For over 30 years The West of England Initiative has played a role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region, each time working in partnership with a range of other organisations.
Bringing Life Back to the City Centre
It is vital that a city centre has a good retail offer if it is to thrive. During the 1980’s the retail heart of the city, Broadmead, was in decline. Coupled with the plans for a major out- of -town shopping development Cribbs Causeway, The Initiative could foresee the damaging effects on the city centre and needed to react fast to maintain the confidence of the major retailers.
In 1995, The Initiative formed the Broadmead Board with the Bristol City Council. The Board highlighted how powerful a public/private partnership could be in bringing about change and through the re-development of Broadmead and the Harbourside, The Initiative was able to reinstall confidence in the major retailers and restore the city centre.
Through further leadership of the Broadmead Board, The Initiative played a role in helping to secure the £500 million re-development of Bristol City’s shopping centre, Cabot Circus, the number one retail destination in the region. Today, The Initiative sits on the Bristol Shopping Quarter Board, working closely with the major retailers.
The Initiative in Bath and North East Somerset followed suit and joined with the local authority to create a similar public/private partnership body. Future Bath Plus, which overseas city centre management, tourism and cultural activity.
The West of England: A £1.8bn Tourist Economy
Today, the Tourism industry in the UK is a major part of its economy, worth well over £100bn each year. It is vital then that our region can attract visitors and make them want to return. As a result, The Initiative and the local council in Bristol have established public/private ventures which successfully attract more and more visitors each year to our city.
One of those ventures set up by The Initiative is Destination Bristol, a destination management company which runs the Visit Bristol website. Destination Bristol has helped, and continues to help, market Bristol and its surrounding area to tourists from all over the world.
The Initiative can take pride in knowing it helps in part to attract more than 28 million day visitors each year to the West of England; worth over £1.8bn to the local economy, and continues to support the marketing of this region.
A City to be Proud of – The Matthew
To coincide with the redevelopment of the Harbourside and the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s historic voyage to Newfoundland in 1497, The Initiative played a significant role in the construction and launch of a replica of his ship, the Matthew.
In an act of civic pride, The Initiative supported the replica ship of John Cabot, the original discoverer of North America, to re-enact his historic achievement and cross the Atlantic. The Matthew departed Bristol in front of a packed Harbourside and was greeted in Newfoundland by Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh.
Equipping the West of England’s Young Population for the Future
Equipping our young population with the skills and education they need to succeed in this fast and ever changing economy is a key concern for the business community. The West of England Initiative is passionate about raising the aspirations of young people, but in order to achieve this, education standards throughout the region must rise. As a result, The Initiative supports a wide range of education projects and schemes.
One of a number of projects we set up and run is ABLAZE. Initially a reading and numeracy project which links businesses to schools to give one- to- one help to students, now also helps with the governance of schools. The West of England Initiative also helped to provide the inspiration for Education Unlimited, an innovative scheme to assist disaffected young people, which continues to operate through the City of Bristol College. Another project we support is the Learning Partnership West which offers support to children and young people to help change their lives and reach their true potential.
Creating a City of Diversity and Culture
In order for a city to develop a knowledge economy it needs to attract and retain the brightest students, businesses, and employees; culture, can help us create this environment. The Initiative helped create the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, which plays a significant role in the formation of many major cultural projects throughout the region.
The first major project was the construction of Millennium Square, a derelict railway goods shed which has been transformed into the showpiece of the redeveloped Harbourside. The Square now forms part of the At-Bristol development and is an attractive and popular public space which hosts exhibitions and festivals.
Other projects we have been involved with include At-Bristol, Brief & Animated Encounters Film Festivals, Brunel 200, the Bristol Great Reading Adventure, the Bristol Festival of ldeas and the BAC 100 which celebrated 100 years of aerospace in the West of England.