Reasons to be hopeful | Bristol 2020 in Review

Reasons to be hopeful | Bristol 2020 in Review

Posted on: 28 Dec 2020

The city has achieved great things despite the huge difficulties posed by the coronavirus crisis.


There have been many words used to describe 2020, none of them positive. This unprecedented, challenging, difficult, tough, horrible year has had a major impact on us all, with many people losing loved ones, losing businesses and facing financial instability.


At times, through two lockdowns, and more recently under Tier 3 restrictions, it's been hard to take any positives of the situation we've found ourselves in.


In many cases, just when things appeared to be looking up, something else went wrong or new rules were put in place that seemed to take us straight back to square one.



But, despite everything, there have been some reasons to be hopeful in Bristol this year.


Charities and community organisations have worked tirelessly to support people in need, the city's cultural scene has adapted to survive the pandemic, and the public have donated to, volunteered for and spread the word of a wide range of projects advocating social change.


Finding strength in adversity is something that, historically, Bristol has been good at, and the way people have come together to care for one another is a testament to the city's unshakeable community spirit.


We hopefully won't experience another year like 2020 for a long time, but even after all the challenges we've faced over the past 9 months, Bristol has still given us plenty to be proud of.

Volunteers at The Gallimaufry prepare food parcels. Image: James KochVolunteers at The Gallimaufry prepare food parcels. Image: James Koch


Cheers Drive provides more than 150,000 meals to homeless people in Bristol


Caring in Bristol made headlines back in April when they launched Cheers Drive, an innovative food delivery service aiming to provide free hot meals for homeless people and rough sleepers across the city.


The success of the project relied on the hard work of an extensive team of volunteers and generous donations from the public, with teams working around the clock to source, prepare and distribute food in response to the crisis.


Support came pouring in from across Bristol's hospitality sector - with Pasta Loco, Pony and Trap, The Gallimaufry and many others offering to get involved - and to date, Cheers Drive has provided more than 150,000 meals to vulnerable people, averaging an incredible 400 every day.


Find out more about the ongoing project or make a donation here.



Iconic Bristol venues secure emergency government funding


To say that grassroots music venues in Bristol have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis is a huge understatement.


The UK's live music and events sector has been taken apart by the pandemic, with hundreds of venues still unable to reopen and thousands of people still out of work, almost nine months since the first lockdown was introduced.


After months of uncertainty, however, some of the city's best-loved music and arts venues were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when the government's Culture Recovery Funding was distributed.


Bristol Old Vic, The Louisiana, Motion, St George's, Trinity Centre and Watershed were among the beneficiaries, receiving emergency grants that would, for the time being at least, safeguard them for the future and enable them to reopen once it's safe to do so.


Of course, some venues were deemed ineligible for government funding, and still need your support to get through the coming months. Be sure to do whatever you can to help your favourite venues and cultural spaces recover in 2021.



Bristol's Black Lives Matter march sparks conversation on Edward Colston memorial


More than 10,000 people marched through central Bristol in June as part of a historic Black Lives Matter demonstration, protesting police brutality and racial inequality in response to the police killing of George Floyd in the US.


In what was a hugely significant moment for the city, a controversial statue of Edward Colston was pulled down by protesters, with video footage subsequently viewed and shared by millions of people around the world.


The event sparked an important discussion in the UK and the rest of the world, and reignited a long-standing debate on whether or not Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, should have ever been commemorated in Bristol.


The following day, it was announced that Bristol City Council had collected hundreds of placards and protest signs left behind after the demonstration, to be preserved and put on display as part of an exhibition at the M Shed in the future.



Bristol independents offer free school meals to families affected by food poverty


In October, what was one of the most shocking policy decisions in a year defined by shocking policy decisions saw the government inexplicably vote against extending the Free School Meals programme, denying children access to food support during half-term breaks and school holidays.


Led by footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford, a major nationwide effort got underway to provide food for vulnerable families, with independent businesses across the UK offering free meals to those in need.


Pubs, restaurants and cafes across Bristol responded, with The Gallimaufry, Bishopston Supper Club, Caffe Rosa and many more offering free lunches, hot meals and snacks during half term.


A quick look at an interactive map set up for the campaign illustrates just how extensive the support network was, despite the unprecedented challenges faced by each and every independent small business owner in 2020.



Ashton Gate Stadium distribute over a million meals to vulnerable people


After making their space available to a number of charities earlier this year in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Ashton Gate Stadium team celebrated the distribution of an incredible one million meals in September.


