What does a diverse food future look like for Bristol?

Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

I’ve just finished reading the report released by Feeding Bristol on the COVID-19 community food response. The report details the city-wide efforts made to support the economically vulnerable during lockdown. Injustice doesn’t affect everyone equally, and while we’re all at risk of COVID-19, there are some people who are more vulnerable. The disproportionate impact of the virus in black communities and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the brutal murder of George Floyd in the US have brought this into much sharper focus around the world, and Bristol is no exception.

The work of Feeding Bristol is incredible. I thought that the charity could not surpass its record efforts of the summer of 2019 when they raised over £100k, pledged by city partners in record time (24 hours) to deliver the Healthy Holidays Project. This saw over 53,000 meals packed and delivered to over 5,000 children and their families during the school summer holidays. 75% of beneficiaries were in receipt of free school meals.

But they have surpassed this. The food distribution network that was put in place has been phenomenal. The first 10 weeks of lockdown saw 120 tonnes of food distributed through a network of community food hubs right across the city, including emergency food projects.

Through the 26 community food hubs at least 221,000 meals and 16,200 food parcels were distributed to those in need during lockdown, with nearly half of the food support going to children.

What do the Healthy Holidays and COVID-19 community food programmes have in common?

They are both examples of the responsive nature of Bristol’s unique ‘one city approach‘, which immediately sprang into action at both city-wide and neighbourhood level to support those most in need.

Food insecurity disproportionately affects children and young people, and those living on low income. Since lockdown was announced and businesses began to furlough staff, the struggle for families to get enough food to eat has been all too real, and this pandemic has only further highlighted the magnitude of the problem of those children and families at increased risk of hunger here in our city.

Food insecurity raises questions about the extent to which our food production and food retail systems are adequate and sustainable; and questions about whether households have adequate physical access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food. The number of adults who are food insecure in Britain is estimated to have quadrupled under the COVID-19 lockdown.

Here in Bristol the COVID-19 lockdown has clearly exacerbated food insecurity among those who regularly struggle to afford enough food, created by a new economic vulnerability on account of loss of work and income, and in some instances, a loss of free school meals for children. It has also created a new vulnerability because of those shielding and in self-isolation, plus a lack of food in shops during the early weeks of lockdown added a further layer of an additional risk of food insecurity for those most at risk of poverty – adults who are unemployed, adults with disabilities, adults with children, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups and older people – all of whom have been impacted.

Adults with children eligible for free school meals are experiencing a much heightened risk of food insecurity arising from a lack of money due to income loss after either being furloughed or laid off at the start of the lockdown. This risk disproportionately affects BAME communities. Even before the crisis, nationally the percentage of children in black households living in persistent low income was higher than the percentage of children in white households living in persistent low income.

In Bristol, the explosion of grassroots COVID-19 mutual aid groups and volunteers across the city added a much-needed layer of support and resources, including nutritious food parcels and cooked meals where possible. Bristol’s food sector pivoted quickly to lend their support by providing meals to the homeless and NHS/care staff. Meanwhile the Bristol Food Network delivered a range of online resources – including details of how to access help, help others and support local food providers – plus, inspiration for adapting to the crisis at home under the moniker #BristolFoodKind. Bristol’s minority ethnic communities formed a significant part of the city’s response to the crisis, such as the Food Hub Consortium Project, Feed the Homeless, the Refugee Women of Bristol and many volunteers, chefs and community workers around the city.

Talo (pictured) supports families in St Pauls and the surrounding areas with housing, employment and benefits. Find them on Facebook at talo.community.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has become the wake-up call the city needed to highlight the true extent of race inequality not only in wider society, but sadly much closer to home. Here in Bristol black communities have remained on the margins of the mainstream “food movement”. This must change.

The Black Lives Matter movement offers the food sector an opportunity to change course, to confront inequalities of power and to set out clear actions that are measurable. How do we do that, I hear you say? It’s simple. If you want to do more, then adapt models from elsewhere. Many other sectors and industries have reviewed their own structures, exploring how their policies can help combat racism and “build back better” in the wake of COVID-19. The food community can learn from these efforts.

