People / Bristol

Bristol people of the Year 2019

By martin booth, Monday Dec 9, 2019

Here are just some of the people that have made the headlines for all the right reasons in 2019:

Aisha Thomas 

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The assistant principal at City Academy was the star of a BBC documentary whose findings inspired and motivated her to become involved in the Bristol One Curriculum, born out of recognition that the city’s education system needs to address the lack of representation. Aisha ended the year as one of the speakers at TEDx Bristol, talking about why representation really matters.

Alex Beresford

The Good Morning Britain weatherman intervened in a debate on knife crime and policing in March. The national chair of the UK’s Police Federation was discussing a link between the rise in knife crime and the fall in police numbers but as he argued for more prisons, Alex began shouting over the panel from his desk saying that prisons do not work. In July, he became an ambassador for Empire Fighting Chance charity in Easton, which uses boxing as a tool for social change.

Alex Hayes

Squeezed owner Alex Hayes was named Burger Chef of the Year at the National Burger Awards in February after competing against more than a dozen other chefs from across the UK. He had to impress a panel of judges with both a signature burger and a technical challenge using ingredients provided. Squeezed’s original home in Cargo 2 in Wapping Wharf closes on December 20 ready for a move into bigger premises in nearby Cargo 1 in February 2020.

Andrew Billingham

The proposed YTL Arena Bristol within the former Brabazon Hangars overlooking the former Filton  Airfield will not just be an arena, according to its managing director, but “a new entertainment complex” for Bristol and the South West. Planning permission was finally submitted in November, with Billingham hoping that the new complex will create more than 500 new jobs and inject £1.5bn into the local economy over the next 25 years.

Ant Paradox

“Doesn’t get anymore Bristol than this,” drum & bass DJ Danny Byrd tweeted in July when reposting Neeley April O’Sullivan’s video of Ant Paradox riding down a road in Barton Hill sat on top of speakers blaring out jungle strapped on a mobility scooter. Paradox only moved to Bristol the month before the video went viral over the summer. When not riding through Barton Hill, Paradox is an entrepreneur producing miniature sound systems and key rings.

Carla Denyer

The Green MP candidate for Bristol West and former mechanical engineer in the renewable energy industry was the author of the first Climate Emergency motion in Europe, which this year has been picked up by organisations across the world. Carla was also shortlisted in this year’s national Cllr Achievement Awards in the environment and sustainability pioneer category. She stood as the Green Party candidate in Bristol West in December’s General Election, coming second with almost 25 per cent of the vote.

Claudia Fragapane

In Poland in April, Claudia marked her return after a year out injured by posting the leading score on her way to the floor final at the European Gymnastics Championships. She eventually finished outside the medals in her first major competition since Achilles surgery but said: “I nailed all my tumbles so I’m really, really happy with my performance. I was really down last year, so to come back and do the same tumbles as 2017, I’m just really proud.”

Daryn Carter

The organiser of the annual Bristol Pride event stepped down from his role after 10 years. Daryn Carter announced the news from the main stage of this summer’s festival, which in July took place in a new home on the Downs following 20,000 people parading through the city centre. He said that it was the “right time” to step down and hand the baton over to someone else.

Hannah Killick

The 12-year-old Redmaids’ High School pupil cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the Easter holidays, raising funds for Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity and United World Schools. It took Hannah and her dad 17 and a half days to complete the challenge – three and a half days earlier than expected. “You’ve just got to go for it,” said Hannah.

Ioan Lloyd


The former Clifton College student signed a four-year deal with Bristol Bears ahead of the 2019/20 Premiership campaign. In the first league game of the season against Bath, the 18-year-old scored a try after coming on as a substitute. And against Zebre in the European Challenge Cup, the 22 points that he scored was the second highest haul for a Bristol player on starting debut in a competitive match.

Joe Talbot

The Idles frontman sat in for Iggy Pop on his BBC Radio 6 Music show in June, one month after his band’s second album Joy As An Act Of Resistance received the Best Album gong at the Ivor Novello Awards. Idles’ set at Glastonbury was one of the best of this year’s festival, they played their biggest ever Bristol show at the Downs in August, and their charity Christmas show with Beak> at the Marble Factory on the night of the General Election sold out in less than 24 hours and raised £80,000 for charity.

Kate Byers and Linn Waite


The BAFTA award winning producers of Totterdown-based Early Day Films brought together the finance for Bait to shoot exclusively in Cornwall in autumn 2017 under the directorship of fellow Bristolian Mark Jenkins. Writing in the Observer, Mark Kermode called Bait “one of the defining British films of the decade”. It played in the Watershed for an almost unprecedented eight weeks and returned in December.

LaToyah McAllister-Jones

As the new executive director of St Paul’s Carnival, one of LaToyah’s main aims is to build it from a one-day party into something that can happen throughout the year – without losing sight of course that the first Saturday of July will always be its primary event.

Luke Jerram


This year, Luke Jerram’s giant inflatable model of the Moon has floated in the docks, appeared in the Extinction Rebellion camp next to Bristol Bridge and was seen by millions of viewers above the contestants’ heads on Strictly Come Dancing. 2019 also saw the publication of a retrospective book of the Bristol artist’s work, and new sculptures unveiled at St George’s and Bristol Zoo.

Melissa Cheman

Published by Paintsworks-based Tangent Books in March, French journalist Melissa Chemam’s Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone is the definitive story of the band’s Bristol roots. The book was named one of Rough Trade’s best of the year; with adopted Bristolian Melissa taking up a new position this year as a lecturer in journalism at BIMM and as writer-in-residence at the Arnolfini.

Olivette Otele

Appointed in October, a key task for the University of Bristol’s first history of slavery professor is to undertake a detailed research project on the institution’s – and city’s – ties to the transatlantic slave trade. Olivette’s appointment is seen as an important step following years of conversations about how Bristol should deal with its past and links to slave traders such as Edward Colston and their legacy.

Paul Blake

After being homeless himself, Paul started a petition at the beginning of this year to force Bristol City Council to recognise the need for daytime provision for the homeless community. In September, the petition was presented to a meeting of full council at City Hall and gained cross-party support, with Blake receiving a standing ovation; and the council announcing that they would fund day centre services on weekends to help plug the gaps in provision.

Ryan Higgins

The Gloucestershire all-rounder was one of four players nominated for the Players’ Player of the Year by the Professional Cricketers’ Association (an award unsurprisingly won by Ben Stokes). The Zimbabwe-born 24-year-old played a key part as Gloucestershire secured promotion back to Division One of the County Championship for the first time since 2005. In September, the all-rounder extended his contract at the club until the end of the 2023 season.

Thangam Debonnaire

In a tumultuous year in the House of Commons, where the BBC Parliament Channel was much-watch television, the Bristol West MP was often the star of the show. As a Labour Party whip, it was one of her jobs to read out the results of votes, often accompanied by what looked suspiciously like a smile if the government lost. Thangam was also part of a classic John Bercow meme, as the former speaker said her name in the style of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer.

Yola Carter

Yola’s four nominations at the Grammy Awards 2020 capped quite a year for the singer-songwriter, which saw her release her debut album, Walk Through Fire and be featured in Vogue magazine. The Bristol-born singer-songwriter now spends much time in Nashville at the forefront of the new country movement.

Read more: 12 quotes from Bristol24/7 interviewees in 2019

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