Breaking glass ceilings: Bristol’s women entrepreneurs

Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. To celebrate, I’ve invited some of Bristol’s women entrepreneurs to contribute to today’s blog.

Rachel Mostyn and Camilla Rigby, co-founders of the Women’s Work Lab, a social enterprise that supports unemployed mums back into work via training and work placements.

Co-Founders Camilla Rigby (L) and Rachel Mostyn (R) along with Women’s Work Lab graduate Samantha Cuffy who recently landed her first job in 11 years

What does your business do, and how did you get set up?

The Women’s Work Lab CIC supports unemployed mums aged 25+ and receiving benefits to become work ready. Our mums face challenges including domestic abuse, lone parenting, and children with SEN or home displacement.

Our bespoke classroom training, work placement and sponsorship programmes focus on building confidence, ambition and employability skills. We specialise in unlocking potential and laying the foundations for a brighter future. 2020 work placement partners include North Bristol NHS Trust, AXA PPP healthcare, Burges Salmon, Jacobs and the University of Bristol .

Outcomes for participants include new careers, positive role modelling for their families and communities and the creation of a vital support network.

We both come from a corporate communications and training background and met at networking events in Bristol. We both shared a passionate belief that all mothers should be supported to achieve their potential and be able to work flexibly around their children. Our desire to support the mums who needed it the most led to us creating the Women’s Work Lab. We have set it up as a social enterprise which means we reinvest profits to create positive social change.

Women’s Work Lab participants Irene Muthemba (L) and Joselynne Sabano (R) on placement at Southmead Hospital

How has COVID affected your business and working life?

We were part way through a training program when the first lockdown hit back in March. It meant we had to stop our face-to-face training and all of our participants and trainers were suddenly dealing with home-schooling on top of everything else. Our group of 15 mums became a vital support network for each other and we continued with 1-2-1 sessions and some online training. But of course there were also challenges such as access to IT and broadband poverty.

The good news is in the autumn we still managed to get some of our Mums out on placement to our incredible partners including Jacobs, Burges Salmon and North Bristol NHS Trust. One of our Mums has secured her first job in 11 years recently and several others are in the final stages of securing new jobs or training to further their career prospects. We are incredibly proud that we have achieved this level of success in the middle of a pandemic. We are now looking ahead to new programmes in 2021 and have had a great deal of interest from Mums across the South West, as well as businesses who wish to offer Mums placements.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to become entrepreneurs?

Our tenacity and drive to succeed is definitely helped by the fact that we are a partnership. Being co-founders means we literally have each other’s backs and that is enormous when you consider everything the world has thrown at us this year. Of course there are many successful solo entrepreneurs out there but for us our shared passion and different skill sets has been so important. We both want our Mums to be a success more than anything and are doing everything in our power to give as many women as possible the opportunity to unlock their potential and have a brighter future for their family. Our advice would be to work on something you truly believe in and from there success will come if you want it enough.

For more information on The Women’s Work Lab visit

Mel Bound, Founder and CEO This Mum Runs

What does your business do, and how did you get set up?

This Mum Runs (TMR) is the largest online and offline running community for Mums in the world, with a mission to empower 1 million women to feel great about themselves through moving more. We started in 2014 when I posted on a Facebook looking for an unfit running buddy, after I struggled to adjust to life as a new Mum and regular exercise went out the window. 75 women turned up to that first run and TMR was born! Six years later, we’re a global community of 100,000 Mums, with hundreds of weekly runs, a coaching App aimed at supporting women to start running after having children and an e-commerce store that has shipped to more than 30 countries. Facebook recently recognised us as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Communities in the World, and Apple listed our App as “the hottest running App in the UK”.

How has COVID affected your business and working life?

With the onset of Covid, we were forced to stop our free weekly runs immediately. I also took the decision to furlough the team and temporarily close our online store – to enable our team (all parents of young children) to focus on caring for their families. For several months it meant that I was flying solo, whilst also home schooling my own two children which was at times very challenging to balance – my work day started when homeschooling finished and so there were a lot of late nights!