Here are some suggestions as a starter for 10:

  • Prioritise candid and honest conversations about racism in the food sector. It’s uncomfortable but you need to push through the discomfort.
  • Publicly acknowledge racism within the food sector and how it manifests itself within the food movement.
  • Commit to anti-racism and tackling institutional discrimination across the food sector.
  • Commit to educating your staff and becoming a more diverse employer.

The “new normal” must have diversity and inclusion at its core, and this must also embrace class. Bristol prides itself on its many plaudits for its offering of a truly diverse and multi-cultural food offering, but for many the food sector movement is considered too “elitist and white”. This must change.

Bristol is made up of so many communities. We pride ourselves on being a city that speaks 92 languages, is home to people of 187 nationalities, but this is not borne out in the structures that exist. As a city we must diversify our thinking, our culture and of course our love of food, which we are already renowned for.

It’s been said that “with great power comes great responsibility”. It’s now time for the food sector to demonstrate how the new normal is going to go beyond statements of solidarity.

Visit Bristol Food Network for more information and resources on Bristol’s Good Food response to the pandemic.

#BristolFoodKind is a collaboration between Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol Food Network, Bristol City Council and Resource Futures.


Today’s blog comes from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and City Design.

The people of Bristol know how central our music venues and events are to the city’s culture and sense of identity. It’s difficult to imagine what Bristol would be like today if we’d never had St Paul’s Carnival, Lakota, Thekla or Motion, for example.

That’s why we’re backing the #LetUsDance campaign, launched by the UK’s night time economy and events sector today, issuing an urgent plea for support from the UK Government. They ask that dance music venues and the events and festivals sector be protected and recognised as an important part of the nation’s art and culture, in parity with the wider live music sector, to ensure equal access to support.

In March, all of the UK’s music venues closed their doors due the Covid-19 pandemic, with an estimated 90 per cent of venues and festivals at imminent risk of closure according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

The impact of these venue closures on our city cannot be underestimated. As well as dealing a catastrophic blow to the culture of our city, mass closures of music venues would mean the loss of a £5 billion industry and thousands of jobs nationally.

Added to this is the knock-on effect for other businesses. MVT estimates that for every £10 ticket sale for a grassroots music venue, £17 is spent elsewhere in the local night-time economy, supporting the jobs of the 91,600 people who are directly or indirectly employed by the sector here in Bristol.

This month, the sector welcomed the announcement of a £1.57 billion package of emergency grants and loans, to be distributed through the Arts Council, to support cultural organisations to survive the pandemic. This backing is vital for many of our celebrated institutions and we are pleased to see them getting the recognition they deserve.

However, the government narrative to-date on the fund has not been clear about how this money may or may not be used to support nightclubs or events and festivals organisers. The position of freelancers and others who earn a living from the music industry remains uncertain.

For a sector that was already struggling, and for whom the impact of this crisis will be felt for a long time to come, this fund must be inclusive. The value of smaller, independent or grassroots venues must be recognised alongside the larger institutions that are so visible in our cities. Electronic music must be considered as worthy of support as live music. And those venues with no prior experience of working with the Arts Council, or of submitting bids, must not be disadvantaged.

As a local authority, we have been supporting businesses through the distribution of nearly 8,000 grants totalling more than £93m. We have redeployed staff to increase the size of the teams assessing applications and I’m proud of the speed at which we were able to respond to this challenge.

But despite existing support, we recognise that some businesses are falling through the cracks. As well as working with the West of England Combined Authority to take steps to support the sector, we will continue to put pressure on the government to expand their offer to be more inclusive.  

That’s why we’re calling on everyone who cares about the culture of our city to support the campaign. You can help to raise awareness by posting your favourite picture from a nightclub, festival or event on social media, with a note supporting its place within arts and culture. Pre-made social media graphics can be found and downloaded here and make sure you use the hashtag #LetUsDance with all posts.

Marti Burgess, co-chair of the Bristol@Night board, launched in 2018 to amplify the voice of those working in the night time economy, has shared the following statement in support of the campaign:

Bristol is a city that is proud of its sound system culture, events, festivals and night time economy.  When Covid hit, these were all forced to either shut down and/or shelve plans for what would have been a busy summer season. 

