The Master’s Voice – June 2012

Welcome to the Merchants’ inaugural blog. Deliberately, and thankfully, it is not a conventional blog, but rather an informal way of keeping you updated with some of the Society’s activities and our future plans.

While education and care for older people take up much of our time and resource, the Society is also concerned with the well-being of Bristol and our members are very much out and about in the business and public spheres.

Giles Clarke started the idea of the Master meeting the Leader of Bristol City Council fairly regularly and I have continued meeting Barbara Janke. The Treasurer and I will, in due course, meet Simon Cook, who is now leading the Council until the mayoral elections in November. He may well be standing to be Bristol’s first elected mayor.

We have taken a great interest in the proposal for an elected mayor, and while as a Society we are neutral, all the members to  whom I have spoken have been in favour, and to use the word in vogue, think that such a change can be ‘transformational’ for Bristol and its region.  A number of Merchants and I have been at the meetings in Bristol in support of the campaign for an elected mayor, and we enjoyed in particular a trip to Downing Street to hear Michael Heseltine, Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister speak on the subject. George Ferguson is standing, and maybe other Merchants will declare later – it seems to me a natural thing for Merchants to want to do in the interests of making Bristol a better place. We don’t take sides, but wish them all well in their campaigns.

The Standing Committee has just spent an excellent and informative day visiting our three schools, and, of course, we are just getting into the Prize Giving and end-of-academic-year season. Merchants’ Academy in Withywood is engaged in the project of integrating the nearby Gay Elms Primary school, and thus creating an All Age Academy  and Colston Girls’ Academy on Cheltenham Road are very busy setting up a new co-ed primary school to help Bristol City Council deal with the city’s shortage.

We recently sponsored, with others, a Young Student’s Talent competition, designed to get teams of teenagers from different maintained schools to design, plan and carry out business orientated projects – for example setting up a website for a voluntary sector organisation. The final awards ceremony, in a large marquee in front of the Mall at Cribbs, involved a catwalk and loud music with young people strutting their stuff. I was impressed both by what the teams had achieved, and by the professional way in which the whole thing was organised. Anthony Brown and Chris Curling were both in attendance, and I am pleased that the Society will continue to sponsor this initiative. More importantly I hope that we will see one or more of our own schools in the final next year!

‘The Station’ is a project to convert the Old Fire Station in Silver Street into a centre for young people from all over Bristol to come and make music, socialise, eat and drink, and generally do what teenagers do. There will also be room for careers advice and other more serious things. It will be a large, state of the art facility and the cost of the building and equipment which runs to several millions is largely being met from government and similar sources.  Several of us have been down to see what is going on and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I particularly enjoyed meeting three of the young people who are helping Sandy Hore-Ruthven, CEO of the Creative Youth Network, to make the project happen, two of them ex- Merchants’ Academy.  We are sponsoring an outreach worker to the tune of £46,000 (£23,000 per annum for two years) and he or she will be charged with getting young people in from all corners of Bristol.

I hope, in August, to deal with the Local Enterprise Partnership’s work under Colin Skellet’s chairmanship, and other work which Merchants do in the public sphere.

David Marsh, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers