Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rebuilding a better Bristol

No photo description available.
Area 51, Gloucester Road

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.

We already know that Bristol’s 17,000+ seater YTL arena, set to be the greenest ever built in Europe, will start to set this right and bring the world’s biggest music stars to our city. For other events, like comic cons and even national party conferences, this weekend’s news is a real game changer for Bristol.

Photo of the Temple Island site by Legal & General

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.

Image by Bristol Sport

Bristol Sport have also today submitted their planning application for a new 4,000-seater indoor stadium for the Bristol Flyers basketball team, adjacent to the existing stadium, which is home to the Bristol Bears and Bristol City. Revised plans, worth in the region of £200 million, include more community facilities, greater pedestrianisation, hundreds of new homes, while retaining green space and aiming for a biodiversity net gain.

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.

This next step forward in exciting plans for the redevelopment of a sports quarter at Ashton Gate will be another welcome boost for BS3. Like our £11.8 million expansion of Bottle Yard Studios, our award-winning £9 million Advanced Construction Skills Centre, and our world-class £8.4 million Youth Zone, this investment is crucial for South Bristol and the project has my full support.

World Refugee Day 2021

Today’s guest blog is from Forward Maisokwadzo, Mayor’s Inclusion Advisor.

Forward Maisokwadzo

‘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.

*name changed

The case for food education

Today’s guest blog comes from Barny Haughton, Founder, Director and Cookery Teacher at Square Food Foundation, based in The Park, Knowle.

Photo credit: Sustainable Food Trust

If we want healthy and resilient communities and healthy and resilient food systems, we need a food educated society. And that means getting food education into schools and into the community.

Most people in the developed world are not responsible for and have no say in any aspect of the food system except eating – and maybe – cooking it. Food ‘education’ and the responsibility for how food is produced from soil to plate has been the default remit of the food industry.

But we are finally discovering the real significance of where our food comes and why some foods are better for the environment than others and about the relationship between diet and physical and mental health. We are discovering that learning how to cook well is often the first step to eating well. And that learning how to cook is a gateway to a world of knowledge, confidence and empowerment beyond just a life skill and healthier eating. It connects individuals, families and communities in the most obvious and brilliant ways. It brings an understanding about the bigger food landscape and our place in it. 

So now is the time to look beyond the kitchen and at the bigger picture. Covid-19 has shown on the one hand the fragility of a globally evolved and globally dependent food system and on the other the potential for local communities to transition towards systems which are less fragile, more responsive – and systems which are understood by, and the responsibility of, ordinary people.

Food education in schools…

Imagine what a generation of school leavers who had learned about the world of food would contribute towards this transition

What would food studies in schools mean?

Food education is not just about cooking and nutrition

It means the study of everything to do with food:

  • Agriculture, production, climate, environment, natural history
  • History, tradition, politics, law, economics,
  • Culture, religion, ethics
  • Science, ecology, waste, medicine, disease
  • Identity, literature, art
  • Public health, nutrition, diet, personal health
  • Cooking, taste, eating, tradition

And in the community…

For the past ten years Square Food Foundation has been delivering cookery and food education programmes to people from all walks of life. I have personally been working in food education for the past thirty years. And I absolutely know that it is a critical part of the solution to the challenges which face us all – in our communities and in the world. Square Food is currently working in partnership with Oasis Connaught Primary School in Knowle West on a whole school curriculum integrated food education project which involves teachers, parents, whole families as well as the children. Schools and community working together.

We believe that food education is key to the principles of social democracy and food systems resilience and that it should be central to education itself, to the life of every school, on the national curriculum, in the minds of government policy makers.

Without food education we will never substantially reduce food poverty. And with it we can solve many of the biggest problems facing humanity.

Imagine an Environment Minister with a Masters in Gastronomic Sciences

It’s time to get food education into schools, into the community and into government policy.

If you would like to find out more about the work and aims of the Square Food Foundation you can contact them via:

Info@squarefoodfoundation.co.uk

0117 903 9780

Insta: @SquareFoodFoundation

Twitter: @squarefood

Facebook: @squarefoodfoundation

Loneliness Awareness Week 2021

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.

Amy Perrin, founder and CEO of the Marmalade Trust

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.

Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Social Care, (right) at the Marmalade Trust’s Loneliness Awareness Week afternoon tea at Windmill Hill City Farm
The Marmalade Trust’s Loneliness Awareness Week afternoon tea at Windmill Hill City Farm

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.

We get lonely – do you?

To find out more about this year’s LAW and how you can support it visit www.marmaladetrust.org/law

Or follow us on social media:

Instagram: marmalade_trust

Twitter and Facebook: @marmaladetrust

Adult Learner Week

Today’s guest blog is from Matt Gillett, Regional Education Officer at UNITE South West.

Matt Gillett

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.  

Photo credit: Chris Montgomery – “Zoom call with coffee”

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.

Our night time economy

After yesterday’s announcement from national government that any further easing of restrictions will be delayed by at least four weeks, Carly Heath, Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor, has written to Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business.

Dear Minister,

Re: Additional support for the Night Time Economy (NTE)

I am writing in light of yesterday’s announcement confirming a delay to easing of Coronavirus restrictions and following conversations with trade bodies, businesses and workers within the NTE.

Our vibrant nightlife is at the beating heart of what it means to be a Bristolian. The city doesn’t stop at 6pm. The night is where we come together as a community, it’s where the soul of our city gets to flourish.

I appreciate that the Delta variant of the virus has presented fresh challenges for the government and that public health must remain a priority. We will support measures taken to keep the situation under control, however, extending restrictions without the necessary support risks jeopardising the livelihoods, relationships and mental health of those working in the NTE.

Current business support has kept many businesses afloat in the past year and it must be continued until restrictions are lifted.

Venue owners and events organisers have been planning towards the 21st June. In order to be ready for potential reopening, they have bought in stock and hired staff. These are, in many cases, costs that cannot be recouped.

Many skilled workers have left the sector in the past 16 months and businesses are now facing huge staff shortages as a result. Staff have been hired and trained in anticipation for re-opening, and there are questions marks over whether these staff will be eligible for furlough. This means many new employees will be let go and businesses will have to go through the process all over again, or face the prospect of paying to keep staff on their books for the anticipated four weeks, with no certainty that the restrictions will be relaxed then either.

UK Hospitality estimate that 300,000 jobs are at risk in light of yesterday’s announcement and that a one-month delay to restrictions lifting will cost the sector around £3 billion in sales. A survey of 300 NTE businesses by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) suggests 1 in 4 businesses will not survive longer than one month without further Government support, and 50% will last no longer than two months.

In Bristol, we have 1,127 NTE premises. 39 music venues & nightclubs, 784 hospitality venues, 5 theatres, 52 hotels and 13 breweries. Nearly all venues have reopening events scheduled. Many have been sold out for months. A number of major events and festivals are now facing cancellation or further postponement, threatening the viability of those businesses and the supply chains they rely on.

At least 32,000 jobs in the city are reliant on night-time cultural and leisure activities. The wider NTE constitutes 91,620 employees, or 30% of Bristol jobs.

In coming weeks, businesses are facing quarterly rent payments, the end on the ban on commercial rent evictions and further contributions to furlough costs – but these same businesses cannot bring in revenue if they are unable to trade or profit.  

To protect workers, businesses and the entire NTE ecosystem, we therefore ask that the government:

  • Extends the current business support package, including:
    • Extension of VAT reduction
    • Extension of the rent moratorium
    • Extension of rates relief
  • Implements a sector-specific furlough scheme for this sector, to provide flexibility that will prevent the mass firing of newly employed staff.
  • Provides the sector with certainty that should restrictions be extended, support will be extended to match.
  • Implements a government backed insurance scheme for events and festivals to enable them to plan with confidence.
  • Ensures there is adequate mental health and debt support services for those working in the sector – as a local authority, we will be using our communication channels to get information out on available support. People are in desperate situations.

We understand the rationale for delaying re-opening, but the impact of doing so without government support is cutting the lifeblood to our social heartbeat. The unthinkable consequences as a result of the government’s decision to delay the roadmap threatens a very real damage to our communities and our cultural life.

I look forward to your response on this matter. There is only so much longer that the sector can survive.

Yours sincerely,

Carly Heath

Night Time Economy Advisor

City Office, Bristol City Council

Bristol’s Anne Frank Tree

Today’s guest blog is from Elinor Beard, a nine-year old pupil from Fishponds. Elinor spoke at Tuesday’s unveiling of the new plaque at the Anne Frank Tree on Brandon Hill.

