Follow the action!

For all (well, most) of the action as it happens, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Littlemead School bring Christmas to Dunmail

Despite the cold, ( and the fact many of us had colds) Littlemead School children gave Southmead a great carol service on Dunmail Fields this afternoon - all under the musical leadership of Snowman Ronda. ( Seen here without her snowman head.)

Santa and his elves turned up, and may have had something to do with the cakes and refreshments we all enjoyed afterwards.

It was great that the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress were able to find time to come and visit - and came prepared with wellington boots to tackle the mud...

Dunmail fields are so much a part of this community in Southmead -and they couldn't be fighting more powerfully for the fields to be saved for the community and generations to come.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Brailsford Lights 2011 on national TV!

This year, the epic Brailsford Brothers' Christmas lights switch on in Henbury attracted the attention of national TV. And quite right too. I first met the brothers several years ago now, constructing complex Christmas lights arrangements in their Brentry garage on a baking hot day in September. What they do is amazing - at cost to themselves they put on a Christmas Lights display on their mum's house to rival the very best, raising thousands of pounds for Charity. The annual switch-on also kick-starts Christmas for many ( including me. It was my first mince-pie of the year) and lights up a dark time of year, in what are difficult times.

I have been so struck by the personal effort and sacrifice Lee and Paul have made to bring joy to their community, and to those children for whom their Childrens' Hospital appeal raises money. This is Big Society with bells on. ( Well, lots of lights, at least.)

You can watch a documentary about Paul and Lee Brailsford in mid-December on CH4... look out for it!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bristol Free School - from aspiration to actuality!

Today, the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, came to visit one of the country's very first Free Schools - in Bristol. Here we are, with new head , Richard Clutterbuck and one of the parents behind it all - Blair King.

It was a very odd ( in a good way) feeling. Back in Summer 2009, when a group of distraught parents ambushed me while I was having a quiet pint in my local, to demand "What I was going to do about getting a local secondary school for this area", the idea of actually achieving that school was just a dream.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Abseiling for St. Peter's Hospice

It was one of those things that seemed a great idea at the time, cooped up in the office with paper-work towering overhead... An abseil down one of Bristol's tallest buildings in aid of St. Peters' Hospice.

I've fundraised for St. Peter's before, because they do simply exceptional work, funded mainly by donations, for local people. They are a charity of which the city can be incredibly proud. Previous fundraising has involved running along the flat, for some miles. This involved just a few feet - but they were vertical. The people at Outer Edge were superb in making us feel, and be, safe. And despite my trepidation, it was a great experience tripping down the Premier Inn at Haymarket. (Especially once I'd landed)...

There's still time to give - This really is a fantastic cause, which deserves all the support it can get. A one off abseil is one thing, but the daily work that the unsung heroes at St. Peters' do is quite another. Even if it's only the cost of that chocolate muffin or Starbucks coffee you're trying to resist, please support the hospice and donate!
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Henbury Funday - best ever?

It's hungry work, milling about browsing over stalls, resisting the bungee-run, watching live entertainment and chatting to friends and neighbours - so good thing Nick Merrick's culinary BS10 Youth Forum crew were on hand with succulent hot-dogs, with onions and mushrooms... Cllr. Chris Window's evident enthusiasm only begins to do justice to the cooking...

It was also a good chance to catch up with people you've been meaning to see for ages- and it was good to be able to introduce people with similar interests to each other. ( One family had a daughter who was very keen on dancing, so introducing them to Paul Thompson, who runs Emmanuel Chapel's youth activities and Dance Group was the obvious thing to do...) Families and people of all ages were enjoying themselves and even the weather held out.

But stuff like this doesn't happen by magic. Behind every smooth-running community event, there's a hard working team of individuals who very often give up their own time, completely free of charge.

For the last six years, local lady Chris Pratt, with her brilliant team of helpers, has organised Henbury Funday. This year is her last year of doing it. Everyone thanked Chris at the end of the afternoon, and she was presented with a bouquet of flowers as a gesture of the community's thanks. She's got great successors, but she'll be a hard act to follow - thanks Chris, for all the sterling work you've put into Henbury for so long.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Boxing Clever in the Corridors of Power...

Launching the re-formed All Party Group on Boxing turned out to be a brilliant event. (Click HERE if the video above doesn't work on your screen.) It's no secret that I've enjoyed boxing training ( and watching the sport!) since I was a teenager and trained at Spanniorum Farm Gym, alongside ( but at a safe distance from!..) Champion Jane Couch.

We were really privileged to have boxing legend Barry Macguigan lend his support, as well as Duke McKenzie and commentator-legend, Jim Rosenthal. We were specially proud to have some of our Olympic Team present - and London 2012 will be the first Olympic games ever to hold women's boxing events. Local boxers from Filton college also came along and were superb ambassadors for the benefits of the sport.

I know first hand how it can change lives. I'm currently very lucky to be president of the Avonmouth National Smelting Amateur Boxing Club, but clubs up and down the country do extraordinary work ( often on a volunteer basis) in transforming young people's lives, and instilling discipline, self-respect, self-esteem and the ability to walk away from a fight. If you're squeamish about boxing, I have one message - go to your local amateur gym and see what goes on there.

There's a lot of work for the group to do, and I want the group to be able to support local clubs in Bristol ,and across the country.

