Bristol Initiative marks 30 years with look back at its achievements – and look ahead at new challenges

December 21, 2018
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More than 150 business, community and civic leaders gathered to celebrate 30 years of the Bristol, Bath and West of England Initiative and hear how it has helped shape the region’s economic and cultural landscape over three decades.

The Initiative, which sits at the heart of Business West, was born out of the realisation that business had a duty to play an active role in shaping and influencing development of the city-region.

Since then it has been credited with helping deliver a huge number of key projects ranging from the redevelopment of Bristol’s Harbourside and the opening of the Cabot Circus retail centre, to establishing the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership & Bristol Festival of Ideas, the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and 91 Ways, the innovative project that brings together Bristol’s diverse communities around food.

The Initiative continues to be made up of individuals from business, the community and local government and its aim remains to foster strong local leadership and a clear sense of direction to help drive inclusive growth and development of the Bristol and Bath city-region.

As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, which took place at the recently refurbished Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre, Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees took part in a panel debate to discuss the Initiative’s lasting impact on the city region and its plans up until 2050.

Sitting alongside University of Bristol deputy vice-chancellor Prof Guy Orpen, Bristol Festival of Ideas director Andrew Kelly, Black South West Network director Sado Jirde and Canon Dr John Savage CBE, Mayor Rees thanked the Initiative for the influential role it played developing an ongoing strategic sense of direction for the city-region and promoting strong local leadership.

He cited the Initiative’s ‘2050: High in Hope’ vision for the future of the city-region as an inspiration behind his One City plan.

Today, with its eyes fixed very firmly on the future, the Initiative continues to bring together more than 200 partners from across the public, private and third sectors to deliver on six key priority areas for the city region – economy and business growth; planning and development; employment, skills and education; low carbon technology and clean growth; transport and connectivity; and local and national government.

Reflecting on the Initiative’s milestone anniversary and celebration event, chief executive James Durie said: “For 30 years the Bristol, Bath and West of England Initiative has had a role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region, each time working in partnership with a range of other organisations.

“Founded in 1988, our premise was – and still is – based on the notion that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, rather that they are an essential part of the fabric of civic life, meaning that they can and do have an active role to influence how the city region grows and develops.

“The Initiative started in testing times – in the aftermath of Bristol’s St Paul’s riots. This was a flashpoint in our city’s history in which trust in the system and trust in the local authorities’ ability to provide people a better life had reached an all-time low.

“Today we find ourselves in similarly testing times and it is testament to the Initiative’s impressive track record and potential future impact that so many local business and city leaders continue to support and work with and it’s great to have the chance to look back and celebrate.

“Whilst we are looking 30 years back on what together we have done, we are also keenly looking out at least 30 years to 2050, as we set out in our city region vision ‘High in Hope’.”

Pictured at the 30th anniversary celebrations, from left: Simon Cooper – director at TV Production Partnership, Andrew Kelly – director of The Bristol Festival of Ideas, Marvin Rees – Mayor of Bristol, Sado Jirde – director of Black South West Network, Canon Dr John Savage CBE – executive chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West, Richard Bonner – president of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West, James Durie – chief executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West, Simon Prescott – president of Bristol Guild of Guardians, Prof Guy Orpen – deputy vice-chancellor of University of Bristol

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