Beyond the Colston 4: Community and resilience

by Ruth Pitter

The generous donations from those who contributed to support the legal case of the Colston 4 stretched wider and beyond the trial itself. The surplus monies remaining from the Glad Colston’s Gone Colston 4 legal fund enabled Bristol Redistro to redistribute these to black and brown-led Bristol groups actively delivering on racial justice and social justice in the city.

It was fundamental that those groups who were to be in receipt of the monies were grassroots groups embedded in the communities they supported with an annual income of under 25K.

The process involved a panel of 5 members from black and brown-led groups previously funded by Redistro shortlisting 15 applications from the 30 groups that had met the funding criteria who had applied for the share of £15,000 funding pot. This was then followed by an in-person resilience building day for those selected organisations.

Having read the applications in advance of the session, the panel had tough decisions to make. They considered, ‘What if every group were awarded a total of around £500 from the £15k pot?’ This would mean everyone would get something. But it was noted that for some groups £500 was not enough to enable them to realise tangible outcomes; they wanted the money to make a meaningful difference. So the collective shortlisting process got underway with 3 hours churning over every application with intense deliberation.

A question the panel posed themselves was ‘Should only groups representative of African Heritage people benefit from the funding given the context of the funds itself, with Colston being a key driver of the trafficking and enslavement of African people?’ The panel (whilst mainly in favour of this caveat) recognised it would be unfair to apply this criteria retrospectively at the decision making process. But it is one for Bristol Redistro (which was acting on the recommendation of Glad Colston’s Gone) to take into account should a similar pot of funding arise.

Each group was put under the microscope and the 15 groups selected clearly demonstrated the value they were contributing to their communities and the city as a whole in terms of the work they were carrying out. The panel were clear that they did not want a competitive process at the resilience building day so, at pains, shortlisted 15 groups who would all then receive a total of £1,000 per group.

One insight from the panel on reading the initial applications was a request to Bristol Redistro to consider running training on completing good funding applications. We know how challenging this process can be and how any support is often readily embraced!

The 15 groups selected to receive the funding were then invited to a participative resilience building day in late May to meet, connect and share information on the great work they do.

Valerie Mower, (who co-facilitated the day) and I were slightly concerned prior to the event that attendees may feel it was not the most fruitful way to spend a sunny Saturday given that they had already been  awarded the funding they had applied for. However, representatives of most of the groups set aside the time and gave up other pressing commitments to attend.

We were aware it was essential to make everyone’s attendance worth their time. We had agreed with Bristol Redistro that we would focus on making day engaging, interactive and celebratory. In the first instance we were inspired by the fact that the majority of the groups came, and came with a huge spirit of willingness to take part, and contribute to make the day a valuable experience for all. Feedback from the session included:

“It was a most enjoyable day; meeting lots of new people and making links”

“Really good for bringing organisations who normally don’t work together. Meeting people and knowing and sharing. The networking was great.”

“The event exceeded expectations.”

There was a sense of solidarity from the onset, warmth, good intentions and group quickly bonded. The ambience in the space was of bonding and community; where we could all share vulnerabilities and strengths within a spirit of support and trust. One participant remarked:


“It was lovely! A really beautiful day and gathering of likeminded souls. I gained great contacts and ideas from it.”

 We facilitated activities that enabled connectivity and creativity. The groups explored their local and global connections; identified values and aspects they had in common; focused on positive achievements they wanted to share; and developed creative ways to reflect back their ideas to each other.

Another described the day as:

“Breathtaking. I cannot describe it fully in words. I love the collaboration. Yes, money is important. However, our mission is to focus.”

Bristol Redistro is about redistributing wealth so that those with less can get a fairer share, make a better impact and difference; and to perhaps utilise funding to generate other income; or to help amplify the influence and power of the groups.

Groups were encouraged to express and celebrate all they are achieving, congratulate themselves and each other, to ask for support and to offer it where they could. The process was extremely beneficial to all.

Comments included:

“Really good, lots of contacts made and opportunities created.”

“It has and will be of great use to us. We so needed this!”

The event highlighted a lack of recognition for the outstanding groups and people in the city doing superb work impacting on the lives of young people, vulnerable communities, elders, addressing criminal justice, tackling health inequalities, isolation, mental health…….and making funds stretch to extreme ends while delivering quality services and work. Bristol should be hailing these groups from on high.

Some groups present were unsure they would survive through covid, but they have. Some were unsure they could adapt to meet new demands and challenges, but they have. They can be triumphant in their resilience. For some, the £1,000 funding is a lifeline that will help them thrive.

Thank you to Bristol Redistro, and especially to those who contributed to the Colston 4 legal case for giving an uplift to 15 groups. In stark contrast to Colston’s murderous acts these groups are determined to further activism and action, to maintain the struggle and resistance, to challenge and address inequality, injustice and racism.

We should all be on the rooftops heralding the work they do.

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