The government support seems to have let many of our great businesses fall through the cracks. If the definition of those eligible for the Arts package is narrow, very few of our venues, festivals and events will be able to access funds, meaning that some will not survive.  We really want the definition of ‘live music venue’ to be as inclusive as possible so that all of Bristol’s cultural institutions stand a chance in what remains an incredibly difficult time. 

The city’s culture, in its widest sense, is so important to our city identity. Thankfully we have the support of our city council and the Bristol MPs.  Both Kerry McCarthy and Thangam Debbonaire have recently spoken up in parliament in defence of our city’s night time economy and fantastic festival and events culture. We are grateful for this advocacy and hope that together we can achieve the financial support the sector so desperately need.

An open letter to Bristol’s care workers

This is a copy of a letter which is being sent to care providers across Bristol.

Dear Carers,

We are writing this open letter to the 12,000 care workers in Bristol who have worked throughout the COVID-19 crisis. You have arranged and delivered care for those who need it, supporting some of our most vulnerable residents to live healthier and more independent lives in extraordinary circumstances. We wanted to write an open letter because we want the city to know how thankful and proud we are that you are part of our city.

The comfort and support you provide for families across Bristol is incalculable. From visiting people in their homes, helping residents feel comfortable in residential care, advising families on support available and safeguarding vulnerable people through to commissioning services to help people retain their independence, delivering hot and nutritious meals, scheduling home visits and constructing care plans.

During the past four months you have shown just how important social care is to a compassionate and resilient city. You have carried out these duties – so valued by families across Bristol – in unprecedented circumstances.

You have worked long hours and put the people you care for first, ensuring our citizens had the care they have needed. You have been a source of support and comfort for those isolated from their families and loved ones and have kept them safe from a virus that has taken so many people away from us before their time. And you have done so knowing that you were putting yourself at risk of contracting COVID-19.

You may have heard in recent days some political leaders seeking to pass the buck for the damage this virus has caused, insinuating that care providers’ failure to follow procedures is to blame for the huge loss of life this country has experienced. We assure you that these views are not shared by the leadership of this city.

We are deeply grateful for the commitment, the skills and – above all – the selflessness you have brought to your roles throughout this crisis.

You have our admiration, our thanks and our support as you continue to provide care for Bristol’s citizens through the next phase of our response to coronavirus.

Yours sincerely,

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol                                                       

Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care

One25 and the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse

Today’s blog comes from Anna Smith, Chief Executive of One25. Anna represents One25 on the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse, which will harness the expertise of city partners to achieve the goal of making Bristol a city free from domestic abuse and gender inequality.

One25 works with vulnerable women across Bristol.  We have drop-in and a van outreach services to work with and engage women who street sex work and a programme of work called Peony for women moving away from sex work and vulnerability. Our Pause Bristol programme works with women recovering from the trauma of having children permanently removed, supporting them to break the cycle of birth and removal. One25 celebrates 25 years of supporting women to change their lives in 2020 and has been an integral part of the emergency response group meeting to discuss domestic abuse throughout lockdown.

When Covid-19 emerged, we considered the extreme vulnerabilities of our women and, in the knowledge that they often having nothing and no-one in their lives, decided to stay open during lockdown. The team transformed their work to an outreach service, dropping food and essentials to women and offering a phone and service for one to one. For group work we have been able to offer yoga and wellbeing Zooms which women have engaged in. The trust we build with women is best done face-to-face, so this has been very challenging but the women have responded well. Some have written anonymous postcards to each other with messages of support which we have put in their food parcels. As one of our clients said:

“I didn’t realise how much I needed drop-in until I couldn’t come in (because of COVID). Drop-in is amazing, and all of you are amazing.”

In the first seven weeks of lockdown we helped 18 homeless women get into safe housing, supported four women onto a script, delivered over 300 food bags, handed out 33 mobile phones and welcomed 32 women to our van, 96 times. By maintaining our scripting service, we have been able to support women to reduce their dependence on drugs. We have also been able to organise contraception for the women in the Pause programme. Since lockdown has eased, we have been undertaking socially distanced walks with women. This week we open our doors to the women again and are so pleased to see them back. We will maintain some of the Zoom groups and ensure all services are carefully thought through to keep women, volunteers and staff safe.