I couldn't help including possibly the photo I'm most proud of, below. (I'm desperately trying not to look utterly star-struck! ) Thanks to everyone who made the event such a success, and looking foward to doing more work with the group!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Pub Politics at The Bear and Rugged Staff

I have to say, as an unrepentant supporter of our community pubs, it's always a pleasure, never a chore, to hold a 'Pub Politics'. They're always lively, lots of issues always get discussed and people often swap contact details and keep in touch if they don't already know each other. Last Friday's pub politics at The Bear and Rugged Staff in Southmead was particularly lively, since the landlord, Richard Porch had organised a surprise performance from the local street dance group D-Streets. (See other blog posts for how you can support them in their bid to go to the World Championships in Blackpool later this summer... ) That's something that's often underestimated about pubs - they are often not only a place where the community comes together, but also a place which does fundraising and supports local causes. In short, pubs are definitely 'Big Society'!
People stayed on after the performance and joined in the discussion. I find it really helpful to make sure I'm listening to what's really going on locally, and also getting a straight, honest opinion about what's going on, what what issues people are facing. That's the only way politicians can really keep an understanding on what's going on in the real world, outside the Westminster bubble. Oh, and half a can of Natch helps as well, thanks Richard!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Southmead's Ds Streets for world championships!

As I arrived at The Bear and Rugged Staff for my 'Pub Politics' session, the upper level of the pub had been mysteriously cleared of the pool table... It soon became clear. The landlord Richard had organised a big surprise performance by Southmead's very own Streetdance group, Ds Streets.

Their performance was really impressive - and they are raising money to go to the World Championships in Blackpool later in August.

We all chipped in, and at the pub alone they managed to raise over £400. They need more, and they are also fundraising to afford some basic equipment like mirrors and a proper sound system.

If you can donate, please email Dwain Trivett at - let's take Southmead's Ds Streets to the world championships - watch out Blackpool!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Avonmouth's funday success

It's the season for looking anxiously at the weather, crossing fingers for sun, booking bouncy castles and holding community fundays. It's the season where I inevitably get carried away and buy far too many cakes and jars of jam and pickle, however hard I tell myself I'm not going to.
On Saturday, it was Avonmouth's funday - and it was well named. There was all sorts going on - from zorbing to information stands from community groups like Friends of Suburban Bristol Rail ( FOSBR.)
I sat in on a session with some young people who had been looking at allocating funds for youth community activities, and caught up with friends. The photo with Cllr. Siobhan Kennedy-Hall says it all. A properly Fun day, thanks to everyone who put so much effort into organising it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Right Royal Weekend!

The world's gaze may have been turned on Pippa Middleton's bottom, but had the cameras pointed to Bristol, they would have found parties and in particular a local lady in a wedding dress to rival the best!

Southmead residents, including Ronda Brace (looking magnificent in a wedding dress!) threw a fantastic party on the old Dunmail School site, demonstrating once again what a valued community asset this piece of green space is.

Southmead's very own D-Streets Dance crew came along and entertained us with some great performances.

Then I went on into Westbury which had more than its share of street parties. What was so striking was that so many people, of all ages, were enjoying celebration-quantities of food (some superb cupcakes were to be had) and drink, but not once did I see any group of people who were doing anything but having a lovely time.

It was extraordinary to see the Nation unite in a sense of such unashamed patriotism. For the Royal Wedding it was as if the whole nation felt it had been given permission to really be itself -unashamedly proud to be truly Great Britain.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hidden Gardens of Henbury

It was an absolute pleasure today to take some time out to see a gem of Henbury opened up to the public - at Brook End, Rectory Gardens.

It was a superb fundraising event organised by Sue Parfitt, who also manages to keep the garden so beautifully. The perfect way to start Spring.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

HP - Global future on our doorstep

It all felt a bit Doctor Who, but this is in fact Hewlett Packard just near Filton, and I was looking at the Cloud Technology they are developing. I also came to talk about the science outreach programmes they are doing in our local schools and how crucial it is to inspire our next generation of scientists.

Driving towards the ring road, out of Filton, it is easy to forget that research and development of international significance is going on here, pushing forward with virtual management systems handling ever more data.

If you think back over the last decade or so, the technological advances have been extraordinary. When I first started University in 1997 (hey, it's not THAT long ago!), email was a bit new-fangled and I wasn't sure I trusted it, very few people did anything but hand-write all their essays and my mobile phone was a bit of a brick and did not have a text capacity. By the time I finished in 2001, there was suddenly a whole host of things I couldn't live without - internet, search engines, texting... and it's tempting to think that we've seen the biggest acceleration of technology. There is no reason why this should be the case. At places like HP, research is ever pushing forward.

At the moment I don't have an i-pad. I'm guessing in a few years time, I'll be either wondering how I ever lived without one, or even be marveling at how cumbersome, slow and prehistoric i-pads actually were...

It's incredibly exciting to be living in a digital revolution that is possibly changing the face of our existence as much as the Industrial Revolution, and for some of this research and development to be taking place in Bristol itself.

And particularly fascinating is the effect that all this virtuality, and all the instant-gratification an on-line world brings will have on our society, our ideas of ourselves and reality, our notion of action and consequence... that's an issue which will effect our politics possibly just as much as the effects of the industrial revolution.