Wonderful Women Interview #24 – Amy Harrison

Bristol Women’s Voice Wonderful Women Awards were presented as part of our International Women’s Day celebrations on the 3rd of March. We celebrated over 50 women from across Bristol  who had been nominated for their contribution to their communities.

Amy Harrison

Amy Harrison received a Wonderful Woman award for being a for being a devoted champion of the Easton and Lawrence Hill Communities. Amy is (co) Vice Chair of Up Our Street and Governor for Redfield Educate Together Primary, the school she successfully campaigned for with other local parents, after discovering the shortage of school places in Redfield. In her day job Amy heads up the Learning and Participation programme at the Architecture Centre where she is passionate about making cities more child friendly.

A photo of a women in a red cardigan bit bright red earrings as she gestures to a group of young people.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Have empathy – always (even when others make it difficult to).

Mistakes – you learn far more from them than successes – don’t avoid taking risks for fear of making them.

 Which women have inspired you? 

 Jane Jacobs: Jane wasn’t a professional placemaker, but a resident, mother, community activist and journalist. She championed new, community-based approaches to city planning, much to the scorn of some of the male, urban design and planning professionals she encountered. She once said: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” This is something which underpins my professional and voluntary work. Check out the film about Jane Jacobs: Citizen Jane: the battle for a city

 Rachel Carson (Environmental campaigner/scientist): I studied Environmental Science at UWE (a long time ago now!) and Carson’s classic Silent Spring was one of the most powerful things I read. Recently I got a children’s book about her to share with and inspire my daughter and I discovered quite what an amazing women she was. She came from a poor background but got to university on her own merit. She experienced gender discrimination in the scientific field, but persevered to become a respected biologist. She did this all whilst single-handedly supporting her family (her siblings and their children and her own adopted son), which has made me respect her even more.

 ‘Mum’ community activists: The driver to invest energy and social capital in making your neighbourhood better becomes a strong imperative once you have children. However, it takes genuine commitment, time, energy, diplomacy and  hard graft to make positive change (which will benefit the whole community) happen. Doing this kind of community activism on top of demanding jobs, whilst also trying to be ‘present’ as a parent of young children is sometimes challenging, and I have total respect for all those women out there doing that (you know who you are). You are the changemakers, the placeshapers, the community activists our city needs. You do it with empathy and compassion, but you’re a force to be reckoned with!

 

 What do you want to see change for women in Bristol? 

I want to see more women, especially from BAME and poorer backgrounds having agency to influence the city strategically.

We also need greater opportunities for ALL the city’s children and young people. Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t – this is what I would like to see change.

From my time teaching in Southmead, delivering creative projects in Hartcliffe and Knowle West and doing outreach and voluntary work in Lawrence Hill, I have had the privilege of meeting many inspiring children and young people. Each and every one of them deserves all the opportunities the city has to offer, but inequality often limits this. From having access to inspiring role models and quality work-related learning experiences, to being able to access to the city’s rich arts and culture offer and having agency to have your voice/ideas heard – these are opportunities which should be available to all young people.

Is there anything that you have read, seen or listened to recently which has inspired you? 

Generation Place Summer School – I recently had the pleasure of working with students from Hannah More Primary on a placemaking project to reimagine Lawrence Hill Roundabout. Their ideas, creativity and teamwork were totally inspiring. Watch the Generation Place Summer School film to see for yourself.

The ‘Learn Together’ curriculumI am constantly inspired by the Learn Together curriculum at Redfield Educate Together Primary Academy, which I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with over the last six years. The Learn Together curriculum develops empathy and respect in children by exploring democracy, ethics, equality and the environment. It gives me great hope for the future – the world needs an empowered and empathetic next generation.

Cities Alive: Designing from Urban Childhoods, a recent publication by Arup on how we create more child friendly cities. This is an issue I’m passionate about (I co-founded the Bristol Child Friendly City Group) and it’s encouraging that the architects, urban designers and engineers who shape our cities are starting to view it as a priority.

Are there three words you would use to describe your local community? 

Diverse, changing, friendly.

What hopes do you have for your local community in 2018? 

The development of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone (including the new University of Bristol Campus and a new Oasis Secondary School) could be a great opportunity for the community of Lawrence Hill.

However, it’s important that community organisations such as Up Our Street can continue to enable residents to have voice in these developments, which also risk causing some of the more negative aspects of gentrification. I worry that housing market changes will result in friends and neighbours being at greater risk of unstable rented accommodation, as private landlords seek to maximise profit. This can be damaging to both the stability of individual families, and the diversity of the neighbourhood as a whole.

Currently there are lots of people moving to Bristol to buy houses and raise families – and who can blame them (Bristol is a great city, and they have been priced out of other parts of the UK). But the changes in the housing market can bring change to the diverse demographic of our neighbourhood its ‘sense of place’. My hope is that those newcomers to our community can use their talents, skills, energy and social capital to impact positively on the whole community.

Bristol Women’s Voice are marking 100 years since the first women in the UK were given the vote with ‘Deeds not Words’ a year-long programme of events across the city. Find out about Deeds not Words events in Bristol here

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