We know that there are many unsolved issues around domestic abuse including quick access to somewhere safe to stay and even access to a phone to get support.  During lockdown, women have returned to or were locked down with abusive partners, or they have felt unable to leave.  We also believe that some women thought services were shut and so have put off reaching out for support. As Bristol unlocks we are going to face unmet need and an increased demand for services, as well as responding to worsened abuse and the impact on mental health.

One25 welcomes the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse, as it will bring together committed partners in an informed approach to find solutions for the needs of people experiencing abuse. We know from involvement in Bristol One City that it is all about putting the issues of the city first and working together to find what is best for Bristol and its residents. Members of the commission will meet over the summer to form recommendations for how the city can prevent domestic abuse and support survivors, with the findings to be shared in the autumn.

If you want to support the work of One25, please visit our website or contact us on social media, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

How to restart an inclusive economic recovery in Bristol post-COVID-19

Today’s blog comes from Fuad Mahamed, CEO of Ashley Community Housing.

It is a well-publicised fact that COVID-19 has hit Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities hardest. According to a UK Government report, 17% of COVID-19 patients are from BAME communities.

The diverse BAME community was already suffering from poor financial resilience, greater mental health issues and an inability to withstand shocks given the higher proportion of social exclusion and poverty they face in British society.

However, what attracted the attention of the country is the selfless bravery of this community in leading the battle against COVID-19 in the UK.

Immigrant key workers leading the COVID-19 battle
The recent Windrush scandal and the rise of hate crime following Brexit have been relegated to the rear-view mirror given the selfless and exemplary role BAME NHS staff played and continue to play in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first 10 doctors in the UK who have died from the virus were all BAME. And it is not only within the NHS that immigrant key workers are vital. It has come to light the huge role BAME communities play in other key worker roles: delivering food, keeping us clean, driving buses, taxis and trains, growing our food and delivering our post.

Senior government officials are now rightly publicly questioning the wisdom of a tougher Australian style point-based immigration system for migrant workers. It is clear we need them desperately to fill many vacant positions crucial for our daily lives and overall national success.  Whilst this is not headline news for many of us, the vital role of the jobs filled by the BAME community is finally getting the public and political attention it deserves. 

Immigrant entrepreneurs leading economic recovery
With the COVID- 19 pandemic, our efforts have been focused on fire-fighting the issue and gradually improving our knowledge and responses to it. However, we must think of the long-term implications for creating a resilient post COVID-19 society, one that is built on the foundation of inclusive economic recovery. The pandemic has already taught us: the chain of resilience is only as strong as its weakest link.

Bristol’s economy must recover if we are to remain a vibrant world-leading city. Bristol can be proud of its status as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, an academic powerhouse and a diverse city with huge reserves of untapped potential. To grow, we need all Bristolians to be able and be supported to participate in economic activities, including the vast energy and commitment of the BAME community.

This is no longer just about rhetorical inclusivity but about inclusivity which drives growth, creates jobs and integrates our city, communities and society.

So how can immigrant entrepreneurs reignite Bristol’s economy?
Like key workers from a migrant background, immigrant entrepreneurs play a vital role in our economy. The OECD has estimated that a foreign-born entrepreneur in a small firm creates an average of 1.4 to 2.1 jobs. Immigrants to the UK are almost twice as likely to start businesses – being responsible for 14% of job creation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Researchers at the University of Birmingham argue that in Britain new migrant firms ‘act as buffers against unemployment and social exclusion in disadvantaged communities, and as vehicles for the social integration of disparate migrant populations both with one another and into the British mainstream’.

As employment providers, they offer fellow migrants a haven from an often-hostile job market and foster social integration through contact with customers and business connections.

Focusing on small businesses recovery
The OECD has estimated that a foreign-born entrepreneur in a small firm creates an average of 1.4 to 2.1 jobs. Immigrants to the UK are almost twice as likely to start businesses – they are responsible for 14% of job creation in SMEs.

If we want to reignite our economy, we must reignite our small businesses. Small businesses in Bristol are reeling from the inability to do business as usual. Many sectors predict collapsed demand and economic uncertainty will stretch for months, if not years.

Participants said that government loans and financial support schemes are not accessible, are too complicated and, in some cases, not suitable or culturally sensitive as they are interest bearing loans.  Small business owners, and specifically those from BAME communities, are underrepresented in local and national recovery plans.

