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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Bristol comes to Birmingham for Conservative Conference!

Our very own sub-postmaster from Westbury-on-Trym post office was invited up to Birmingham to the Conservative Party Conference this week to talk about how the role Post Offices and particularly the Post Office Card Account plays for so many people. Having campaigned so hard on this issue locally, I was very pleased to hear it raised nationally.

But it was a bit of a Bristol conference, because only days later, Dennis Stinchcombe MBE, - who's in the photo with me outside Birmingham International Conference Centre here - was invited to talk address the conference on the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour - and preventing it.

I have blogged elsewhere about Dennis' brilliant work at Broadplain Boys Club and Riverside Project. The great thing about Dennis is that he tells it like it is. He gave a great talk, and all politicians would do very well to listen to what he has to say, because Dennis doesn't talk theory - he talks about what works. And as with most successful projects, there's less talking than doing. That's a lesson to us all.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Winning Cakes at Macmillan's Big Stir

It's a sign of a food-focused youth that I won the "Guess the Weight of the Cake" competition at Macmillan's Big Stir coffee morning at Brentry Scout hut, today.

Successful guessing of weights of cakes demands concentration, the closing of eyes, and a youth spent destroying the kitchen with flour and eggs, creating vague, sugary concoctions which tasted so much better for the mess made before.

The coffee morning was a huge success. The sunshine brought the people in and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to all who made it such a success.

The weight of the cake, for reference, was 2lb 11 oz. My kitchen-centered youth was evidently not mis-spent...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bright Future for Shirehampton's new academy!

Today Carrie and David Grant, of Fame Academy - er, fame - helped open the new Brightstowe Academy, sponsored by The Oasis Trust.

For anyone who hasn't been following the progress - Brightstowe is the new Academy that has replaced Portway School. There was an incredible sense of optimism which pervaded the entire event. But as the Steve Chalke, who runs The Oasis Trust, pointed out - dreams and optimism are not enough. You need determination and action to turn your dream to a reality.

And if reports from the parents and pupils I have spoken to are anything to go by, that action has already started. I sat next to parents of a boy in year 8 during the presentations, and they commented on how the new system of dividing the school into houses was working to unite the school in healthy competition.

I also spoke to Courtney, who was celebrating her 13th birthday and guided me round the new school. She told me how the place simply felt different, and what a difference having classroooms of new, fast computers and a good science lab makes. But, as you can hear from Carrie and David, it's not simply a question of throwing money at the place. It's about inspiring each one of the pupils to achieve their best.

And the school is immensely lucky to have Julie Winterman continuing as head teacher - providing an invaluable sense of stability and experience.

Over the past years, Shirehampton has been stripped of so many of its facilities. It was heartening to see such drive and determination to succeed focussed on Shire and Avonmouth. At end of the event, we all went outside to let fly hundreds of biodegradable balloons into the sky - and I think all of us were hoping for a soaringly successful future for Brightstowe. With a team like that in place, ready to work hard to thrive, there is every sign that the new academy really will fly high.
The sky's the limit for Brightstowe Academy...

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

5 Years of SCAF! ( and a bit more)

The SCAF ( Shirehampton Community Action Forum) AGM was a bit more than just an AGM - it was a celebration of 5 years ( though probably a bit more) of the organisation formally functioning, and we all enjoyed a buffet, courtesy of Kingsweston House, afterwards.

This is such an efficient and dynamic community group that it is easy to forget that the members are not all highly paid professionals. And what really came home to me during the meeting is that community groups like this can represent their local area in a way that politicians seldom can. They are in touch with their community because they are made up of their community, and are not bound by the politics of politics. Organisations like SCAF demonstrate so clearly that the state really cannot manage everything - and that nothing can replace local groups, made up of proactive, concerned residents. Everything should be done to allow groups like SCAF to thrive.

Another date for your diaries - The SCAF Christmas dinner is on November 29th, at Kingsweston House - just £15 for a sumptious meal in one of the best dining locations in Bristol. You can't say fairer! You can get tickets from Ash Bearman at Shirehampton Hall. (email: )