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2020 visions for Bristol’s future

We can see much more clearly now that the festivities are over, and the future looks bright in Bristol. We asked a few local figures for their predictions on the way they see their sector panning out this year

The past 12 months have seen some tumultuous times on the face of things but a great many positives have come out of them in Bristol, with scores of stars having aligned to enable constructive change in the city. We discussed what could come next with a few of the local figures we’ve enjoyed speaking to over the last year.

Economy & community: Mayor Marvin Rees

“Bristol is a city of opportunity. A home of creativity, vibrant business and world-class universities. But looking ahead to 2020, I want to see Bristol become a more inclusive economy where everyone can flourish. Today, low pay affects thousands in Bristol and denies people the dignity of being able to heat their homes or feed their children. Around a fifth of jobs in the city region still pay less than the real living wage.

“We aim to lead by example at Bristol City Council which is why we became an accredited living wage employer. However we cannot tackle issues such as low pay alone. We have been working together with employers to become a recognised Living Wage City in 2020, where decent pay is the benchmark, not the aspiration. This year, we’ve reached out to more than 100 employers based in Bristol and have an action group dedicated to making it happen.

“But our vision for Bristol goes beyond 2020. The collective power of people and organisations across Bristol led to the launch of the One City Plan. The plan, developed alongside city partners, outlines a shared vision for Bristol each year until 2050 across all sectors, from housing to business. Without sharing ideas and working collaboratively, this plan would not be able to give the people of Bristol what they want and need. The future is looking bright. It is already busy with new opportunities for collaboration, innovation and growth. Most importantly, it must be the year that sees us continue to deliver for our city in increasingly turbulent times.”

Environment: City to Sea founder Natalie Fee

“More trees, less concrete. More segregated cycle paths, fewer cars. More space for urban food growing, fewer supermarkets. That probably sums it up for me as I look ahead to what my vision for Bristol would be for the next decade, as we honestly and enthusiastically embrace the ecological emergency we’re facing. As the city becomes busier, we need to make sure more people doesn’t mean more air pollution or traffic or unaffordable housing, but inspires better public transport and pioneering, zero-carbon housing initiatives.

“We’ll need to cherish the green spaces and mature trees as well as planting thousands more across Bristol. Thanks to The Wave we’ll be able to surf on our doorstep, but we’ll also have to learn to ride the waves of uncertainty as the planet heats up and pressure on resources increases. So that means each of us taking personal responsibility for our ecological footprint, becoming conscious citizens instead of unconscious consumers. It also means building community. We can amplify our individual actions by joining forces with our neighbours, aligning ourselves with movements and collective actions that support life on Earth instead of depleting it.

“By doing this we’re not only creating more awareness and impact, but building resilience – strong, local connections that foster companionship and citizenship… as well as the occasional apple crumble. Finally, our political landscape needs greening too. A fairer, more participatory approach could see Bristol transition away from self-motivated, undemocratic tactics towards a kind of leadership that genuinely prioritises the needs of people and planet above party politics. Oh, and less plastic. Bring on the deposit return scheme and long live the refill revolution!”

“As the city becomes busier, we need to make sure more people doesn’t mean more air pollution or traffic or unaffordable housing, but inspires better public transport and pioneering, zero-carbon housing initiatives.”

Arts & activism: Mel Rodrigues, TEDx­­­Bristol curator

“2020 is going to be a huge year for arts and activism! Bristol is historically hot on both of these, but with the return of Upfest, Mayfest, Wildscreen, Extinction Rebellion and a host of grass-roots events and activism groups popping up all over the city, Bristol will be a lead player on the world stage, helping people explore some of the biggest issues of our time through creativity and communication. The main TEDxBristol event may be resting for a year, but stay tuned for some exciting work we’ll be doing in 2020 with this city’s next generation of change-makers.

“From a media and tech point of view, Channel 4 will fully open its doors at Finzels Reach, encouraging collaborations, in particular on digital and diversity projects. The past few years have seen Bristol based start-ups and organisations lead the way in both these fields (think GapSquare, boomsatsuma, Creative Youth Network, Neighbourly etc). I think we’re about to experience another step-change in how digital media and tech can engage and transform the experiences of many under-represented people in society.”