What we need to do
To mitigate economic fallout and small business failure post-COVID-19, we need targeted support for all small business owners, including BAME-led businesses facing even greater financial and operational challenges.

In an Entrepreneurship Support Project in Bristol led by a partnership between ACH, Engine Shed, the University of Bristol and West of England Growth Hub (part of WECA), we have learnt the barriers in the current business support ecosystem. These prevent many immigrant entrepreneurs from accessing support, markets and business networks that appear easy to access for others.

Targeted support for BAME entrepreneurs and small businesses also requires trust-building.  A long-standing lack of trust in some mainstream support services and business finance lenders has hindered access to vital support and finance.

We also need to address a lack of access to mainstream finance. Although the government has announced a £350 billion loan scheme for businesses, access to loans is hindered for many as these loans are interest bearing, or small business owners lack the ability to provide the collateral needed for access. Furthermore, access to banks is limited as many local banks in low-income communities have been closed.

Our Entrepreneurship Support Project found that a hands-on approach is needed to assist immigrant entrepreneurship, especially those with a refugee background. To help steer them, the Enterprise Facilitators found they needed to guide entrepreneurs through all stages of the process. They acted as counsellors, friends and sounding boards. They arranged microfinance loans, found marketplaces, engaged students as mentors, organised web pages and logo design, brokered introductions and networks and so much more. We learnt the importance of listening to participants and the need to boost social capital and networks.

The current business support ecosystem in Bristol needs to do more to encourage and support BAME businesses. They need rapid targeted support to open up their products and services beyond their ethnic enclaves. Pre-COVID-19 BAME businesses already knew the challenge of scaling-up: now we need them to scale up even more quickly to ensure an inclusive economic recovery in Bristol.

The wider Bristol economy needs a greater commitment to inclusive growth through targeted training skills and better long-term meaningful employment for all Bristolians.

This is how Bristol and many other diverse UK cities can fully recover and remain resilient against any future shocks. An inclusive economic approach will certainly foster societal cohesion and resilience, as well as city-wide prosperity. So far, the national collective spirit of COVID-19 has been cohesion, and we need to ensure this informs our sustainable recovery and we leave no one behind.

Time for action

The announcement that over 12,000 redundancies are being made by UK firms in two days are the first shockwaves from an unstable economy as we look to rebuild following the Covid outbreak. 

Of particular concern in Bristol are the announcements by Airbus that 15,000 of its workers will be laid off, 1,700 in the UK. This will put the livelihoods of many of the 3,000 people currently employed at their site in Filton at risk.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the immediate prospects for the whole aerospace/aviation industry – a sector of strategic importance to the UK economy. Alarmingly, the New Economic Foundation has warned that 70,000 jobs in the wider aviation industry are at immediate risk. Without government intervention, there are potentially devastating consequences for aircraft manufacturers and regional airports (both major employers in our area), the people who work there, their facilities and the communities in which they live. 

This is why I have written, along with other Core City leaders, to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, asking him to consider implementing a financial support package to secure the long-term viability of the industry, to protect thousands of jobs across the country.

In the South West, 20,000 people are directly employed in this sector, meaning this region accounts for almost a quarter of all aerospace employment across the UK.  As the proud home of Concorde and still as our biggest employment sector, aerospace and the Filton site are a treasured part of Bristol’s industrial heritage. We have always protected and defended our manufacturing base and it is crucial that Airbus continues to manufacture here, as a key part of its European supply chain, making it part of our future too. Bristol Airport is also a significant employer in south Bristol and faces challenges as works to survive and recover from the economic crisis. International seat capacity has dropped almost 80% from a year ago and half the world’s airplanes are in storage. 

Bristol’s local economy will be severely hit by large unemployment figures in Filton. We must remember that these are people with families to feed, homes and bills to pay. For anyone experiencing wage insecurity, there is no more worrying time. That’s why, along with my city colleagues elsewhere across the UK, I have asked the government for a job retention scheme. Keeping people in work is a crucial challenge while the sector recovers and will lessen the economic impact as well as protecting families. When the industry recovers, it will be the same skilled people the companies will go looking for, so the best thing the government can do to bring effective support is finance the retention of those jobs now. 

