30.10.19: Location work today for a photo project I’m currently developing. A couple of spot shots from my iPhone to help me develop the story boards.
30.10.19: Location work today for a photo project I’m currently developing. A couple of spot shots from my iPhone to help me develop the story boards.
3rd year in with the Downs Festival and the second year I’ve been invited to help organise a panel discussion with my co-conspirator Anthony Tombling Jnr on the subject of homelessness and rough sleeping in Bristol. This year’s panel brought together an array of people working to tackle the housing crisis in Bristol. Jasper Thompson who is the founder of Help Bristol’s Homeless, Naseem and Shada Nasrullah from Feed the Homeless, Alex Wallace from Caring in Bristol, Frankie Stone from The Big Issue (Bristol) and Councillor Paul Smith who is the Cabinet Member for Housing at Bristol City Council. Avoiding the obligatory statical numbers game that generally kicks off these types of discussion. We started with a list of names randomly selected from an article by Micheal Yong, which appeared in the Bristol Live/Bristol Post, These are the 50 homeless people who died in Bristol you should have known about.
A sobering start to a day of music, festivities, play, fun, and enjoyment, but its one of the reasons I have come to enjoy this one-day festival in our city. As well as homelessness there were panel discussions on Gender Equality in Music Festivals, which may draw scorn from the self-badged anti PC lobby, but screw them given this is too much of an important issue to be left to the reactionary fodder. Equally exciting subjects during the day, included the aptly entitled Brexit 2019, What the Fuck is Going On? Community Rebirth, Social Networks, Technology and Mental Health. It’s a brave decision to integrate this approach into the heart of the event, and the organisers should rightly be given credit for it because it locks the event into the social fabric of the city, which other events often avoid, wilfully.
A review of the overall event, which featured the likes of Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Orbital and Nadine Shah can be found on the B24/7 website.
In a city where some people are obsessively fixated in a debate about the location of a proposed large-scale Arena development, the holding of this event poses some critical questions for me. Firstly, the location of this festival is on public open space that is not serviced brilliantly by public transport infrastructure, but it seems to have managed adequately given the circumstances. Second, and more profound for me…..now stay with me here…
Having worked for Bristol City Council some 15 years ago, moving away and then returning to the city over 2 years ago, I know from first hand this project has rumbled on and is systematic of how large capital projects enter a type of twilight light zone because of political instability. If we are to progress with the concept, then £millions more will properly need to be spent in the future, including technical assessments, the often hidden cost of council officers and the underpinning of any capital borrowing with revenue funds, if the City Council is to provide any officer time and public funding.
Revenue is what funds our public services in the city. In short our taxes, (a council by law cannot finance public services through its capital funds). It’s Revenue that pays the salaries of our council officers and funds the contracts for not-for-profit groups to do the jobs we often do not want to do ourselves, i.e., looking after our homeless and rough sleepers, elderly and vulnerable children. Now I can hear the shout back that one should never confuse big capital projects with more profound social needs within a major city like Bristol. I understand that, and in normal times I would tend to agree, but these are not normal times. These are times of financial austerity on public services. A financial policy that has been absolutely brutal towards those most vulnerable in our city and beyond, but one that ultimately leads to tough choices having to be made about what are our priorities.
Maybe we already have the infrastructure for Arena type performances, and we just might need to work with what we have more creatively? Maybe our music and arts priorities should be about safeguarding our existing network of venues and smaller spaces that support and underpin homegrown talent like the Save the Exchange Community Share Offer (more info here).
But maybe, just maybe, in those public meetings where the heated debates on the future of Bristol Arena will be held, a little sobering humility can be injected at the start of the proceedings by randomly reading out at least 5 names from the list of 50 Bristol citizens who have died in our city. They have died because of a killer we all know, and often seem to conveniently ignore. It is called homelessness and the money spent already on the arena project would have gone a long way to the arrest of this serial killer. For the record these are the five names we shared:
You can read more about them and some more Bristol citizens who have followed their fate here.
Last day of the month, attending and taking photographs at the launch of Bristol Hate Crime & Discrimination Services. As well as being for victims of any type of hate crime the service now brings in legal advocacy, restorative approaches, mediation and conflict resolution services for dealing with hate and discrimination. Further information on the service can be found here and more photographs from the event can be found by clicking on this link.
