Features / Bristicles

16 people who made the news in Bristol in 2016

By Bristol24/7 , Thursday Dec 22, 2016

We don’t need to tell you that 2016 has seen Bristol continue to flourish. And what better way to celebrate than to pay homage to the people that have made our city stand out. Celebrating all the movers, shakers and breakers, we bring you our faces of the year that was.

Arron Banks

He may not be to everyone’s liking, but there is no doubting the influence that the Thornbury multi-millionaire had on the UK’s single biggest event this year: Brexit. As the biggest donor to both Ukip and Leave.EU, Banks spearheaded the campaign to leave, upsetting a fair few people along the way. In a highly divided campaign he also faced accusations of tax avoidance (which he denies), using offshore companies to fund the Brexit campaign. But he managed to please some people with the overall result – Donald Trump included. In fact, Banks joined Nigel Farage to be one of the first people into Trump Tower to congratulate the president-elect after his surprise victory.


Ben Smith

A day barely goes by without reading in a local paper about yet another charity fundraiser cycling to Penzance or juggling to Portsmouth. But Ben Smith took it all a little further, running 401 marathons in 401 days, starting and finishing in Bristol. Having suffered homophobic bullying as a schoolboy, he attempted to take his own life in his early 20s. He started running to lose weight and used the focus as a form of therapy. He ended up launching The 401 Challenge, raising more than half a million quid in the process for anti-bullying charities, becoming an inspirational charity ambassador in the process and late in the year winning the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.


Darrell Clarke

In May 2014, after one month in the job as interim manager, Darrell Clarke sat on the Bristol Rovers bench at the Memorial Ground and watched as the club was relegated out of the Football League for the first time in its history. “Words can’t describe it, I’m devastated,” he said afterwards, head in hands. “I’ll take responsibility as I picked the team for the last eight games.” Two years later and he was on the pitch at the same ground in Horfield celebrating the second of back-to-back promotions. This year, the club are pushing for promotion again, with Clarke flying the Gas high. Onwards!


Kalpna Woolf

In a year when Brexit divided the nation and hate crimes were on the rise, Kalpna Woolf turned the tables by championing her 91 Ways project. Celebrating the cultures that come with the 91 languages that are spoken in Bristol, 91 Ways holds regular pop-up events where people from all backgrounds can eat and share together to rebuild broken bridges. As she told Bristol24/7 in an interview this year: “We believe that we can go from strength to strength and be an amazing template to say look how peacefully people live together, share together and connect with one another.”


Leanne Pook

Leanne is the kind of detective inspector who just can’t leave her work alone when she goes home. Having worked in Avon & Somerset Police tackling the growing problem of female genital mutilation (FGM), she won an award for voluntary work outside of the force in 2014. This year she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, raising just shy of £6,000 for the Divinity Foundation and specifically for an FGM Rescue Centre in Amboseli, Kenya. She says fighting FGM is a personal battle for her and she penned a blog earlier this year entitled: ‘There’s only one reason FGM is performed and that’s to control women.’ Read that blog here.


Lily Owsley

Photo by Bristol Sport

If there was moment which defined Team GB’s astounding performance at the Olympics in Rio it was, perhaps, the women’s hockey team winning gold following a penalty shootout in the final. One of the many rocks in the campaign was Lily Owsley, a former Clifton College pupil and the youngest player in the team. Not only did she put in a mighty shift for the whole tournament, but she did it all on the back of a broken collarbone suffered in February. Oh, and it was Lily who smashed in the equaliser to take the final game against Holland to penalties which we won, sparking jubilant scenes on the pitch, in the Team GB camp and in living rooms across the country.


Liz Harkman

When Bristol Festivals was born the idea was to pool all the creative know-how to make what is already a burgeoning scene shine even brighter on the national and international stage. With the appointment of Liz Harkman, that looks well and truly on the cards. The former managing director of Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival is already hard at work helping to bring together the umbrella organisation and its 33 member organisations – stamping Bristol’s party scene on the map. In her own words: “The importance of collaboration between the city’s festivals and how working together on audience development and city placemaking is a vital element to their success and growth.”


Maisie Williams

Maisie – or Margaret to those who know here in the tiny village of Clutton where she grew up – was already a pretty big deal well before 2016, having starred as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones since 2011. This year her stock has risen further, having won a host of awards including the London Film Critics’ Circle Award for Young British Performer Of the Year and was named by People as one of 25 Women Changing the World. And outside of her acting work, she has courted praise for her comments on feminism, her taking down of The Daily Mail over pictures of her “braless”, and her charity work including with the NSPCC and Bristol Dogs & Cats Home. The 19-year-old is also a true Bristol teenager, having absolutely had it at Love Saves the Day this year (according to her Twitter feed).