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.

Taking on the Climate Smart Cities Challenge in Bristol

If there is one thing we rise to in Bristol, it’s a challenge. As One City, we need to urgently tackle the climate and housing crises we find ourselves in. As the first city in the UK to declare a climate emergency and an ecological emergency, and as a city committed to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we are delighted to have been chosen by Nesta Challenges and UN Habitats as a Climate Smart City for focusing on finding innovative ways to deliver affordable, low carbon housing.

The aim of the challenge is for partners to support innovators in developing, testing and scaling cutting-edge solutions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as well as delivering a significant social impact to local people. In January, applications were sent in from cities all over the world, with only four being selected. Makindye Ssabagabo in Uganda, Botoga in Columbia and Curitiba in Brazil will be joining Bristol in the next stage. Each city’s challenge will be formally launched by Nesta and UN Habitat at a World Expo in Dubai in October 2021.

 There is a lot to do before then so the City Office, in partnership with Bristol Housing Festival, Bristol City Council, and other city stakeholders, has already started work around defining the detail of the challenge for Bristol. As a city, we will look at devising a model of housing development that brings collaboration to the forefront whilst also making it financially viable and sustainable for the future.

At the end of last week, a two-day ‘Discovery’ workshop was held to look at our specific locale, our history, our communities, the environments we have as well as other key aspects that make sure Bristol’s needs are being considered from a number of perspectives.

Following the immediate feedback from those that attended, we will now undertake wider stakeholder engagement with city partners, before a second workshop in July where the challenge brief will be finalised before the official launch of the project towards the end of the year.

The time for change is now and being part of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge, enables us to bring new ideas to the table which will help decarbonise our affordable housing, from a grassroots level, and through a One City approach.

To find out more about the Challenge go to: Climate Smart Cities Challenge — Bristol Housing Festival

Carers Week 2021: Visible and Valued

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.

We also want to continue to offer a diverse network of support services for carers that reaches people in all communities. This includes working with organisations such as Bristol Young Carers, Bristol Black Carers, Bristol and Avon Chinese Women’s Group and the Dhek Bhal support group for carers of South Asian Elders to support those undertaking care responsibilities who may face particular barriers in having their status as carers recognised and supported.

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.

Sands United Bristol FC

Today’s blog is from Sands United Bristol FC, to mark Sands Awareness Month.

How long does a football match last? 90 minutes, 120 with extra time. Think of all the things that could happen within that time – your team could reach a cup final. What about off the pitch? You could sit with friends and family and watch a film.

For some though, during the course of that football match their world will be turned upside down. Every day in the UK nearly every 2 hours a family is faced with the devastation of the death of their baby before, during or shortly after birth.

SANDS is the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support charity. It exists to support anyone affected by the death of a baby. Here in Bristol, there is a local Sands support group – Bristol Sands (Bristol.sands.org.uk) who provide that support in a variety of ways. Sadly though, men can often feel isolated and feel that there isn’t support there for them. However, in Bristol there is a unique avenue of support for any man affected by such a loss – Sands United Bristol FC.

We are a football team providing support on and off the pitch. Founded just over 2 years ago it gives men (mainly dads) an outlet for their grief. An opportunity to be around other men and share stories and support each other through tough times – either face to face or using WhatsApp. We are a part of the Bristol Sands support group and are one of 30 Sands United FC teams around the country.

Every player in the team is a part of a club that nobody wants to be a part of, but a club that has the highest cost of membership.

We’ll never know what interests our babies would’ve had as they grew up. For example, would they have been into playing sports. A couple of times a month, at training and in matches, we have a go at answering that question and we play with our babies and for our babies. Each player in the squad plays with a shirt that has very personal meaning to them. It carries their babies name or names and a squad number chosen for them.

We aren’t interested in your football ability, we aren’t interested that the last time you played football was at school (and that’s more years ago than you care to remember!!), we aren’t interested in your level of fitness either.

The football team is only interested in one thing – that you are looking for support!!

If you’ve experienced the death of a baby and are looking for support then please just search for ‘Sands United Bristol’ on any social media channel, or go to our website sandsunitedbristol.com

As one of our players once wrote ‘We play for the best worst team in football’.

We are Sands United Bristol FC