The event consisted of informative talks from civic leaders, charitable and statutory organisations, as well as performances from the Brandon Trust, which is a charity supporting adults and children with learning disabilities and autism. Bristol City’s Poet Laureate Miles Chambers, singer Anthony Thegeya and St. Paul’s Carnival CIC.
As from 2018, I will be taking over the role of Area Organiser for the West Holts Stage, Glastonbury Festival. In a nutshell, my role is to project manage and oversee the delivery of an audience engaged, enjoyable and safe stage at the festival. I’ve been involved in the stage for 15 years, as well as being a regular photographer at the festival. I start with a great legacy and an amazing crew who work tirelessly behind the scenes to give Glastonbury goers a unique experience. I will do my utmost to honour and build on those who have built an amazing stage for future generations.
Voting is now open for UK’s Best Park, as voted by YOU! 2017. Voting closes at 5pm on Friday 3rd November and the winner of UK’s Best Park 2017 will be announced at the Fields in Trust Awards at Lord’s Cricket Ground on Wednesday 29th November. Please vote for the Northern Slopes, Bristol in the Best Parks competition under the South West region.
The Northern Slopes, Bristol: This is beautiful open space in Knowle has a stunning view of Bristol, which is not usually seen. It is little-known to people who do not live in the area. There is increasingly less space in this area so Northern Slopes needs love and respect. Please vote using this website link: Northern Slopes Scroll down the webpage to find the Northern Slopes and press the button. It’s as simple as that. If you would like to find out more about the Slopes – then click here.
11th October and over to Redland where Vivienne Jackson from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality is giving a talk, hosted by DAVAR Bristol (The Jewish Cultural Institute in Bristol and the South West) as part of the Journey for Justice (Bristol) programme. The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) has been working for 40 years tackling problems caused by racial inequality. Tonight Viviene talks passionately about the present climate of anti-immigration and Islamophobic sentiment in much of the national press and a JCORE project called JUMP. The JUMP project is run by dedicated volunteers and provides one-to-one befriending support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people who arrive in the UK without parents or a guardian. Details on the JUMP project can be found here Stand Up and Be Counted where you can obtain more information and make a donation. DAVAR Bristol (The Jewish Cultural Institute in Bristol and the South West) is an independent organisation promoting events relating to Jewish heritage and culture. Events are open to all, regardless of ethnic origin or religious affiliation. The meeting provides a forum for advancing understanding of Jewish life, culture, and history. The regular programme is a series of six monthly talks between September and April covering a broad spectrum of topics ranging from history, philosophy, art, humour and personal reflections. You can find more information about DAVAR here.
“I’m enjoying the raw nature of the work; there is no hiding given we are the front door for many people.” Tess, the ex Cardiff University Law Student tells me. “The learning curb has been quick, and until I got involved, I did not fully appreciate the patience and time it takes to help somebody to turn their life around.” Tess supports the Independent Futures (IF) Group, which acts as a bridge between those with lived experience or find themselves enduring homelessness, substance misuse, at risk of reoffending, or mental health concerns with those agencies funded to guide them out of the world they inhabit.
“I’ve just started to volunteer here. I want to make friends, build up my confidence and find work. I’m starting to make good progress now” Ed tells me who moved to Bristol 3 years ago from the neighbouring city of Bath. “We need more places where people are not being pigeonholed, labelled or marshalled towards somebody else’s answer.”
Control and power and who holds them seem to be a central value running through Bristol Reconnect. These are the types of concepts that are difficult to measure, and ones that often get left behind when charities and voluntary sector groups are forced to sniff out funding from an ever decreasing pool of tightly defined contracts.
On the ground floor cafe, a volunteer is cleaning and testing the coffee machine while another is tucked away in a corner focused on the task of assembling a donated storage box. Opening times at the cafe fluctuate given the reliance upon volunteers. On the 1st floor is a community room, which is available for hire. Located at the rear of the building is a pleasant garden space, recently upgraded as part of a TV challenge programme. In an ideal world, these assets would be contributing income towards the group’s upkeep, but like most small community groups seeking to survive beyond the realm of grants it will take time, but time is not a luxury for group’s like Bristol Reconnect. I ask about resources and funding, but it’s met with a deep sigh and redundant shrug of the shoulders. There is, of course, a new settlement urgently needed in this country about the style, nature, and provision of welfare that we are prepared to pay for given the inherent failures of the current system. But whatever the cause or the potential solutions this is where we find ourselves today, and some people can’t wait, “We either do something, or we do nothing, and doing nothing is unacceptable” Jonathan, the Chief Executive, cook, cleaner, dishwasher, counsellor and crisis manager at Bristol Reconnect tells me.
