Marvin Rees

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Marvin Rees
Marvin Rees, 2016 Labour Party Conference 2.jpg
Rees at the 2016 Labour Party conference in Liverpool
2nd Mayor of Bristol
Assumed office
7 May 2016
DeputyCraig Cheney
Asher Craig
Preceded byGeorge Ferguson
Personal details
Marvin Johnathan Rees

April 1972 (age 48)
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Kiersten Rees

Marvin Johnathan Rees (born April 1972) is a British Labour Party politician who has been Mayor of Bristol since May 2016.

Early life and education[edit]

Marvin Rees was brought up in Bristol, partly in Lawrence Weston and Easton, by his British mother.[1][2] He obtained a Master's degree in Political Theory and Government at the University of Wales in Swansea, and also a Master's in Global Economic Development at Eastern University (United States) in 2000.[1] Later he completed the World Fellows Program at Yale University.[3] During a fellowship he assisted Tony Campolo, an advisor to President Bill Clinton.[1]

Community involvement[edit]

Rees is the founder and programme lead at The Bristol Leadership Programme, a two-week programme that will help a dozen people annually from impoverished backgrounds to attain what they aspire to.[4][5] He was also a member of the Bristol Legacy Commission which dispersed its funds and ceased operating in April 2012.[6][7] and a former director of the Bristol Partnership whose goals are to make Bristol's prosperity sustainable, reduce health and wealth inequality, build stronger and safer communities, and raise the aspirations and achievements of young people and families.[8]


Rees has worked in diverse areas throughout his career. He was a freelance journalist and radio presenter at BBC Radio Bristol and Ujima Radio.[9] He was the Communications and Events Manager at Black Development Agency (now Phoenix Social Enterprise), an agency devoted to empowering individuals and communities through opportunities to work abroad.[10]

Rees was employed in the city of Bristol as the programme manager for race equality in mental health issues at Public Health, Bristol.[11] He worked in the United States as an outreach assistant at the Sojourners Community and as a youth coordinator at Tearfund.[12]

Political career[edit]

In 2012, selected by an individual ballot of Labour Party members in the city to stand for Mayor of Bristol, Rees defeated four other candidates including the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour group in Bristol and a former Member of Parliament.[3] He received 25,906 votes, coming second, after George Ferguson. Rees found it difficult readjusting to normal life following his election loss.[13]

Rees was again selected to be the Labour candidate for the 2016 mayoral election, easily defeating a sitting Labour councillor in the selection. On 5 May 2016, Rees was elected Mayor of Bristol. He received 56,729 votes in the first round and 12,021 transfer votes in the second round, meaning that he received 68,750 votes overall.[14][15] He is often referred to as the first black mayor of African descent in the UK.[16] Although Dr Allan Glaisyer Minns and John Archer were both elected black mayors in the UK in the 20th century. Rees is the first directly elected (by constituents) black mayor in the UK, and although he is not the first directly elected black mayor in Europe, as Peter Bossman has been mayor of the Slovenian city of Piran (population 3,700) since 2010, he is the first directly elected mayor of African descent of a major European city. Bristol is one of the UK's core cities, with a population of 463,400.

Rees's term of office started with an inherited £30 million budget shortfall from the previous administration and a £60 million budget deficit from government funding reductions to 2020, and in August 2016 Rees instigated a voluntary severance programme aimed at reducing, by 1,000, the council's 6,970 employees.[17]

Rees's mayoralty included a major house building programme, with over 9,000 homes built during his term of office. Under his leadership, the city increased the percentage of affordable homes as well as embarking on the first major development of council houses.[clarification needed] Rees oversaw the founding of a city owned housing company, Goram Homes, created to develop and build homes, re-investing profits to the development of affordable and social housing.[18]

