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Friday, 30 July 2010

RAF cadets

I was very honoured to be invited to give out achievement awards at the RAFA Club in Westbury on Trym.

I am always struck by the discipline and respect that cadet forces like these display. I've already spoken in Parliament about supporting our cadets, since they are so valuable in instilling those values that made Great Britain, well, Great, and which are still being displayed by our armed forces abroad today.

The RAFA Club in Westbury on Trym also boasts a very good selection of proper British Ales, and has won the the regional CAMRA ( Campaign for Real Ale) Club of the Year award.

Great to see people across the generations working together in a club like this!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Horfield Health Centre

I was very keen to visit Horfield Health Centre, and talk to GPs about the plans contained in the Government's White Paper, to hand commissioning over to professional GPs. My dad has been a surgeon for over 30 years, so I've got a special interest in listening to what professionals have to say, and the valuable input they can provide in turning a policy into practice. It was a really constructive, encouraging and interesting meeting.

Horfield Health Centre is a real success - and with a growing population on its doorstep, is only going to be getting busier!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Rookie mess-ups!

It can be quite intimidating for a newbie, Parliament. The air is thick with protocol, and written and unwritten rules. The potential for messing up is gloriously huge.

On Wednesday, I did my first Westminster Hall debate (on Local Education Partnerships, (LEPs) based on the issues I'd seen with them in relation to academies and Elmlea School.)

Hansard records mess-ups beautifully - and I thought you might like to see Hansard's version of one of mine...!

21 July 2010 : Column 140WH
Local Education Partnerships
4.44 pm

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is my first Westminster Hall debate, so if I mess up the protocol-

Mr James Gray (in the Chair): You addressed me as Mr Speaker, which is flattering, but incorrect. I am not yet the Speaker. Mr Gray is perfectly sufficient.

Charlotte Leslie: Thank you, Mr Gray. That was my first mess-up.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tea(Street)Dance with mum

At the beginning of the year, I brought a Street-Dance team to Henbury's Emmanuel Chapel to start trial street-dance classes for local young people.

The classes were a huge success, and 9 weeks later, a significant group of young people had put together an excellent street-dance routine which they performed in front of the community (including their parents.) And the young people loved it so much that one of them anonymously, and unbeknownst to us, applied for Aspiring Communities funding themselves to continue it.

And my mum ( Who has always had a bit of a thing for street-dance) took it upon herself to fundraise to get enough money to secure the street-dance classes for the future. A few years ago she took up cycling, and recently won the European Triathlon Championships in her age-group - so she decided to do a big sponsored Bike Ride around the Bristol area to raise money for the street dance group.

This is just one of the fundraising events organised around her Big Bike Ride - A beautiful tea put on by Cynthia Reynolds and Carole Lye ( both pictured behind the tea table!) .

If you are interested in sponsoring my mum's bike ride for Henbury Street Dance, email my mum at janeleslie@hotmail.com for more details.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Proud of Pubs Day

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am quite genuinely very proud of our nation's pubs - so it was a particular pleasure for me to take part in the national "Proud of Pubs" day yesterday.

I paid a visit to the only pub in Stoke Bishop - The Mill House, to chat to staff and the pub's area manager, and to talk about the future of our great British pub trade.

We agreed that cut-price, high-strength drinks like alco-pops and super-strength ciders are a problem, and that supermarkets should not be able to sell them below cost; and that there is a real problem of young people getting very cheap alcohol to consume at home before they go out to the pub.

But when I was at the Mill House, there were a good number of people there, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying a responsible pint and a bite to eat.

But if you're concerned about the threat to our great British pubs, sign up to the campaign to Back our Pubs HERE!

Stoke Lodge Adult Learning Centre Open Day ( or, 'the near death of a parliamentary career')

My parliamentary career very nearly took a turn for the worse today as I almost enrolled upon a French Speaking course, a course in wine-tasting, painting, life-sculpture and a cake-decorating course after some moments of extreme enthusiasm at Stoke Lodge Adult Learning Centre's open-day.

I was shown around the centre, which had on show exhibitions from a number of its varied adult learning courses.

I saw some really impressive pieces of work, saw work from people who started off as a hobby, who are well on their way to making a career out of their skill, and I also saw how adult learning courses like this can be a gateway to further education for those initially a bit intimidated by the formality of an F.E course.

I had also not previously appreciated how the courses take place across Bristol, from St. Pauls to The Greenway Centre in Southmead - it was fantastic to see the talent of local people from across Bristol under one roof - thanks to the organisers, and congratulations to all the contributers. Your work almost inspired me to drift from my parliamentary focus and pick up paint brushes and old french books!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Maiden no-longer

I only just found my maiden speech on youtube... here it is for the benefit of anyone who wasn't, er, sitting glued to the Parliament channel...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Bristol's Biggest Picnic - depsite dodgy weather!

......I must admit, the day didn't start hopefully. I'd managed to organise Bristol's Biggest Ever Protest Picnic on the same day as The Southmead Festival, St. Bernard's School fete - and the first rainy weekend for ages. "Nice one," I thought. "It's going to be an almighty failure." But how wrong I was. I'd underestimated English sturdiness against the weather, and the strength of feeling residents have for protecting their local green spaces. So the four picnics held across Bristol North West, at The Daisy Field, Okebourne Open Space, Horfield Common (thanks to Friends of Horfield Common!) and Lockleaze Open Space were a roaring success.