I am also asking for an airplane replacement programme. This brings the biggest opportunity to the sector to both continue and grow jobs while supporting the transition to more efficient and greener travel operations as part the country’s recovery plans. This should be accompanied by a commitment to accelerate research and development and publication of a clear programme of transition to more efficient and greener travel operations. This is why we are calling for measures now to secure local employment in this industry, and investment in its efforts to meet our net-zero obligations. Again, this protects and creates jobs while supporting a rapid transition to lower carbon industry.  

Simplistic, zero-sum, binary positioning won’t help us. We must take on the world as it is – a balance of risks. We know that actions and conversations are taking place across the sector about the need to reduce its environmental impact and this is encouraging. There is no going back – we simply cannot turn our back on a huge employer and so many jobs and nor can we the future return of flights bring with them the level of pollution they brought before. The German and American governments are protecting their aerospace industries with strategic support so the manufacturing of aircraft won’t stop. If we don’t protect ours, and infuse it with our values, it will go elsewhere, take the jobs with it, and may not carry the commitment to greening we would require.

The Climate and Transport Working Group of Cutting Carbon Now and The Climate Coalition (representing Aviation Environment Federation, Possible, Greenpeace, Transport and Environment and Friends of the Earth) argue that this is a chance to build back better by including aviation in the drive to net emission, harnessing the technological expertise of the sector to further reduce emissions and change taxes.

Unite the Union has written an ambitious and radical blueprint to allow the sector to continue to operate and meet new demands in the wake of coronavirus and the transition to a green economy. Unite’s blueprint highlights how the early retirements of older aircraft should be accelerated, and that additional government support and investment for research and development is also needed, so that new technologies can be brought to market more quickly. This includes the wings of tomorrow, new engines and electrification.

Recently the government announced a ‘Jet Zero’ project to work with the industry to produce a zero-carbon transatlantic flight. While we might be sceptical of exactly what this will do, it shows that technology will be an important part of reaching our climate goals.

We are committed to jobs and to a green economic recovery. We need strategic government investment now.  

Reopening the Hospitality Sector

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and City Design.

As anyone who lives, works or studies here will attest, Bristol likes a night out, and we’re fortunate to have a wealth of independent restaurants, bars and venues showcasing our diverse and vibrant culture.

The announcement that social distancing rules are to be reduced from 2 meters to 1 meter plus, where 2 meters cannot be maintained and suitable mitigation measures are in place, will be encouraging to many in the hospitality sector. But challenges remain. Although the road back to trading will start when restrictions begin to ease from 4 July, social distancing measures are set to remain in place for some time and the future for many in the sector is uncertain.

As a sector that directly or indirectly supports the employment of around 91,600 people, representing 34% of the city’s overall jobs, we know how important it is to work with our night time economy.

We have been engaging with the sector throughout the crisis to identify ways in which we as a local authority can support businesses to adapt, survive and build back stronger. We have been signposting to available support, distributing grants to eligible businesses and lobbying for increased provision where it is lacking. We’ve also had a team of staff visiting more than 3,000 premises as businesses start to re-open their doors to the public to ensure they are safe and prepared.

Work has already begun to close some road roads to traffic, which will allow more space for people to travel safely around the city, and pavement-widening schemes are being introduced in local shopping areas such as Bedminster Parade, Stapleton Road, St Marks Road and Clifton Village to allow businesses to implement social distancing measures.

As rules begin to be relaxed, we know how important an effective track and trace system will be to support the sector to remain open and we will continue pushing for this to be delivered. Clear health and safety guidance will help with both business and customer confidence – businesses can find this on our website.

We also recognise how critical it is for us to have a robust outbreak management plan locally to avoid a return to the blanket lockdown measures that have been so damaging to business. As a local authority, we will be communicating this with businesses and we appreciate your full cooperation to ensure we keep our city safe and moving.

We know we must keep listening. Acknowledging this, and the challenges that lie ahead, we’ve been in discussion with BARBIE and the Bristol Food Union to organise a series of webinars with the aim of co-designing the solutions needed to support the sector.