It enabled me to become very single minded about only doing the most important things to provide what our customers, community and wider community really needed; the focus was on creating a range of new initiatives within our digital communities that enabled women to feel connected, stay active and feel mentally well – including taking our sessions online, virtual challenges and our new App. The hard work was worth it, with 68% of the TMR community telling us they were more than, or equally as, active as before lockdown started – compared with 25% nationwide. I also took the opportunity to make some changes to our operating model to future proof against further lockdowns – closing our warehouse and moving to a local outsourced fulfilment partner has enabled us to re-open the store and continue to grow the business throughout the second lockdown. And we also launched a number of initiatives supporting the local community – including supporting community pharmacies, with our runners delivering prescriptions to those isolating at home.

Doing lockdown, we were lucky enough to secure both National Lottery funding, and investment though a partnership with Vitality which has enabled us to invest in growing the team – with four new hires – and to really focus on continued growth going into 2021.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to become entrepreneurs?

Launching and growing a business is not a controllable, linear process – it’s more like a rollercoaster every minute of every day – I wish someone had told me at the beginning; it will feel hard because it is hard!

Reminding myself that everyone running a young business is going through the same things (even if they don’t talk about it) has really helped me to feel more centred when things have been challenging.

Understanding and accepting that we can’t control everything that comes at us, but that we can control our reaction to it is something to remember too any time you feel the inevitable turbulence of start-up life. Work hard, be nice to people – those things will get you a very long way!

Clare Serjeant, owner of Fox + Feather, Gloucester Road

What does your business do, and how did you get set up?

We are a bricks and mortar and online retail shop selling womenswear, lifestyle and homeware products. I started the business in 2012 after leaving a busy and fulfilling career in Fashion Buying and Visual Merchandising. I realised that to feel fulfilled by my role I needed to create something new, so I left my job (when eight months pregnant with my first child!) to set up Fox + Feather.

I used all the money I had in the bank (£10,000) and a few credit cards and bought as much stock as I could to get us through the first week, hoping we would make enough in sales to buy more stock. Luckily (and with a lot of hard graft) we did! We’ve slowly built the business up over the last eight-and-a-half years, learning many lessons along the way. 

 How has COVID affected your business and working life?

We have had a huge shift in focus onto online shopping. This means that social media and our website take up most of my day. Luckily we’ve had our website up and running for the last six years, so it wasn’t too much of a step away from what we were doing already. My days now consist of organising the store teams to get orders packed and ready, whilst I add items online and create content for our social media. Government grants and furlough schemes have meant we’ve managed to keep our team in place, but there have been some difficult negotiations with suppliers over pre-ordered stock. Fashion works approx. up to eight months in advance for buying which has created huge problems throughout the supply chain. On a positive note, the store currently being closed again does give some flexibility in my working hours so I am enjoying being able to do the school run with my two kids most days, where that wasn’t always possible before.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to become entrepreneurs?

Make sure you know your industry inside out. Be prepared to work extremely hard, for long hours and for not much pay when you are starting out! Employ an excellent accountant to give you advice along the way. Be inspired by those succeeding around you- don’t feel you are failing just because a similar business to yours is doing well. 

Making ends meet

From the first day of my administration, housing has been our top priority. The security of a good, affordable place to live has never been more important. We have made a real dent in the housing crisis we inherited and, despite being slowed by the pandemic, have built thousands of new homes. Goram Homes, the city’s council-house-building company, and our pipeline of 2,500 new council houses, can help rebuild a better Bristol where nobody is left behind.

But, with Government support during this pandemic still wanting, we know that progress in tackling the housing crisis risks going into reverse – particularly after the end of the eviction ban. A third of renters have been their income fall since March and, with redundancies and rent arrears rising, many are worried that things will get worse, not better, this winter. Around 2.5 million renters are concerned about how they’ll pay their bills in coming months, with almost as many people again likely to be on council house waiting lists next year.

Recent research from the Local Government Association and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights the story which too many Bristolians live out on daily basis: that the pandemic and resultant recession have most hit those who can afford it least – with certain communities disproportionately likely to be struggling to make ends meet. We all know that more national support is needed to help people keep a roof over their head. For full details of the local financial help which we have put in place, including our council tax safety net, please visit our dedicated covid-19 website.

Real progress and fake news

Promising vaccine news in recent days and weeks represents light at the end of a tunnel which has sometimes felt endless during 2020.

