Toppling Colston’s statue could be an iconic moment for Bristol

This article was published in PR Week on 9 June. Thanks to them for giving me the opportunity to provide some thoughts from the perspective of a Bristol-based business.

Recent anti-racism protests across the world illustrate that, while language matters, action changes things.

Sunday’s dramatic events in Bristol, where debates about 17th century slave trader and former MP Edward Colston have simmered for many years, are a case in point.

Discussions about how a man with shared responsibility for transporting tens of thousands of Africans to British colonies is reflected in Bristol’s history were swept aside by protesters. It highlighted a sense that the time for talking (and getting nowhere) is over. In reality, as the debate goes global, the local conversation may be about to get going again.

Continue reading “Toppling Colston’s statue could be an iconic moment for Bristol”

Traffic tweets make the news

I was one of a group of commuters who took to Twitter after being held up in traffic caused by a survey on the way into Bristol this week. I set off early yesterday to start a busy week and hit an hour-long crawl coming off Wells Road as drivers were ushered onto the roadside and asked to complete a census.

I was late, and not happy, and my tweet said as much.

I wasn’t the only one to do this, as the Western Daily Press and Bristol Post reported today.

Continue reading “Traffic tweets make the news”

Links I like 12.05.05

Reaction to the elected mayor vote in Bristol – various
Well done Bristol for bucking the national trend and voting decisively, if in small numbers, in favour of an elected mayor to lead the city from November. They were the only city to vote yes to the proposal following a pretty low-key campaign on the issue. The Centre for Cities has published some links on the issue, while the Bristol Post’s coverage of the result and early indication of who the runners and riders for Bristol’s first elected mayor has been well-informed, detailed and sharp, as good local journalism should be. Whether the result was an endorsement of the proposal or due to more negative factors is open to question, which The Guardian poses in its leader on the issue today. Having followed the debate, I’m sure many people voted yes because the current council leadership was against the idea. Anti politics and apathy were the biggest winners this week, but all is not lost. Hopefully a new way of doing things in Bristol will start to change that.

Elections – ‘We the council’ – Kevin Jump
‘Webist’ Jump provides insight into the information provided by council websites about this week’s local elections. He concludes that interest in the local elections is high and the correct information is available, but is not entirely useful and lacks focus on the needs of local users. A number of websites in the area I cover at work are included in the survey.

Campaigns get people to care about an elected mayor

I’ve been looking at the debate around proposals to devolve power to English cities, by installing elected mayors who (it is argued) will help areas outside London ‘punch above their weight’ and revitalise interest in local democracy.

I wanted to find out more about the arguments around this idea in Bristol, where I work, which is one of 10 cities having a referendum on the issue on 3 May. My feeling, without finding any hard research to stand this up, is that the debate has yet to catch the imagination of the public outside a small group of engaged campaigners on either side – and that getting a decent turnout in the vote will be a big challenge.

Poll evidence suggests that people are concerned about the big issues: crime, the economy, jobs, education and the NHS. The communications challenge here is focusing the debate on these issues, rather than the technical and dry point of local governance structures or the cost of holding the referendum itself.

Hopefully some of this material will be of interest – please feel free to add others.


The Government’s proposals are explained in a Plain English document. To vote in May 3 2012 referendum, visit the council’s website.

Locking gives the week a lift

David Warburton of the HCA and Nick Alexander of St Modwen at Locking Parklands this week

It’s been one of those weeks, which I am sure happens in every job, when you charge through every day at full pelt, tackle all tasks at hand and still find that half of the ‘to do’ list remains unfinished. The reason for this is the subject of another post (when I have a bit more brain power to think about it). 

One job that has delivered results this week is the long-awaited announcement of the start of work on site at Locking Parklands, near Weston super-Mare.

News that work on the first phase of the £400m development has begun was released on Tuesday and picked up as a front page piece (and online) in the Bristol Evening Post, the Western Daily Press, local media, business websites and on BBC Radio Bristol. Hopefully, there’s more to come tomorrow.

It has capped a busy week for the HCA’s developer partner St Modwen, who took the effort to inform local residents of the work by leafletting their homes on Monday. A website dedicated to the development is due to follow soon.

It’s great when things go well. I could do with a couple more like that next week.

Links I like 11.01.08

Squalid truth behind the Sun’s murder reward’ – Media Guardian
Roy Greenslade takes aim again at the tabloid press, and The Sun in particular, whose offer of a £50,000 reward to help catch Joanna Yeates’ killer is treated with cynicism. He should know; Greenslade was once a senior executive at the paper, when Kelvin MacKenzie (think ‘Freddie Star ate my hamster’, or worse) was editor.

Homes for heroes win £660k grant – Bristol Evening Post
I blogged about this fantastic self-build project over Christmas after working on the story just before the festive break. It’s great to see it win some more deserved recognition early in the new year.