The Master’s Voice – February 2013

Peter Rilett, Master of The Society of Merchant Venturers

I’d like to begin by wishing all visitors to The Master’s Voice a Happy New Year. I’m hopeful that 2013 will bring new direction and progress for Bristol.

The economic downturn has resulted in significant unemployment and there are areas of Bristol in which third generation unemployment is still accepted as an inevitable way of life. There is a real need for positive action, to create jobs and boost the local economy.

This is a very special moment for the city; it’s a critical time and the building blocks are in place to facilitate real change. Bristol now has a vocal champion – new Mayor George Ferguson will represent the city in a high profile way on both a regional and national scale. The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has taken great strides in ensuring difficult pan-regional issues are tackled on a joined up basis, while the city’s Enterprise Zone plans to create a buzzing creative district, centred around Temple Meads.

There is a great opportunity for the Mayor, the LEP and the Enterprise Zone to work together, joining forces to attract vital resources and investment from Government, creating a new strategy and confidence for Bristol.

Plans for a Bristol stadium and renovations of the Colston Hall and Bristol Old Vic should boost the local construction sector, as well as making the city a more attractive prospect to investors, businesses and people looking to relocate.  The CBI recently recommended that the Government commit £1.5bn to drive forward major UK construction projects. If these plans move forward, it is vital that Bristol receive its share.

On a more personal note, the last few months, my first as Master of the Society, have certainly been busy. In December the Merchants’ Hall played host to three great Christmas carol recitals.  The first saw a choir from Colston’s Lower School entertain the residents of our Cote and Almshouses Charities; on the second occasion the Chamber Choir from Colston’s Girls’ School sang beautifully for members and guests of the Standing Committee. Finally, shortly before Christmas, the Merchants, families and staff, reinforced by mince pies and other refreshment, produced some hearty festive singing!

December also saw the Master’s traditional visit to the residents of Colston’s Almshouse on St Michael’s Hill where I and Sonia, together with the Treasurer, distributed Christmas gifts and brought with us some Christmas cheer. I was kept busy right up until Christmas Eve, when I was privileged to read a lesson on behalf of the Merchants for the Festival of Nine Lessons at Bristol Cathedral. The New Year brings with it the promise of further social and business events where I, as Master, have the honour of representing the Society and, for those events both in London and in other parts of the country, will continue to do all I can to promote our great City.