Interview: Bristol City Centre BID discuss their response to coronavirus

Interview: Bristol City Centre BID discuss their response to coronavirus

Posted on: 29 May 2020

Paula Ratcliffe, Business Liaison Manager of the Bristol City Centre BID, discusses the organisation's recent work in response to COVID-19. 


The Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) is a non-profit organisation working to improve the city centre. Funded by over 700 local businesses, with bars and restaurants making up a fifth of the total, the BID was voted into existence in 2017. The aim? To introduce improvements or initiatives above and beyond what is already provided by the local authorities; making the area safer, more welcoming and better promoted for visitors, residents and workers alike.


Since its foundation, the BID has worked to introduce several improvements and initiatives, some of which may be better known than some. Remember the Bristol Light Festival? Thanks to the Bristol BID, the city had access to a vibrant trail of interactive light installations in February, which saw both renowned international artists and local talent showcase their work. The festival, which is set to take place again in 2021, attracted an additional 100,000 visitors to the city centre over the wintry weekend.

The Bristol Light Festival 2019'Frame Perspective' by French visual artist Olivier Ratsi at the 2019 Bristol Light Festival


The Bristol Light Festival, however, is only one of the BID's game-changing initiatives. On a stroll around the city centre, for instance, you might have come across the organisation's TAP for Bristol contactless donation points. Founded in response to the BID's levypayers' desire to reduce rough sleeping in the area, TAP for Bristol was launched to raise money to prevent homelessness, with donations going directly to those who need it most. Since TAP's launch in November 2019, the project has raised £20,000. The first grants have since been awarded to local homelessness charity Caring in Bristol, as well as local mental health charity Second Step.


To find out more about the work of the Bristol BID, and how it is responding to the obstacles raised by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we had a chat with the organisation's Business Liaison Manager, Paula Ratcliffe. Paula is responsible for keeping local businesses in the loop with the BID's projects and initiatives, providing guidance and information wherever possible. In addition, Paula's role, alongside other BID staff members, involves engaging with the local authorities at all levels to ensure the views of businesses are considered on topics that range from post-lockdown plans, through to road closures and waste management.  

The BID Team on ZoomThe City Centre BID's virtual team meeting. Top left: Paula Ratcliffe 


"We have refocused our efforts to both support those levy payers that continue to operate, and also to be available to provide advice and support to all levy payers," Paula explained. Take the BID's Cleansing operation, for instance. Usually, the BID's cleansing team operate to clean streets overnight, to reduce the impact of the night time economy on daytime businesses. At the moment, however, Paula notes how the BID has refocused its cleansing efforts to tackle COVID-19, "focusing on key areas which are the high contact," thus to "reduce and eliminate the risk of COVID transmission in public areas."


Alongside a refocused and intensified cleaning regime, Paula says the BID is working with the likes of Visit Bristol to develop a post-lockdown marketing campaign which will help to rebuild the buzz around the city centre and its businesses, providing essential promotion for their reopening.


One of the most innovative initiatives set up by the BID in response to the pandemic is the organisation's new COVID-19 online hub. Updated daily, it's a website packed with digital resources and advice for local businesses, workers and residents. From weekly webinars to a round-up of essential guidance, useful links and tools, the hub is a resource open to all. Webinars, which cover everything from business support to health and wellbeing, are broadcast weekly, and are available to watch back anytime.

TAP for BristolTAP for Bristol donation point


Going forward, although Paula admits planning for the future is "really challenging at the moment," she says that the return of the Bristol Light Festival in 2021 remains one of the team's "key projects":


"We hope that by then, most, or hopefully all, of our businesses are open and trading well," Paula explains. "We will have to take time to understand the 'new normal' and how we can best support all of our levy-paying businesses in bringing Bristol back to its thriving and vibrant best."


Reflecting on the area's response to coronavirus, Paula added: "there have been so many instances of impressive responses that show the residents of Bristol in such a positive light in caring for those who need support. The hotels and hostels that opened their doors to those in need of a home and the work of the Bristol Food Union are the ones at the forefront of my mind." 

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Article by:

Kate Hutchison


Kate Hutchison

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