Paralympian Tegan Vincent-Cooke, who gave an inspirational talk at TEDxBristol. Its curator, Mel, says the city will continue to lead in promoting diversity in 2020

Property: Rupert Oliver, MD & estate agent

“It is difficult to say with certainty how 2020 will fare. But I believe we have every reason in the property market to be cheerful. Despite political uncertainty over the last six months – with Brexit kicked into touch in April, until October 2019, and then the calling of a General Election (and further Brexit postponement!) – the mid to top-end Bristol property market remained buoyant. We’re a small, newly formed agency, but we saw circa £6m of property exchange in just a fortnight towards the end of November. No sign of jitters there. A week or so later, as we approached Election Day – a modern £1m+ Harbourside town house went to ‘best bids’. No jitters there either.

“With Bristol regularly topping the polls of the best places to live, it is a strong draw for Londoners (especially) to relocate to and varied industries provide it with a firm financial backbone; it is the third largest (by turnover) tech hub in the UK, with world-class legal, medical and financial services and a centre of excellence for the creative arts (not least Channel 4’s creative hub at Finzels Reach). Infrastructure is excellent; from January, London is just over an hour away by train (68m) and we remain, of course, the gateway to the South West. London house prices are heavily reliant on both foreign buyers and overseas investment in the property market and a strong global financial services sector (both currently reeling from a lack of confidence), but Bristol suffers neither of those problems.

“The city has a relatively small pool of quality houses for sale, sought after by a growing number of prospective buyers. Vendors have every reason to be cheerful, and confident of a strong local property market to mark the start of the next decade.”

Technology: local journalist Nick Flaherty

“2020 promises to be an exciting year for ‘deep tech’ companies in Bristol. Last year Bristol-based Ultrahaptics merged with Leap Motion in California, and Ultraleap now has technology to both sense and feel buttons in mid-air that will be seen in a whole range of magical new products. 5G wireless is also taking off, and in November a whole new set of frequencies was announced for high-speed 5G. Blu Wireless already has the technology to make this work, and this is being used in various test systems in cars and cities across the country.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) will see huge growth in the year, and Graphcore will be shipping its hugely powerful AI chips, designed in Bristol, into data centres around the globe. And we will see driverless buses using Bristol technology. The first are already running from Edinburgh to Glasgow using technology from Fusion Processing, which is seeing its systems adopted in driverless trucks as well.”

Retail: Bedminster BID’s George Grace

“The retail sector is going to see more of the same over the next year with the digital retailers continuing to chip away at market share. But which market segment? We expect comparison goods retailers will continue to be hard hit followed by travel agents and the banks continuing to consolidate. On the plus side, locations that offer something a little bit different and experiential, and with a high level of technical or personal service, may still succeed.

“In Bedminster we are continuing to explore what we think is a sweet spot for traditional high streets – at the crossroads of retail, entertainment, arts and creative industries all wrapped up in community. Over the festive period, in addition to traditional Christmas lighting on the streets, we organised and promoted nearly 100 events, from wreath making and mince pie baking to a mistletoe kissing gate!

“In terms of the creative industries we are seeing a lot more small, flexible, creative office-type uses open up as more and more people look upon the area as an interesting, diverse and attractive location to live, work and ‘play’. The substantial new developments coming to the East Street vicinity over the next few years, providing nearly 2,000 new homes and student lets within a minute’s walk of this traditional Bristol street, will bring fresh demand and, we believe, a small rush of new independent eateries and retail outlets to complement the cinema already announced.”

“We are exploring what we think is a sweet spot for traditional high streets – at the crossroads of retail, entertainment, arts and creative industries all wrapped up in community…”

Food: local journalist Melissa Blease

“Zero-proof drinks: folk in search of a properly cool cocktail sans the hard stuff have sparked the rise of a whole new menu of chic alternatives using herbs, spices, shrubs, fruit, pickles and vegetables to create unique flavour sensations. In the hip foods limelight: macadamia, walnut and almond are being buttered up in readiness for their turn to top the nut butter charts.