Fearful of the weather, and in mild drizzle, I'd moved the picnic at Lockleaze down a bit to the Romney Avenue entrance to make sure people came- but I needn't have bothered -dozens of people turned up to preserve that unique stretch of space just as it is for dog walkers, residents and wildlife.

We distributed a petition - www.savebristolgreenspaces.bristolpetitions.com - as well as encouraging people to write to the Council to register their concerns. This is the first stage of enabling people to make their views heard regarding the future of our community green spaces.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped me organise these picnics - stalwart members of the community ( you know who you are!) and all those who braved the threats of rain to come out for a brilliant day of picnics!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Southmead Festival Success


By pretty much unanimous agreement, this year's Southmead Festival was one of the most successful ever - the sun came out for the afternoon and highlights included a superb Celine Dion karaoke by a local (male) resident, and some very exciting football - as well as live bands which got everybody moving.

I presented the Football Tournament prizes to Southmead Colts, and got briefly caught up in 'riding the train' of dancers to the live band...

I'm hoping everyone else was having enough fun not to notice...

Well done to all who organised the event - I went to the first Southmead Festival meeting many months ago, and I know people had been working for a long time to carry off such a successful, happy event. I can say without doubt: All the work paid off. Thank you!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Okebourne Open Space at the heart of Brentry

It's not even a particularly nice day, but wandering past Okebourne Open Space, I came accross this group of residents having a community picnic.

It's a simply beautiful piece of space - with views right out over the estuary towards Wales, on a clearer day. And in the time I was there, children ( ahem, and a few adults) were skootering down the hill, climbing trees and generally running about expending energy in a way that they never would indoors, or even in their own garden.

But the madness is, the Council want to designate this piece of land as 'disposable' and surplus to requirement and build houses on it. This is all part of their Parks and Green Spaces strategy, which in theory sounds fine ( sell off useless land to enhance the good bits) but in practice is proving to be appalling.



There will be more about how to have your say over the Council's parks and green spaces strategy on my website and blog to come; But it's just such a dissappointment that a city like Bristol, which prides itself on being a 'Green City', cannot be more long-sited and see the long-term benefits of preserving space like this that builds ( if you want to use 'council-speak') ' community cohesion' and 'positive activities for young people'.

Mini the dog thinks the space should DEFINITELY be kept. "Hands off" she says to the Council. And she looks like she has a nasty bite...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Henbury Students' community funday sets the standard!

Here I am with the "BS10 Big It Up" crew, at the superb Henbury Community School Funday, organised entirely by Henbury Students. Now one thing about being a candidate or an MP is that you get to go to a lot, and I mean A LOT of events and fairs. And I can honestly say I have never been to one better organised than this one organised by Henbury School Pupils.



There was food cooked by Henbury school pupils, with the help of the indefatigable ( and looking quite hot) Nick Merrick ; ( There was home-cooked curry as well as fat burgers and sausages), and entertainment and performances by Henbury School pupils.

I managed to get ice-cream all over my face and go berserk on the brick-a-brack stall which was selling off old videos for 10p a go. I spent a humongous £1.10 - and have a large bag of videos I intend to watch at some undetermined point. ( Including an old video of Dangermouse! for 10p! How can you say no to that?!)

Head-boy Ryan told me they'd been working to organise this since before Christmas, and having been behind some event organising myself, I know that something that seemingly flows as smoothly as today requires months and months of preparation. I was just delighted for the pupils that the one thing that couldn't be pre-planned came up trumps :- It was gorgeous weather.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Good biofuel, bad biofuel...

Last week, I was in the press for having written to Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, about my concerns over the re-application for a biofuel plant at Avonmouth. With so much going on to try to prevent that plant, which will burn palm oil ( a renewable, but not environmentally sustainable fuel) from being established in Bristol, it is easy to just think of biomass as a bad thing.

So it was really refreshing to be able to visit Blaise Nurseries with Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy and Climate Change and Henbury's Councillor, Chris Windows. At Blaise Nurseries, they put waste wood products in boilers which generates energy. The wood comes from cast-offs from manufacturing ( with strict quality control) and from waste from woodland management; all genuinely sustainable, renewable sources, and turning waste into a source of energy.

There are also a lot of side-benefits: an expansion in woodland planting and woodland managing - which in turn demands new skills and new jobs. Lots of people talk about how climate change can be an opportunity for renewable technology, and how the South West is so well placed to take advantage of this, but it really becomes an exciting and tangible concept when you visit somewhere like Blaise Nurseries. 

We are way behind Europe when it comes to doing this - but it shows that it really can be done and become a mainstream way of generating energy, and of course, we can learn from the mistakes made by our European neighbours without having to make them ourselves! 

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Preventing a moth-eaten Parliament

The small white gadget in this inspiring picture is a moth-prevention device.

Apparently the whole of the Chamber-block, where my office is situated, has been infected with moth ever since a Member of Parliament brought a rug back to his office with him after a trip to an exotic location. The rug contained moth, and the offending creatures have been waging a battle with the parliamentary authorities ever since.

Moth vs. MP ... I've not seen one yet, (moth, that is) so I think we're winning...