Watching Sunday’s scenes of rioting in Bristol gain traction across the world brought home a mix of feelings about a city and people I have barely seen over the last year.
I know we were not alone in our dismay and anger at what happened. Many have said the scenes did not represent the city they know and experience up close.
Everyone’s experiences of Bristol are different, it’s true. For all the ‘best places to live’ write-ups, challenges around deprivation, equality of opportunity and housing are real and have terrible consequences for those at the sharp end. There are many, many good people who have worked tirelessly this year (and long before that) to address these challenges. They deserve our gratitude, not sniping from the side-lines.
We are proud of our connections with Bristol and of our colleagues who work and live here with their partners and families. We were struck by the response of thousands of Bristolians who appeared to speak as one this week in saying: this is not who we are.
We wanted to do something to capture this sentiment. So we were pleased to be asked to create a statement from Bristol City Leaders group, which was released on 25 March and is included below.
People will doubtless share their reactions on social media too, as they have done throughout the week. If you’re based in Bristol, please take a moment to express your support for a brilliant city. We are better than this.
“As individuals who live and work in Bristol and represent organisations that support many thousands of people across the city, we stand together in condemning Sunday’s violent disorder.
“Those who vandalised parts of our city and injured and threatened police officers and public servants do not speak for Bristol. They do not speak for the vast majority of those who are concerned about proposed legislation changes. Their actions demean us all.
“We share Bristolians’ horror and disappointment at what they saw. We have complete confidence in the approach taken by Avon and Somerset Police, who have worked so closely with Bristol’s communities across our city during the last year.
Reasons for pride
“Whilst we are not blind to the challenges Bristol faces, we also see every day how people, public bodies, businesses, community groups and faith communities have come together to support each other through this incredibly testing time.
“We saw it last week during the Bristol Remembers gathering, where people from across the city came together to reflect on the impact of the last year on their lives and communities.
“We see it in how public, private and civic organisations have shared experiences of life during lockdown and worked together to overcome enormous challenges and adapt to the impact of COVID-19.
“We see it in how people of all ages and backgrounds have volunteered to support the city’s response to COVID-19, and its recovery from it.
“Those positive actions, which happen every day, truly represent the best of our city. They inspire us and help us to focus on working together to help Bristol be the very best it can be.
“At a time when we need to support each other to rebuild our lives and economy, we won’t be defined by the acts of a minority. Our focus remains, as it has been through this year, on positive action and hope.
“In that spirit, we hope people can join us in sharing their pride in the city and demonstrate all that is great about Bristol. Collaborative, creative, courageous, open, inclusive and caring – Bristol is all these things and more. These qualities will not be dimmed by violence and criminality: they will be our shining light.
“As a city of hope, we continue to move forward as a city together, because #WeAreBristol.”Members of Bristol City Leaders Group
Fuad Mahamed, Chief Executive, Ashley Housing Association
Mick Crennell, Chief Fire Officer, Avon Fire and Rescue
Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol
David Lees, Chief Executive, Bristol Airport
John Hirst, Chief Executive, Destination Bristol
Andrew Kelly, Director, Bristol Festival of Ideas & Bristol Cultural Development Partnership
David Brown, Chief Executive, The Bristol Port Company
Oona Goldsworthy, Chief Executive, Brunel Care
James Durie, Chief Executive, Business West Chambers of Commerce & Initiative
Richard Bonner, Director, Business West Board
Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive, Bristol & Bath Regional Capital
Andy Forbes, Principal, City of Bristol College
Andy Street, Chair of City Funds and Chair of Feeding Bristol
James Freeman, Managing Director and Doug Claringbold (incoming Managing Director), First West of England
Steve Chalke, Founder, Oasis Academies
Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner
Nigel Costley, South West Regional Secretary, TUC
Lucinda Parr, Registrar and Secretary, University of Bristol
Professor Steve West, Vice Chancellor and University of the West of England
Jeff Farrar, Chair, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston (UHBW) NHS Foundation Trust
Sandra Meadows, Chief Executive, VOSCUR
Mohammed Saddiq, Executive Director Wessex Water