railway path in Brislington into a busy road. This is consistent with the position that I set out with party colleagues in 2021.  

Further, we do not support options that do not resolve the issues of the pressure on the Bath Road/Callington Road/West Town Lane junction. Nor can we back closing the A4 between Three Lamps Junction and Callington Road, and/or Brislington Village, to through traffic.

We are however wholly committed to giving people an affordable, reliable alternative to their cars where possible and our plans for a fully segregated mass transit form a vital part of this. This consultation shows just how hard it is to find fully segregated routes, without a commitment to exploring underground sections where necessary for mass transit. 

I would encourage residents to respond to WECA’s six-week consultation, which runs until 1 October: A4 Bath to Bristol (

LSE Cities: Old Cities, New Ambitions

I was recently interviewed by the London School of Economics’ new publication, Old Cities, New Ambitions. The LSE Cities’ European Cities Programme works with Bloomberg Philanthropies government innovation programme and the LSE to build a network of partners to support the region’s urban leaders.

An abridged version was published, alongside exchanges with the Mayors/Leaders of Leuven, Glasgow, Bratislava, Athens, and Amsterdam, but I also wanted to take the opportunity to share my fuller answers below.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, sitting at a desk, smiling, holding a copy of the LSE Cities publication 'Old Cities, New Ambitions: The Future of Urban Europe'.

What first drew you into city politics?

My Mum’s experiences and my part in them shapes my politics. As an unmarried white woman with a brown baby, she faced snobbery, judgement, and disrespect. I saw that as a mixed-race kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

I had no intention of going into city politics. I actively dismissed a Labour Party workshop about Mayors in 2011, thinking that change was best pursued in Westminster. But then, Bristol was the only city to vote to have a Mayor. Marg Hickman, then a city councillor, told me to put myself forward. That, and the memory of a Yale mentor, David Berg, telling me that, like his friend Howard Dean, I might find “much more fulfilment in executive politics”, made me go for it. And, the more I have stepped into it, the more I have understood the growing significance of cities in general and city leadership in particular.

How do you think more people could be encouraged to get involved in city politics?

You’ve got to do it on purpose. My gateway was through Operation Black Vote, thanks to Lord Simon Wooley, Winsome-Grace Cornish, and Ashok Viswanathan recognising a democratic deficit and running a programme that reached out to Black and Asian talent and set up a structure to connect that talent with political opportunity.

Parties need to reach out but I am also clear that excluded people need the self-agency to step up. What I realised, myself, was that anyone waiting for the perfect invitation from the perfect party to get involved in the perfect political system will be waiting a long time. We have to be prepared to bring our imperfect selves to imperfect structures. I often hear people say that it’s not for them – but my challenge is that maybe it’s not about you. Maybe it’s about something bigger, and the times require the skills you have, whether or not you are always comfortable offering them. If people don’t step up then it’s left to the same old suspects. That’s true for voting in elections, as well as for standing for office.

And, actually, new people coming in can help change the discourse around politics in cities and countries. We have a collective responsibility for the thing that we want people to be involved in.

What’s the most encouraging change you’ve seen during your time in office?

In Bristol, it’s our city’s increased willingness to begin to talk about race, class, poverty, and inequality – and to understand and not hide from them.

What has been your hardest day in office so far?

It’s not a day, but more of a realistic realisation: that our city couldn’t be fixed in our two terms (eight years) in terms of ending child hunger, completely decarbonising our city, and building all the new homes we need to end the housing crisis. It’s not about days, or major events, but the underlying systems and trends. But there’s not been a day that we haven’t had our shoulder to the wheel, making progress – we’ve got 11,000 new homes built already (to April 2022), have plans for another £630 million of clean energy investment, and have supported the infrastructure needed to feed more children during the pandemic and during school holidays. But there’s always more to do.

What’s been your happiest day in office so far?

Every day that I get to be there when families move into new homes. Making sure that people have a safe, secure, and affordable home is the single most significant intervention that we can make for health, poverty, climate, and prosperity. I took Lisa Nandy, the shadow Levelling Up Secretary, to see where we’d built new council homes on a brownfield site. We met people who had moved there from an overcrowded tower block. They were married, with two girls under the age of three, and had just gone into a warm home, with solar panels, a garden, and more space. Everything in their lives had gone in the right direction when they got the key for the door, the likely success of marriage, mental health, educational prospects, everything. That’s repeated across our city every day, as new homes are completed. It’s good justice but it’s also good business, since healthy people use fewer public services.

What political power that you don’t have would you most like to have?

I would most like more financial certainty, far more than more political power. Local government funding is inadequate, short term, competitive, uncoordinated/chaotic, and too often costly to access. Quite rightly, it’s been likened to the Hunger Games.

There are two big challenges that have to change. First, that places need local government to be more than a collection of services for vulnerable people, as important as that is. We have a place-making and economy-making role. It takes time and resources to lead. As our resources are squeezed, that role is undermined, which further undermines productivity and economic performance.  

Second, that when local government is destabilised by the funding model, we are a less stable partner – for business, other public sector bodies, and the VCSE sector. When we can’t plan, that undermines everyone’s ability to plan and undermines our city’s attractiveness to inward investment, and to coordinate on issues that are crucial across sectors. Health, housing, workforce resilience, and education, are all are all issues of critical importance to the public and private sectors. Too often, they are considered as single issues nationally with no reference/ability to take account of city leadership’s need to deal with their interdependencies.