These are intended to bring together clusters of businesses in certain areas across the city, acknowledging that one size will not fit all when it comes to what each business and each area requires to re-open. We’re keen to see businesses come together to think about what they will need as they plan to share physical space. This will allow us to be smarter about how we start to get the city eating, drinking and socialising again.

With some funding from the council to deliver this piece of work, BARBIE has approached businesses in identified areas and we look forward to getting the outputs of these meetings, which are kicking off today. Details are below and you can contact brendan@barbiebristol.com or visit their website for more information.

  • Tuesday 30th June, 5pm to 6.30pm – STOKES CROFT, ST PAULS, MONTPELIER
  • Wednesday 1st July, 1pm to 2.30pm – ST MARKS RD, STAPLETON RD, CHURCH RD AND NEARBY STREETS
  • Thursday 2nd July, 11.30am to 1pm – GLOUCESTER RD, ZETLAND RD, ASHLEY DOWN RD, KELLAWAY AVE, CHELTENHAM RD (to Cloak and Dagger) AND NEARBY STREETS.

The areas that have organised above represent particular streets where there is a high density of bars and restaurants and don’t have Business Improvement Districts such as Broadmead or Bedminster to work through. We know it is certainly not exhaustive and want to work with the whole city to get this right.

Businesses can get in touch with us at business@bristol.gov.uk or go to our website to make a request to use the space outside their venue. 40 businesses have already had initial approval to do this and we welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with businesses who feel this could help them.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our businesses that have been working so hard in recent months, not just to stay afloat but to support the city. Despite facing an extraordinarily challenging situation, the sector has come together to provide meals for key workers and vulnerable citizens in a show of phenomenal community spirit. The past few months have seen many businesses really step up to support the city in a way that should make us all feel proud.

As we begin to recover from this crisis, we need to think about the kind of city we want to re-build. I can’t imagine a Bristol that doesn’t have a thriving night time economy at its heart, so it’s vital that we act now to support a sector that gives us so much.

Are you OK?

As the national lockdown continues to ease, together with the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership and partners we are encouraging people to focus on each other’s wellbeing, and consider whether friends, family and neighbours could be struggling. That’s why we have launched a new campaign, Are you OK?

Many people’s lives have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and this has placed a huge burden on their mental and physical health. The current situation also means that many of the most vulnerable people in our communities are still not seen by others as much as they normally would, and they may not be getting the right help. 

We all need to make sure that, with people leaving home more often, the most vulnerable in our society are not forgotten. Many people may still be isolated from others and struggling on their own.

Please continue to look out for friends, family and neighbours during the pandemic and beyond.  You don’t need to be an expert to reach out – we are simply asking you to check in with the people you know, see if they are ok and help them to get the right support, if needed.

Kayleigh is a volunteer at Can do Bristol, who has been checking in on her neighbours through lockdown. I asked her to share her experience on today’s blog. This is what she said:

“I have got to know so many of my neighbours and help people in my community that otherwise I may not have met. It has taught me how easy it is to get out of your comfort zone, even just for a second, to make small acts of kindness, say hi to your neighbours or call your nan to make sure they are OK.

I have been helping an elderly couple in isolation and I know that I am the only person, other than delivery drivers, they get to speak to in real life at the moment. You can see the impact that makes on their lives. 

 The lockdown has been eased for some but I have still been keeping in contact with neighbours, I have been helping out, to see how they are. One of them told me she was struggling to access services that she needed as a single parent. It didn’t take long to find the help she was looking for and I’m glad that I could help ease her worries.

I believe it is really important to keep that sense of community going strong, whatever the future may bring for us. That’s why I would really encourage everyone to check in on people they know and help them find the right help, if things aren’t quite right.”

Could you check in on someone you know, or are concerned about – and direct them to get help if they need it? The Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership website has all the information you need, including signs to look out for and details of services to contact: https://bristolsafeguarding.org/communities/i-am-a-bristol-resident/are-you-ok/. The police should be called if anyone is in immediate danger.