“Almond, quinoa, plantain, amaranth, coconut and banana flour alternatives are also set to trend this year. Innovative blends of grains and beans that mimic the creamy textures of yogurts and other dairy products should soar as soy sales sink, too, while ‘seacuterie’ will take over where the seafood platter sharing board leaves off.

“We’ll see sad smoked salmon, cheerless calamari and crestfallen crab pâté kicked to the kerb in favour of more complex, imaginative ways with fish and seafood, often involving processes such as dry-ageing, fermenting and salt-baking. Finally, the mass migration away from eating meat shows no signs of slowing down. UK food manufacturers launched more new vegan products than any other nation last year.”

Music: Rough Trade’s Adrian Dutt

“Bristol is (as ever) a very fertile ground for new music; this past year has seen some fantastic bands start playing shows, and it has got everyone excited to see what happens in 2020. Staff faves that we think everyone should make sure they catch live are as follows…

“Illegal Data, and Snog: not bands, but club nights/collaborations and labels that are doing very, very exciting things in Bristol. Incredible, diverse line-ups and forward-thinking attitudes; the forefront of Bristol’s DIY/underground music scene right now in my opinon. Grandma’s House: riotgrrrl/surf-scuzz garage pop – everytime we see them they get better and each show is one big explosion of energy and fun. Pet Shimmers: lo-fi woozy brilliance. If any band from Bristol are set to follow in the footsteps of Idles, Pet Shimmers have got the songs to do it.

“Then there’s The Shuks: angular and groove-filled indie-pop. We finally managed to catch them at the Wax music birthday gig and they blew us away. Finally, find Fever 103: the goth techno new-wave we all needed in our lives. Icy vocals on top of skull-shattering throbs. Get in a dark room and catch them ASAP…

“Of course, there are so many more bands to look and listen out for – Yard Arms, Lice, The Jesuits, Football FC, The Belishas – get yourselves to a gig and support!”

“Bristol is (as ever) a very fertile ground for new music; this past year has seen some fantastic bands start playing shows, and it has got everyone excited to see what happens in 2020…”

Neciah Dorh

Health: Neciah Dorh, co-founder of FluoretiQ

“Global health spending represents 10% of global GDP and recent advances in science and computing will continue to unlock previously unimaginable possibilities. One of the big themes of 2019 was digital health, which harnessed the power of AI and wearables to put patients in the driver’s seat to monitor their own health and wellbeing.

“2020 will build on this to grow the trend towards home care; patients can be monitored and treated from the comfort of their homes. The growing bio-tech sector is starting to yield returns and we will see growth in faster, more accurate diagnostic platforms and personalised medicines. We will see new, innovative solutions to previously intractable health problems. Bristol will have a major role to play with a number of innovations coming out of the eco-system including FluoretiQ (15-minute point-of-care test for bacteria ID and enumeration), Imophoron (vaccines without the cold-chain), Cytoseek (smarter cancer treatment through targeted-cell therapies) and OKKO Health (eye care from your smartphone), to name a few.”

Film & TV: Bottle Yard Studios’ Fiona Francombe

“The UK’s boom in production shows no signs of slowing. Record levels of film and television are being made around the country. Bristol is holding its own as a filming destination, particularly when it comes to high-end drama. We’re consistently attracting crews to base with us and film at the many locations in and around Bristol; production companies are returning time and again following good experiences, often thanks to expert support from Bristol Film Office. I don’t foresee this trend dipping any time soon and with Channel 4 now here in the city, we’re starting 2020 stronger than ever.

The TV industry’s focus should be on discovering new ways to capture the attention of young talent from all backgrounds, says Fiona Francombe

“However, we definitely need to keep looking ahead. To stay at the top of our game we need to keep pace with productions’ needs for skilled crew. Now more than ever it’s a case of ‘all hands on deck’ to make sure that careers in production are more visible to young people considering their options. It’s so inspiring to see the now 60-strong community of 16 to 19-year-olds studying hands-on courses here at the Studios, learning with our partner boomsatsuma.

“The industry’s focus for 2020 should be to keep on discovering engaging new ways to capture the attention of young talent from all backgrounds and invite them to step into careers in television production.”