We should though, remember, that nearly 200 years passed between the West Country’s Edward Jenner discovering a vaccine for smallpox and the world eradicating the disease in 1980. While technology and logistics now enable us to move much more quickly once covid-19 vaccines have been approved, we still need to continue to balance our hope with patience.

And, with the UK now the first European country to pass the tragic milestone of 50,000 covid-19 deaths, we cannot afford to lose focus on what we all must do to keep each other safe and save lives. With cases still rising, not falling, in Bristol, this means sticking to the current restrictions.

Everyone working on the vaccine trials – and volunteers taking part in them – should be immensely proud of making these steps forward possible; but we have to be realistic that the road to eradicating covid-19 may still be long. While important questions remain about as yet unpublished action plans for the rollout of any vaccine, the science behind vaccines is irrefutable. Basic vaccines are now received by nearly 90% of children worldwide, contributing to the number of infant deaths being halved since 1990.

As well as consistent public health messaging to explain and promote the take-up of approved vaccines, there is a clear case for new legislation to ensure that social media companies remove conspiracy theories about vaccines. Anti-vax fake news has doubtless contributed to a dip in the take-up of the free MMR vaccine, which saw measles return to the UK last year. Disinformation about vaccines – and covid-19 – can be fatal, and end up costing Bristolians their lives.

75 Years of UNESCO

Today marks 75 years of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Founded after World War II to promote peace, and now representing 193 Member States, it works to deliver sustainable growth and strengthen ties between educational, academic, scientific, cultural, creative, and artistic communities around the world.

In 2016 Bristol became England’s first UNESCO Learning City, committing to improving access to education, learning and skills. The following year, we received UNESCO’s Learning City Award in recognition of successes like our ‘Love Learning’ campaign and Learning Ambassador programme. 2017 saw Bristol win UNESCO City of Film status thanks to our contribution to film and moving image production, education, and culture. Just one of 18 Cities of Film – alongside Busan, Mumbai, and Sydney – this status recognises our long-standing international reputation and gives us a greater global stage, as well as access to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It brings funding opportunities, exchange programmes, and creative projects to help the sector grow.

These initiatives broaden Bristolians’ access to training and employment opportunities. Ten Bristol schools are benefiting from ‘Film for Learning’, secured through our UNESCO designations, with funding coming thanks to work with partners in Bradford and Belfast. Teachers are trained to use film in classrooms to better engage children, an approach that is proven to make a positive difference to reading and writing outcomes.

Just as Bristol’s policymakers are leading the way in tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, our filmmakers are harnessing their own power to educate and influence behavioural change to the benefit of the natural world. We are internationally renowned for producing a third of all wildlife documentaries, films recognised at Bristol’s Wildscreen Festival (one of 11 film festivals held here annually). Last month, I opened Wildscreen’s (virtual) Panda Awards, which attracted submissions from the best international talent. A large proportion of the winning films were made by Bristol companies including BBC Studios Natural History Unit, Off the Fence, Plimsoll Productions, and Silverback Films.

I’m proud to see local talent commissioned by major TV networks making films that contribute to important conversations about our past and future. In 2020, the world has watched Bristol-made films about issues including transatlantic slave history, identity, isolation, and migration. Powerful stories included The Shadow of Slavery for Channel 4’s ‘Take Your Knee Off My Neck’ series, andWe Are Not the Virus and Sign Night for the BBC’s ‘Culture in Quarantine’ strand: all showing how film can connect, educate, and empower us. Channel 4 are establishing themselves well at their new Creative Hub, opening up even more opportunities to develop and diversify the sector as it continues to go from strength to strength.

In a year when many of us have stayed home for long periods, our appetite for TV and film has never been greater. Bristol is booming with production once again, on location and at Hengrove’s Bottle Yard Studios, the West of England’s largest studio. This is good news for our creatives, many of whom are self-employed freelancers hit hard by the pandemic. The business of producing film and TV continues to grow, with £17m of investment brought into Bristol by filming in 2019/20. Predictions are that, despite the impact of lockdowns, this year and next we should see similarly high levels.