Bristol like most urban cities in the UK is coming to terms with the impact of austerity. The lag between central government budget announcements, policy delays and the impact on the ground regarding frontline services is catching up for many in the city. The mythology of so-called efficiency savings and other magical accountancy terms have not shielded services against the depth of cuts needed to balance the books. As local campaigns gather pace against the loss of frontline services like libraries those most vulnerable are more unlikely to able to raise their voices. The homeless, vulnerable adults and children with complex care needs and the elderly. This role often falls to groups like Bristol Reconnect, who are increasingly becoming stretched to the point of breaking. The question increasingly being posed is, “what type of local council do we require in Bristol beyond austerity?”
There is a sense of unity with those facing the loss of their jobs in local government and that central government funding cuts are spitefully engineered to punish, strip away dignity and they are ideologically driven to erode further welfare funded by general taxation.
“The way housing is provided makes it difficult for families to live together in neighbourhoods now. The support you would normally get from your grandad, uncle or another member of the family is no longer there, so people look towards institutions like the council. Even before the cuts my experience was mixed and even accessing the service was difficult.” I was told by one person who wanted to remain anonymous.
Local council’s, like Bristol City Council, have traditionally been the significant investor in local charity and community sector groups. “There is little you can often do to change how a large organisation works, so small self-help groups become increasingly important, which poses the question if the likes of the council are struggling to do things with their diminished resources how can we be expected do more without resources? It’s a very dangerous situation we are now entering. It needs a shift in mindset from everybody” say’s Aaron who along with Jonathan is one of the original instigators behind Bristol Reconnect. “We need to rebuild around communities rather than institutions. We will continue to try and explain this to larger organisations who have the clout to make a difference. We try to help them listen, but my experience is things don’t change because of the corporate-ness. It’s dehumanising as if we have adopted something out of the animal kingdom where the fittest survive and the reward is a contract to work with the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our community. The whole ethos is sick. The focus needs to be on reconnecting people.”
What I think Arron is getting at here is not necessarily what institutions seek to do, which is often laudable, but how they go about doing it. It seems to boil down to behaviours and recognising that working within a statutory institution will inevitably develop a specific set of behaviours, as working in the charity and community sector will naturally do. Any rejection of the Government’s policy of austerity cannot simply be about restoring what has gone before. The focus of rebuilding, if or when it comes, must increasingly be about the outcome, behaviours, connection, empathy, equity, etc. rather than simply rebuilding a specific institution. “Simply focussing on relations from a monetary perspective takes things away. Head and heart, depending which one you want to put first. I appreciate people need to get paid, but it’s about having the mindset alongside your responsibility. If you are obtaining a salary, then it provides you with the opportunity to think about others. Voluntary sector groups especially can get destroyed by chasing funding, which ends up determining what they do. There is a balance.” Aaron adds.
So, if there is an acceptance that core funding is difficult to access at the moment. What type of support do groups like Bristol Reconnect need to survive? After a thoughtful pause from those present the following ideas emerge:
None of these issues, of course, are exclusive to Bristol City Council to help resolve, but “How about your local Council?” I ask. “Brokerage” comes the answer.“What do you mean by brokage? I ask. “Somebody who can navigate from within the council who understands how the public, private and charitable sectors work. They are able to facilitate exchanges, obtain and share things. For example, we needed some gear for the kitchen recently. We could spend time fundraising and then purchase stuff, but in a city like Bristol these things will be sitting idle in a charity, business or council storeroom somewhere.”
In times of strife and challenge, when strategy development becomes a comfortable blanket to hide under, it’s often the simple things that can sometimes become the most difficult to resolve. Why? If you want to find out more about Bristol Reconnect, or you may have something to offer? You can take the first step by clicking here: Stand Up and Be Counted.