Windrush Day

Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

Windrush Day is a moment of pride and celebration. Today we recognise and honour the generation that came from the Caribbean to the UK after the Second World War. They played a pivotal role in rebuilding our country, and our city. They made Bristol their home – starting families, building businesses, serving their communities. I think of my own parents who answered the call, my mother who arrived as a 21-year-old to become a nurse in the NHS and my father who worked at Bristol Temple Meads and then went on to help build Broadmead. And it makes me think of the likes of Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett and Guy Reid-Bailey, whose role in the Bristol Bus Boycott led to the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965 which made ’racial discrimination’ unlawful in public places.  Bristol would not be the vibrant, inclusive and dynamic city it is today were it not for people like this. So today we say thank you to them for all they have given us as a city.

But of course Windrush Day is also a day for anger at injustice. For, despite their immense contribution, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have faced discrimination and mistreatment on a terrible scale, such that now the word Windrush is as likely to be associated with the word ‘Scandal’ as anything else. The ‘Hostile Environment’ policy implemented by Theresa May treated people who were legally resident in this country as if they were criminals. It has led to people losing their jobs and their access to basic services, and in some cases even being deported or denied the ability to return to the UK. Of course all of this has led to untold emotional and mental anguish for too many innocent people, including my friend, Jaswha Moses, who died before he could use the British Passport granted to him after years of fighting for the right to be here.

The Government response to this scandal has been nothing short of shameful. Instead of admitting their mistake and doing everything they could to put it right, they have sought to cover it up and get on with business as usual. The Hostile Environment, whilst no longer the official language of government policy, is still absolutely alive and kicking. And the Windrush Compensation Scheme, set up to supposedly make recompense to those who have suffered, has thus far given out just £360,000 to 60 people.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review, conducted by Wendy Williams, was conveniently published at the moment of maximum attention on the Covid-19 emergency at the end of March. It sets out in gory detail exactly what went wrong, as well as many sensible measures that the Government could take to put things right and make sure that such a scandal never happens again. We must all, therefore, play our part in holding the Government to account for their response to this review. And until that time when our national policy reflects the respect and dignity due to all those who come here from overseas to make Bristol their home, we must mark Windrush Day as a moment to redouble our efforts to fight for change.

World Refugee Day

Today’s blog comes from Forward Maisokwadzo, my Inclusion Adviser on Migration and also Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary (BCoS) and Caroline Beatty, Co-Chair of BCoS.

City of Sanctuary Launch (credit: Anita Hummell

IMAGINE… a world in which everyone can breathe.

…where the air does not contain hidden danger, and you can embrace a stranger or shake hands without fear of sickness.

…where it is your right to breathe whatever the colour of your skin, in which you stand tall and take a full place in society and community, without fear of being choked to death on the street by someone in power because you are black.

…where the air is clean, and no-one will be suffocated by fires from global warming because we are destroying the planet’s own lungs, the rainforests.

Today, on World Refugee Day, imagine that everyone throughout their lives can breathe the sweetest air of all, that of their own homeland. That sickness, persecution, conflict and climate change will not cause anyone the heartache of having to leave the land where they were born.

Three global issues – the pandemic, racial inequality and the climate emergency – show that what we have in common as human beings is far more important than our differences.  As a people we must treat each other with dignity and respect. During the pandemic we have understood better how to help each other out and especially how to support vulnerable people. We have witnessed and experienced the revolution of generosity here in Bristol, and in so many other places nationally and across the world.

Let us continue to insist that migrants in the UK with No Recourse to Public Funds who make vital contributions to the UK economy, are included in welfare provision and not denied support when unexpected things happen in their lives[i]. Let us continue to fight for the release of the stranglehold on people seeking sanctuary[ii], by lifting the ban on asylum seekers from working, providing an adequate living allowance, enabling equal access to health care, and by not leaving anyone on the street destitute while they struggle to pursue their quest to live in safety. Let us be ready, if the time comes, to include a welcome and a place for people who may have to leave their land because climate change has made it intolerable to stay.

Credit: Anita Hummell

Let us all be inspired by our Bristol City of Sanctuary vision of wanting to build a city of welcome, safety and hope for all, including people seeking sanctuary from war, violence, persecution and impact of climate change.

By working together we can make Bristol a city in which everyone can breathe!

[i] Bristol’s Mayor’s has written to the PM and Home Office on this issue – see letter

[ii] Bristol City of Sanctuary has written to the Mayor and all Bristol MPs asking for radical changes to the asylum system – see letter

[“IMAGINE…”  is the theme of this year’s National Refugee Week 15-21 June]