Yet for Bristol, this is only part of the picture. Cultural events and venues face massive challenges as the pandemic continues. Major film festivals, like Wildscreen and Encounters, have become virtual events. Others, like Afrika Eye, celebrating Bristol’s connection with Africa, have sadly been cancelled. Many places made big changes to accommodate social distancing to reopen, only to close again for the current lockdown. These spaces are so important to Bristol’s cultural fabric, connecting communities and sharing stories from across the world. We will continue to support them to flourish again in the future, when it is safe to be together again.

Bristol’s UNESCO designations are not just awards to be proud of. They help Bristol deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrate our commitment as a global city to education and cultural development, and support our communities to thrive.

Most of all, they show the world that we are a vibrant and outward-looking city, where the stories we share reflect our heritage, diversity, and creativity.

Bristol UNESCO City of Film 2020 showreel from Bristol UNESCO City of Film on Vimeo.

Wrong answer to the wrong question

This blog is from Cabinet lead for Spatial Planning and City Design, Cllr Nicola Beech, regarding the Government’s consultation on the Planning White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ and Bristol’s response.

‘Planning for the Future’ proposed to ‘radically’ reform the planning system. The Government spoke about the need to streamline and modernise it, which would speed up the delivery of homes and potentially solve the UK’s housing crisis.

Bristol City Council is welcoming of development and growth. Recently Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees, was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for making a significant contribution to the built environment by founding a city-owned housing company, Goram Homes, which will develop and build homes, and will re-invest profits into the development of social housing. Since 2016 we have built 7,000 homes, and by 2021 will have built 1,430 new affordable homes as part of the largest council house building scheme for over 35 years.

Bristol is achieving this ambitious programme of delivery with the planning system, not in spite of it. In pointing the finger of blame at England’s planning system for the slow delivery of housing; the government has got the wrong answer to the wrong question.

While some of the proposals in the Planning White Paper are not unwelcome, they will not solve the housing crisis or deliver the healthy, sustainable and mixed communities we want – and need – to see. The White Paper does not address the fundamental issues hindering development and housing delivery; namely investment in infrastructure, delivery of social homes; and enhancing the non-planning powers that local authorities need in order to drive good, inclusive development.

The White Paper advocates an approach that would ‘fast track’ planning for ‘beauty’. A narrow focus on beauty risks ignoring or limiting important considerations that are fundamental to good, inclusive growth, such as environmental standards, biodiversity and green infrastructure. Good planning focuses on the bigger picture of what makes a good place to live. While they are of course important, appearance and beauty should never trump sustainability, liveability, safety and community.

The proposals put forward in the White Paper to designate areas into ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection’ zones, with the presumption of development in ‘growth’ and ‘renewal’ areas, is a fundamental risk to local democracy, consultation and engagement.

As a growing city, Bristol would surely fall into the ‘growth’ and ‘renewal’ zones. We have worked hard to empower our communities and ensure local residents are fully involved in the development and growth of their areas. These proposals would undercut that and would be entirely the wrong approach. The planning system should retain and enhance community consultation and engagement and put residents at the heart of plans to grow, regenerate and re-shape their local areas, not ride roughshod over them.

The White Paper also makes the assumption that land use and form can be set entirely at the Local Plan preparation stage for the full 15 year period of a Local Plan. This is another misjudgement of how cities and communities evolve over time, which also fails to allow the necessary flexibility we need to adjust to changing circumstances.  15 years is a long time in the life of a city. The experience of just the last handful of years – the demands of the climate and ecological emergencies, evolution in technology and the fundamental changes brought by Covid-19 – exemplify the absolute necessity of locally-controlled flexibility and agility.

Blaming the planning system for the housing crisis fails to recognise that nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils, and that more than a million homes given planning permission over the last decade have yet to be built. Stripping Local Authorities of a locally-led planning system with public participation, high standards of design, quality, affordability and sustainability at its heart is not the silver bullet to solving the housing crisis that the Government expects it to be.  

World Diabetes Day

Today’s blog comes from Nicola Curtis, Regional Media Officer for Diabetes UK in the South West.

It’s World Diabetes Day and so the perfect opportunity to highlight a condition which affects a staggering 4.8 million people in the UK, including almost a million living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a serious and complicated condition with many different types. What each type has in common is how it causes those affected to have excess glucose (sugar) in their blood. If not managed well, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications including amputations and sight loss.

