The latest news from Business West Chambers of Commerce members. To update us on your news, email



Thank you to everyone who filled in the Chamber membership survey telling us about your needs and how business is going for you. We had a great response – thank you! We have been enjoying reading your comments and this will really help us to redesign how we support our community in the future. We are now looking ahead to

Chamber events throughout the year – one way our community comes together to support each other, share, learn and do business. In Bristol, we alternate our

breakfasts between Leigh Court and a central Bristol venue. This year we will be trying out a new member venue, Cote Brasserie in Quakers Friars in February, April and June with breakfasts at Leigh Court in January, March and May. Gloucestershire events will continue to move around the county each month. And in Bath we’re launching a new, refreshed events programme. We hope to see you at one of our future events soon! We can also offer facilitated

introductions so if there is a Chamber member you are keen to meet, then we can connect you up. Ask the membership team for more details. We want to help businesses in the West to grow and prosper so please let us support you. Brexit continues to be a

dominating theme for business at the moment – please do make the most of our Trading Through Brexit service where you can get up-to-the-minute advice from our expert team.

For more information, visit:

Tel: 0800 980 2789 Email:

10 insight JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019

West of England Initiative celebrates its 30th anniversary

Richard Bonner, president of Bristol Chamber & Initiative

By James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber & Initiative at Business West

When celebrating a milestone occasion, it’s difficult to avoid looking back and reminiscing about past achievements and progress. Yet, despite the occasion, there was a palpable and prescient sense of things to come for the Bristol & Bath city region at the Initiative’s 30th anniversary celebration event. In the stunning new Weston Studio at The Bristol

Old Vic Theatre packed with members, president of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative Richard Bonner kicked off proceedings by focussing on the present. In the panel debate which followed, the uniquely

joined-up approach by business to tackling city-wide issues was identified as representing the Initiative’s true legacy. Past president Bob Durie duly attested to this, confessing to the audience that he still refers to the period prior to the Initiative’s inception as the city’s ‘dark days’. Stuck in a post-war stupor, Bristol was seen as a place where good ideas came to die, he said. The rather grim picture painted of Bristol in the

1970s and 1980s is almost unrecognisable to anyone who has lived, worked or visited during the past twenty to thirty or so years, and this is due, in no small part to the work of the Initiative, said panellist Andrew Kelly, director of the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership & Festival of Ideas. Under the watch of former chief executive and

fellow panellist on the night, Dr John Savage CBE, Andrew recounted how the Initiative were instrumental, and understood very early, the need to promote cultural development and help cultivate a unique sense of place in the city region. Encounters Film Festival, Destination Bristol, We The Curious, Bristol Festival of Ideas and the Harbourside & Cabot Circus regeneration projects are just a small handful of the crowning achievements identified by Andrew that the Initiative had taken the lead on over the years. Reflecting on this journey, former chief executive

and nowadays chairman John Savage spoke at length about how the Initiative’s 12 founder

members recognised the link between culture, education and a vibrant local economy in describing the emphasis placed on tourism in the early years. Also on the panel, Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol,

gave compelling insight into how Bristol’s past shaped the One City vision for the city, before congratulating the Initiative for turning around the city’s fortunes and describing John Savage as the “Mayor that Bristol never had”, which was met with loud applause from the assembled guests. Later on, John returned the compliment and commended mayor Rees for the strong city leadership he had demonstrated since being elected in 2016. Bristol’s International Jazz and Blues Festival

kindly provided the Hopkins Hammond Trio who generously gave us musical accompaniment to the evening as members and invited guests reflected on the Initiative’s impact and discussed its future direction of travel. Whilst enjoying a light supper, guests also had the

chance to look at 30 years’ worth of materials and publications – from books and white papers to press cuttings and pin badges – charting the Initiative’s impressive track record and legacy ‘in making things happen’ from 1988 right up to the present day. The event provided plenty of moments to reflect and reminisce, but what makes the Initiative a unique and special force in this city region is that it enables it to keep looking further forward. Despite a 30-year track record of success, the

overwhelming sense as the evening came to the close was that 30 years in, and some 30 years out from 2050, we’re actually only just getting started.

For more information about the Initiative, contact james.durie@

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