A massive collective effort saw the stadium set up as a temporary HQ for a number of organisations, including FareShare South West, Feed The Homeless, the Bristol City Robins Foundation and the Bristol Food Union.


The Bristol Sport group have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to enable local projects to increase their output and provide food for as many vulnerable people as possible, ensuring communities across Bristol and the South West have been able to access support.



Bristol Beacon officially unveiled


After years of consultation and renewed public interest following Bristol's historic Black Lives Matter protests, Colston Hall was formally renamed as Bristol Beacon in September.


Led by venue operators the Bristol Music Trust, several local schools, creative organisations and artists had a say in the renaming project, as well as Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees.


The idea behind the new name was to create a focal point, gathering space and a source of inspiration for the city.


Set to reopen in 2021 following an extensive refurbishment project, the team behind the iconic city centre venue have already set to work putting together an events programme for their long-awaited return.



Breaking Bread host successful hospitality pop-up


In a year that saw independent hospitality businesses across the UK closed for months and forced to completely reinvent their services in order to survive, there were very few positives to take.


Breaking Bread, however, provided a glimmer of hope for the industry in Bristol, inviting an array of producers and suppliers, kitchen teams, performers and events staff to get involved in their dining pop-up that ran on The Downs throughout the summer months.


From renowned restaurants like Root and Pasta Loco to much-loved Bristol bars The Love Inn and The Pipe and Slippers and a selection of musical and comedy acts, Breaking Bread was a vital space for so many people whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic.


The project provided employment opportunities for hundreds of people who would otherwise have struggled for work and, crucially, showed that innovative dining experiences were viable for UK hospitality amid the crippling coronavirus crisis.



Stokes Croft Food Project launch Pay-What-You-Can Cafe


Back in July a new Pay-What-You-Can Cafe opened in Stokes Croft, offering up hot food and drinks and encouraging those who could afford to do so to pay a little over the odds for their orders, in an effort to subsidise free and discounted meals for those in need.


Part of the space on Jamaica Street was also made available as a food bank, where people could either donate or request groceries.


The initiative, set up by the Stokes Croft Food Project and the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, was realised through weeks of preparation and over £2,000 in public donations, aiming to tackle hunger and food poverty in and around central Bristol.



Tap for Bristol raises over £30,000 for homeless charities


It was announced in October that the TAP for Bristol stations, set up and installed by Caring in Bristol and the Bristol City Centre BID, had raised an incredible £30,000 for local homeless charities in just over 12 months.


Located at busy areas around the city centre, including in Broadmead, on College Green, Wapping Wharf and at Temple Meads Station, TAP for Bristol points allow the public to make one-off £3 donations to Bristol-based charities.


Upon announcing the fundraising milestone, the BID revealed they'd be donating a further £10,000 to help homeless people access permanent accommodation and support people at risk of losing their homes during the pandemic.



Lakota Gardens successfully launches post-lockdown


There wasn't much for the Bristol music scene to shout about in 2020, but the arrival of Lakota Gardens provided the city with a much-needed opportunity to unwind after a tough few months in lockdown.


Opened up in the iconic club's outdoor space, the pop-up venue hosted everything from DJ sets to live music, live comedy and more, inviting some of Bristol's best-loved artists, promoters and performers to play a wide range of events throughout summer and autumn.


It was vital us to be able to get together and blow off some steam this year - albeit not in the way we're used to - and a lot of people in Bristol have the Lakota team to thank for making it possible.



Strange Brew finally opens in central Bristol


Another good bit of cultural news came in September as new venue Strange Brew hosted their long-awaited opening night.


Spearheaded by the DIRTYTALK team, Strange Brew had been a long time in the making. A crowdfunding campaign to support the project in 2019 raised over £50,000 in just a month, a testament to Bristol's willingness to get behind efforts to build up the local music scene.


With so many small venues forced to close their doors in recent years, and more expected to follow as a result of the pandemic, projects like Strange Brew provide a rare source of optimism at a time when Bristol's music scene is suffering.


Despite having only been open for a matter of weeks, however, the owners were forced to launch another crowdfunding campaign in November to help safeguard the venue against the impact of a second lockdown - find out more and consider making a donation here.


Read more: 



Article by:

Matt Robson


Editor - & LOUD Magazine

Matt is a Journalism graduate and writer, passionate about supporting Bristol music, art and independent business. Get in touch via email at