We know that people living with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. In fact, around a third of those dying in England from Covid-19 have diabetes.

Research has also shown that there are certain risk factors that make someone more susceptible to a poor outcome from Covid-19. Those risk factors include being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic group, increased age, a BMI over 30, a history of high HbA1c (average blood sugar levels over the course of a few months) or complications such as heart failure or kidney disease.

Diabetes UK’s south west team are working hard to make an impact in Bristol, and we are particularly looking to reach out to those who may be at increased risk, as well as those less able to access vital resources.

Recently, we recruited and trained four Bristol Community Champions to support us in reaching and engaging with communities. 

At the beginning of November, in partnership with Bristol’s Health Links and Sirona care and health, staff delivered an online information and education session to members of the Somali community. Focussing on the basics of diabetes, diabetes management and managing Covid-19 and flu risk, the session was translated into Somali throughout.

Well-attended, the virtual event followed on from a similar face-to-face event last year which was supported by Lyndsey Gethin of Café de Amis at Easton Community Centre. It’s anticipated that more will be run in the future.

In another partnership with Sirona, the south west team has now secured funding from NHS England to run a BAME focussed Language Matters project across Bristol. The project will build on work completed in the region over the past couple of years, which includes the translation of sick day rules (how to manage your diabetes when ill) into 12 different languages.

We have three local groups for people with diabetes here in Bristol and the surrounding area. Bristol Central is a group for people with type 1 diabetes, while Bristol East and Bristol West welcome those with any type of diabetes.

The groups are run by volunteers and the aim is to offer much-needed support. While not offering medical advice, the networks have strong links with local health professionals who provide expert speakers on a range of topics. Although unable to meet up in person at the moment, the Bristol Diabetes Support Network Group are getting together regularly online.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial for people to have access to information about their health and how to manage their conditions.

If you’d like further information on the work of Diabetes UK in the south west or would like to get in touch with a local Bristol group, please give us a call on 01823 448260 or email us at We’d love to hear from you.

Paying fair

It’s Living Wage Week, the annual celebration of the Living Wage movement, and yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the South West celebration event.

The week provides an opportunity to champion the movement for fair pay and it was brilliant to see so many people come together yesterday in support of the Real Living Wage initiative.

A particular highlight was the news that the University of the West of England have recently become a Living Wage accredited employer. I’d like to congratulate them for taking this step.

Bristol City Council became a Living Wage employer back in 2018, and in January of this year we were able to announce that we’d been recognised for our efforts towards making Bristol a Living Wage City. This puts us among the first few places to berecognised in this way, and the largest city so far.

Research from Cardiff University was presented at yesterday’s event, showing that Bristol is outperforming most comparable cities when it comes to the number of people uplifted onto the Real Living Wage. There are now 380 accredited employers in the South West, and 80 employers in the region have become accredited this year alone, in spite of the pandemic.

This is encouraging, and I thank businesses for their efforts so far, but there remains much more to do.

Our action group are aiming to more than double the number of people employed by accredited employersin the next 3 years, lifting more people in the city out of in-work poverty. But we want this work to go beyond city boundaries.

We’re well placed to do this, with Cardiff also being part of the small group currently recognised under the Living Wage places scheme. Our economic area is highly interconnected, with more daily journeys made between Bristol and Cardiff than between Manchester and Leeds.

With work on the Western Gateway progressing, we must capitalise on this collective power and we will be seeking opportunities to work together in driving forward this agenda.

There is a strong moral argument for paying the Real Living Wage to all workers. It is right that work is properly compensated and that wages allow people to live a full life with dignity.

But this is not just about virtue signalling. It makes economic sense, creating healthier and more resilient communities that place less strain on public services. People with greater disposable income spend that money elsewhere in our economy, supporting local businesses. And for employers, better wages are linked to improved recruitment and retention of staff, making it a sound investment.

This year has been very humbling and has led many to reflect on how we value our key workers. It’s great therefore to see key worker pay highlighted as part of this year’s Living Wage Week, and it will be a focus for our Bristol Living Wage Action Group in the coming year too.