Marvin Rees

He humbly accepted a humiliating shock defeat in 2012 when George Ferguson rode a wave of discontent with the status quo to become Bristol’s first elected mayor. But the Easton boy who grew up in a single parent household didn’t give up. He bounced back and this year took on Ferguson again – only this time winning by a country mile and helping to turn Bristol red. He has faced countless naysayers predicting a council apocalypse in light of government cuts since he was voted in, but he has not dropped his promise to find new ways to make the city work together to solve the problems it faces. He’s also committed to tackling chronic inequality and making Bristol a truly inclusive city for its diverse population.


Massive Attack 

The last time Massive Attack played in Bristol, Tony Blair was prime minister and Jennifer Lopez topped the charts. It’s fair to say they had kept us waiting too long, but when they finally did show: oh, what a show. A massive gig of some sort on the Downs had been whispered about for a few years before Team Love, who bring us Love Saves the Day, finally secured the site – paving way for perhaps Bristol’s biggest ever musical exports to make their triumphant return. On a wind-swept and rain-soaked evening Massive Attack, including Knowle Wester Tricky, played before almost 30,000 awe-struck people as the heavens opened in a mesmerising homecoming that will go down in folklore.


Miles Chambers

Named by his mate Marvin Rees as Bristol’s first city poet laureate, Miles Chambers is a performance poet, social commentator and a chef. You can find him behind the stoves at Agnes Spencer’s Amazing Jamaican Cuisine stall at the Tobacco Factory market, Temple Quay market and Love Food Festival. He is an advocate for racial equality and Afro-Caribbean culture in the city, and this year has become the voice of the city.


Natalie Fee 

Towards the end of this year, Natalie Fee’s not-for-profit organisation, City to Sea secured a stunning victory in convincing four major supermarkets to phase out plastic cotton buds to help reduce the amount of plastic entering our waterways. An author, TV presenter and environmental campaigner, Natalie has worked tirelessly to help try and make Bristol become a zero waste city. Also the founder of Refill Bristol, Natalie’s vision is to make Bristol a ‘refillable’ city, meaning free tap water for all at 200 different refill stations across the city. The aim is to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and bottles tops ending up in our oceans. 


Nikesh Shukla 

A long-time champion of diversity in publishing, author Nikesh Shukla once asked “where are all the brown people?” in the industry which is too often pale, male and stale. Incensed by the situation, and driven on by a below-the-line comment on a Guardian article, he crowdfunded in just three days (including a pledge of £5,000 from JK Rowling) the publication of The Good Immigrant, a collection of 21 essays: “a document of what it means to be a person of colour now” from the likes of Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed and poet Sabrina Mahfouz. The book wasn’t just extremely timely – in a post-Brexit world of rising anti-immigration hate crime – but it was also funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking. It has been quite a year for Shukla, also the editor of Bristol’s youth-led online platform Rife Magazine, who this month was named as one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Global Thinkers for 2016 for his work tackling the “unbearable whiteness of publishing”.


Peter Sanchez Iglesias

Peter Sanchez Iglesias was one half of a partnership of two brothers who took their parents’ family restaurant in Westbury-on-Trym and turned it into a Michelin-starred benchmark of modern cuisine. That was until his brother Jonray tragically died of skin cancer in 2015 at the age of 32. Following the heartbreak, Peter took the reigns solo and pushed on with his and his brother’s long-held plans to move the eatery to the heart of Bristol. The new Casamia at The General in Redcliffe opened in January, retaining its Michelin star shortly after. It was followed by the opening next door in July of Pi Shop and in November next door to that of Paco Tapas. All three of the restaurants fall under one umbrella name: Sanchez Brothers.


Primrose Granville

Great chat, interviews and top quality live studio guests are what helped Primrose Granville scoop the National Female Presenter of the Year award at this year’s Community Radio Awards. The Ujima Radio 98FM presenter and broadcast journalist tackles everything from education, health, current affairs, community, the arts, the environment and money on her two-hour slot every Friday morning. On receiving the award she was praised for her skills as a hard hitting interviewer, her ability to keep a positive vibe going through her show, and, most of all, her large local fan base that follow her on both Ujima and BBC Radio Bristol.


Thangam Debbonaire

Well, what a year. Where do we start? Shortly after her election victory in Bristol West in 2015 the MP discovered she had breast cancer – sending her into treatment almost immediately. But in 2016 she emerged fighting and was soon on the doorsteps campaigning to remain in the EU. Her party then imploded after the leave vote and she was one of 171 MPs to put her name to a no confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn. Cue the threats from hardcore Corbynites – including at a “toxic” meeting of her local party members, many of whom accused her of being a traitor. At the end of her tether, she then revealed one of the real reasons she couldn’t back the leader, claiming he had appointed her to the front bench and sacked her without informing her while she was recovering from cancer. Since Owen Smith lost the leadership election and Corbyn remains in power, Debbonaire says she is happy again focussing her energy on local constituency issues.

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