Which political leader do you most admire and why?

I don’t have one person that I most admire, since I admire lots of people, but let me highlight Malcolm X. In a private conversation with Coretta Scott King, he explained that if “people understood what the alternative was […] they would be more inclined to listen to your husband.” I heard Malcolm embracing his role as an unpalatable alternative, making the previous unpalatability of Martin suddenly more attractive – and thus more likely to help deliver change. That was undoubtedly part of why liberal America gravitated toward King, and I admire Malcolm X’s self-awareness and sacrifice.

Which European city are you most inspired by and why?

When you asked this, I first started thinking about infrastructure – but not just in Europe. There are cities where this can be admired. Zürich on how they deal with waste and Malmö on how they are feeding a heat network with heat from processed waste. Paris has incredible integrated transport, so does London, and Bogotá are pushing bus rapid transit and have one of the largest fleets of electric buses in Latin America. Housing. Copenhagen’s green and blue spaces are special, and so is Singapore’s green planning.  

But, actually, I also look at cities’ values. One of the biggest tests of those, at the moment, is how somewhere treats the poorest and most vulnerable. I admire the Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, who I’ve worked with through the Mayor’s Migration Council, for his work supporting refugees. I also admire Joanne Anderson, the first woman of African heritage to be elected Mayor of a major European city. I admire Liverpool for that. And also Joanne for her work, including on the Liverpool Against Racism festival.

What advice would you give to an incoming mayor?

You can’t boil the ocean, so try to be humble and gracious. I visited New York City shortly after I was elected and saw Michael Berkowitz, who was then at Rockefeller. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at being Mayor. His advice was “that’s normal”. He said that for the first year of so in office, the Bloomberg administration felt like they had their mouth around a fire hydrant. The point is, it’s going to take time to begin to get your head around how events and forces come at you as the leader of a city. And even then, I would add, victories come with losses.  

Appointing a good team of people who combine competence, trustworthiness, and emotional intelligence will be key too. Make sure you pick people who are smarter than you.

World Hepatitis Day – 28 July

Fiona Gordan is pictured, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Fiona Gordon, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust’s Consultant Hepatology, and Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis Operational Delivery Network.

Some of the region’s most recognisable buildings are being lit up purple from 24 to 30 July to commemorate World Hepatitis Day.

Did you know that approximately 70,000 people living in England have Hepatitis C without knowing?

I want to talk to you about hepatitis and ask you to help us become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate Hepatitis C.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Causes of liver inflammation include viral infections (Hepatitis A, B, C), fatty liver, autoimmune, some medication and liver damage from alcohol.

Hepatitis C is a virus, and often does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. Many patients only get to know they have Hepatitis C after developing liver related complications which can be life threatening or be liver cancer.

If you are pregnant and have Hepatitis C, there is a small chance of it being passed on to the baby.

Thankfully, although there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, treatment is highly effective and is simple to take and usually has very few side effects.

The World Hepatitis Day logo is pictured on the left of the image, on a blue background. On the right text reads: "It's Time To Act".

Am I at risk?

You may have inadvertently put yourself at risk if you:

  • Ever experimented with injectable drugs when you were younger, even if just once.
  • Had acupuncture, a tattoo or body piercing abroad or in an unlicensed parlour.
  • Have shared personal hygiene tools with someone with the disease, including toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers or diabetes supplies.
  • Used injectable drugs with unsterile equipment or that has been shared with someone else.
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.

Additionally, if you were born outside of the UK in a country with high prevalence of Hepatitis C you should consider getting tested.

What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis C is usually asymptomatic but if you are symptomatic, indicators may include a fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, pale faeces, and yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).  

A NHS poster is pictured, with the NHS 75 logo pictured in the top right of the image. Four cartoon people are seen below the logo. In the bottom half of the logo, white text on a blue background reads: "Around 70,000 people in England don't know they have hepatitis C. Find out if you have hepatitis C with a free test from the new NHS test-at-home service. Order your free kit today."

What can I do?

It has never been easier to find out if you have Hepatitis C. You can now do a free, confidential Hepatitis C test in the comfort and privacy of your own home. To order a test, you can visit

Each test has instructions so you can complete the test at home and can return to find out the result.

If you wanted to talk to someone in confidence, you could also contact the Bristol and Severn Operational Delivery Network, based at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. One of our hepatitis nurse specialists will be happy to talk through your concerns and arrange a test for you. To reach the team, you could either call them on 0117 342 1104 or visit their website The Bristol and Severn Hepatitis C Network (

Since NHS England started their Hepatitis C elimination programme in 2015, deaths from Hepatitis C have fallen by 35%, and liver transplants linked to the disease have also fallen by 53%.

We have made some excellent strides in eliminating Hepatitis C. We all have our part to play, and if you think you may have been at risk, however small – I would encourage you to order a free test today.

Beginning treatment as soon as possible will help stop Hepatitis C damaging your liver.

On a blue background, white text reads: "The Hepatitis C Programme's incredible success in finding and treating those at increased risk of the virus means England is leading the way to becoming one of the first countries in the world to eliminate hepatitis C" "Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS Medical Director"