On the theme of key worker pay, I’d like to finish by sharing the below video from pupils at St Antony’s Primary School. Not only does it communicate a very important message, it’s also incredibly catchy!

Making a difference on climate change

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Afzal Shah, ward councillor for Easton and newly appointed Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology and Sustainable Growth.

Cllr Afzal Shah with Bristol Energy Coop, & Easton Energy Group. Photo by Owen Square, 2016

I’m delighted to be appointed Bristol City Council’s first ever Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, and Sustainable Growth. Climate change is of significant personal importance to me and I have a particular interest in raising awareness of water scarcity in developing countries. 

Throughout my time as ward councillor in Easton, I was privileged to take a lead role in the delivery of the low carbon ‘CHOICES’ energy project.

Working alongside Easton Energy Group, we were able to help local residents and businesses reduce their energy usage, assist people facing fuel poverty and aid with their home energy costs.

Bristol is leading by example on climate change.  In 2018, under the leadership of Mayor Marvin Rees, Bristol became the first local authority in the UK to declare a climate emergency. Two years on, we have honoured this commitment by approving a £4 million programme to reduce both the carbon and ecological footprints of our city.

To play our part in Bristol’s One City Climate Strategy, we are taking the lead on several of the delivery areas, including heat decarbonisation and communications. Here, we will bring together partners from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help deliver the ambition to make the city carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2030.  

Bristol’s businesses have a crucial role to play in tackling climate change. And so do our consumer choices. Companies must continue to act responsibly and sustainably, adapt their business models and lower their carbon footprint. Our city’s businesses – big and small – already play a pivotal role in our city’s growing economy.

But this growth must mature into decarbonised, green, inclusive growth if we are to grow sustainably and ensure that nobody is left behind.

Intentionally ambitious, Bristol’s target to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 is also an opportunity to create greener, cleaner jobs, that channel and encourage sustainability, especially in a post-Covid-19 world.

To meet this target – 20 years ahead of that of central government – will require ongoing investment in sustainable infrastructure. At the heart of this sits city planning – pushing forward with initiatives such as greater heat network connectivity, setting the standard in construction in our city to decarbonise new builds, whilst also considering how we can better transform our transport network to join up the city.  However, we can only rise to this ambitious challenge if personal choices go hand-in-hand with systematic change.

Within our communities – informing, shaping and driving change in infrastructure and behaviour is critical. Together, we will work with partners at the community level too, to push change, raise awareness and educate residents. In recent years, there has been a concerted push towards more sustainable, greener forms of transport, in particular cycling, and residents are now far more conscious, and indeed smarter, about how they heat their homes and the help that is available to them.

Households are recycling more and more, and it was fantastic to see Bristol ranked first out of England’s eight Core Cities for recycling, according to data released by DEFRA earlier this year. Despite the challenges faced by local authorities across the country, we continue to prioritise work on climate change and many of you may be asking yourselves the important question, “What can I do to make the biggest difference?”

On a personal level, there are many actions we can take individually within our homes and our day-to-day to make a difference.

A new resource from Bristol One City – – launching this Friday, 13 November, focuses on actions you can take, as well as stories to guide and inspire us all as we try to make a difference together. I would encourage you to explore the website, add your knowledge and share it with friends, family and colleagues.

We must be ambitious. Just as Bristol led the way in declaring the first climate emergency, it can also lead the way in sustainability. Only by taking action at all levels within our city, we can successfully reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Make Your Mark – getting young people involved in politics

Today’s guest blog comes from Lia-Anjali Lazarus, a Member of the Youth Parliament representing Bristol.

I am Lia-Anjali Lazarus. I am 16 years old and currently in school in Bristol. I also represent Bristol in the Youth Parliament alongside other Member of the Youth Parliament (MYP), Molly Flitcroft.

As I pass through conversations in my day, conversing with my peers, in and out of school, on social media, I rarely go through a day without passionate and often angry discussions about the tense political climate and the great injustices so many young people currently face. 

I am in a very fortunate position. After running for the Bristol Youth Council in 2017, I now find myself representing Bristol as an MYP. For me, this is life changing, I finally have the political education I have been hungry for and have a platform to channel my passion for justice and change. 

