Your say / Better Bristol

‘Graveyard of ambition? That’s not the Bristol I know’

By james durie, Wednesday Jan 2, 2019

The city of Bristol’s official motto is virtute et industria, which is Latin for ‘with virtue and industry’.

In my view, it’s quite a fitting one, considering our reputation for challenging authority and given our strong, resilient economy. However, official mottos don’t always capture the public imagination in the way that the unofficial ones sometimes do.

‘Bristol – the graveyard of ambition – where good ideas comes to die’, so the saying used to go. An incredibly unfortunate thing to be known for as a city, and one that I think is totally inaccurate.

Bristol is a place bursting with talent, energy and ambition that is constantly evolving due to a growing sense of civic pride. The Better Bristol campaign being launched by Bristol24/7 aptly demonstrates this, but it is just the latest development in a long line of efforts by business to make this city the best place to live, learn, work and do business.


Read more: What is Better Bristol?


As CEO of one such entity, the Bristol West of England Initiative, which sits at the centre of Business West Chambers of Commerce, I know there is so much to do and so much that needs to be achieved.

2018 marked 30 years since a group of civic-minded business leaders came together to form the Bristol Initiative. We are a network of 200 civic, business and community leaders, united not by profit, politics or the achievement of personal ends, but the quest to make Bristol a better place for everyone.

The initiative started in the aftermath of the St Paul’s riots, a flashpoint in our city’s history in which trust in the system and in the local authority had reached an all-time low.

People were angry. The initiative’s founder members were angry too.

They were angry that the living standards enjoyed by residents in suburbs such as Clifton didn’t reach as far as St Paul’s. They were angry at a lost generation of Bristolians. They were angry that the council and government had allowed things to deteriorate so far and that businesses felt powerless to do anything about it.

They wanted to change this and that’s what they set out to do by establishing the initiative – they knew that with guile and their indefatigable spirit, business leaders can be the change that we want to see in the world in our backyard.

Much has changed in Bristol over the last 30 years

Since then, Bristol has changed beyond all recognition.

For 30 years, the West of England Initiative has had a role in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region – through strong collaboration and partnership with a range of other organisations and many remarkable individuals.

For all this, problems remain across our city region.

While economic growth and prosperity has started to transform certain neighbourhoods, we have – as one stark example – a record number of rough sleepers on our streets.

We may now be recognised as one of the most liveable cities in the UK, but in Bristol West, only 25 per cent of people own their own homes.

It is for this reason that business needs to commit to the long-term health and vitality of this city and its wider region.

We can work against the blight of short-termism and help to shape, influence and deliver a place which is fit and strong and offers great opportunities for everyone here.

For all these reasons I welcome the launch of Better Bristol – with virtue and industry, let us go forward.

James Durie

James Durie is CEO of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and West of England Initiative at Business West.

Main photo courtesy of Destination Bristol.

Read more: ‘Bristol is a place where ideas flourish’

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