But where is that political education and engagement for other young people? I know so many friends who feel deprived of a political education and feel neglected by the UK government who run our schools like businesses, factories even. There are overwhelming feelings of being powerless. Youth constantly question “what can we do?” and “how can we bring about change?” 

The Youth Parliament’s role is to represent the views of the youth of the country and communicate their demands to the government. This is structured through an annual UK-wide ballot called Make Your Mark. First, through vigorous debate, the Youth Parliament creates a list of important issues facing young people locally and across the UK. This list is then presented to 11-18 year-olds across the country who are then invited to vote on the issues they care about most. The results of this UK-wide ballot are then presented to our country’s leaders. The results also aid MPs to address the needs of young people in their constituencies.

Running since 2011, Make Your Mark has reached millions of young people with more than 850,000 from every corner of the country taking part in the summer of 2019. In previous years, shortlisted issues have been debated in the House of Commons’ chamber by Members of Youth Parliament. 

The UK Youth Parliament launched its annual Make Your Mark ballot on 1 November 2020 as part of UK Parliament Week. The vote is open until 30 November. 

I cannot stress the importance of youth engagement in these votes. This is a clear way to show the government just how eager and desperate to be heard so many young people are and I am convinced that the results will convey a demand for the great radical change so many of us aspire for. In previous years, paper ballots were distributed and Make Your Mark was promoted by schools across the country. This meant that a very large number of students were included. Because of the pandemic, this year’s ballot is online, making it much harder to get as much engagement as usual. Therefore, if you are 11-18, I implore you to vote! Head over to, read through the issues and have your say! It is a fantastic opportunity for young people to have a vote, for once!

Thanks for the support. We hope to see a super Bristol vote turnout.

Your Members of Youth Parliament,

Lia-Anjali Lazarus and Molly Flitcroft 

If you have any concerns, have any questions or want to get involved, please contact us!

Bristol Young Heroes Awards

Today’s blog comes from Chris Duncan, Project Officer at Community of Purpose, the Bristol based organisation responsible for delivering the Bristol Young Heroes Awards.

Prior to March of this year, it is very unlikely that you would have heard the words Zoom, furlough or social distancing used so commonly as we do today; however, we’ve all become very used to the meaning and implications of the ‘new-normal’ that these changes bring. For Community of Purpose and the Bristol Young Heroes Awards, this is no different.

The Bristol Young Heroes Awards is the city’s annual celebration of young Bristolians who have overcome adversity to excel in fields such as sport and education or have made a significant contribution in areas such as volunteering, environmentalism or care. May 1st was earmarked as the 7th edition of the awards (due to be hosted at We The Curious), however – like many other live events – we were forced to change plans because of COVID-19.

This has all led to the 2020 edition of the Bristol Young Heroes Awards being moved online for the first time. While we are disappointed that our fabulous young heroes will not get the opportunity to celebrate in person, we’re excited about the potential of the whole city being able to join us in recognising and toasting the achievements of this brilliant crop of young people.

So, with this in mind, Community of Purpose are delighted to welcome you to register to watch the Bristol Young Heroes 2020 which is taking place on Wednesday 16th December (7:30-9:30pm). As well as announcing the winners of each award, the event will include creative performances ranging from spoken word to music as well as messages from some of the city’s biggest names.

Each registrant will be in with the chance of winning a £100 shopping voucher and followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will be in with the chance of winning an incredible bundle of prizes via our #beautyofbristol photography competition which launches in November.

The Bristol Young Heroes Awards is proudly sponsored by GKN Aerospace. Stephen Cowan, Vice-President for the Global Technology Centre UK, said this about being involved in the awards:-

“GKN are proud to be the main sponsor of the BYHA’s and have continued to support this very worthwhile event for several years now and personally for me the event is a great leveller and brings our business back to basics when we talk about our people and the important role our company plays in the wider community.”

Amy Kingon, CEO of Community of Purpose adds:-

“We’re so delighted to be able to host the Bristol Young Heroes Awards online this year and want to give a special thanks to Sounds Commercial for helping us achieve this. We are encouraging anyone and everyone from Bristol to join us for the evening, to celebrate these amazing young people and enjoy the creative offerings that this amazing City has to give.”

To register for your free tickets to the event, please visit