One area of perceived controversy was Rees's decision in September 2018 not to build the long-awaited Bristol Arena by Temple Meads Station, in the centre of Bristol.[19] The episode brought discussion about the authority of a city mayor to make autonomous decisions in the face of strong opposition, and concerns were raised at how businesses are able to influence those with decision making and planning powers in cities.[20] The primary reasons Rees gave for the decision were build cost, future financial risk and job creation. The build cost for the council, that would have to be borrowed, had increased to £150 million plus half of any cost overruns. Costs arising should the arena not be successful would be to the council, and expert advice was that the venue size was too small for major events. Rees also argued a mixed use development would create more and better paid jobs.[21]

In September 2017, Rees was placed at Number 78 in "The 100 Most Influential People on the Left" by commentator Iain Dale.[22]

The pedestal is seen with purple spraypaint graffiti "BLM" over two of the bronze plaques and black "Black Lives Matter" and stencilled raised fists on the plinth. Placards propped on the pedestal include "Black Lives Matter", "Silence is Violence", "The UK is not innocent" and "In unity is strength". Many more placards lie on the ground around the pedestal, with "Black Lives Matter","Racism is a global pandemic" and other slogans.
The empty pedestal of the statue of Edward Colston, showing placards and graffiti left after the statue's removal

In March 2019, Mayor Rees vetoed the installation of a second plaque to the statue of the Bristol-born merchant Edward Colston as he rejected the proposed wording as failing to adequately describe Colston's role in the slave trade and merchant history of Bristol.[23]

In the 2020 Powerlist, Rees was listed in the Top 100 of the most influential people in the UK of African/African-Caribbean descent.[24]

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in police custody, global Black Lives Matter protests were held around the world. In Bristol, protestors forcibly removed the statue of Edward Colston and dropped it into the harbour.[25] The statue was recovered from the harbour by Bristol City Council,[26] and Rees announced it would end up in a Bristol museum, where the full history of the statue could be told.[27]

The events placed Bristol in the forefront of global news, including the major news channels in the UK and US. Rees announced a new commission on Bristol's history, so that there could be a wider understanding of the city's history, including struggles on class, race and gender.[28]

Rees was due to be subject to re-election in May 2020 but the election was delayed for 12 months, due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The mayoral election is due to take place in May 2021.

Personal life[edit]

Marvin Rees describes himself as the mixed-race son of a Jamaican father and white single mother,[29] and was born and grew up in Bristol. He is married with three children and lives in Easton in Bristol.[30][31]

Documentary film[edit]

In 2018 a documentary film was released with a premiere at Watershed, Bristol, about Rees's journey into politics and his two campaigns for the city's top political job. The Mayor's Race was filmed between 2011 and 2017, covering Rees's two mayoral campaigns in 2012 and 2016 as well as Bristol's historical issues of race and racism—including the 1963 bus boycott, the 1980 St. Pauls riot, and transatlantic slavery.[32]


  1. ^ a b c "OBV Profile: Marvin Rees". Operation Black Vote. 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  2. ^ Morris, Steven (12 February 2016). "Marvin Rees: the Bristolian bearing the weight of Labour hopes". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b "Profiles of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Marvin Rees", Labour Uncut, 18 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Who is Marvin Rees", Bristol Culture, 19 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Youth mayor could engage young people" Archived 31 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Bristol Post, 29 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Mayoral Commissions result in joint action to improve lives in Bristol". Bristol City Council. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  7. ^ Bristol Legacy Commission.
  8. ^ "About us" Archived 6 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Bristol Partnership.
  9. ^ "Bristol Mayor News. Marvin Rees". Archived 29 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Phoenix Social Enterprise "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ NHS Bristol[permanent dead link] - Mental Health and Wellbeing.
  12. ^ Marvin Rees Biography, BBC News, 2 March 2005.
  13. ^ Ashcroft, Esme (12 February 2018). "The details of Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees' private life we found out from his new biopic". Bristol Post. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  14. ^ Emanuel, Louis (7 May 2016). "Marvin Rees elected as new mayor of Bristol". Bristol 24/7. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Labour's Marvin Rees has been elected as Bristol city's mayor", BBC News, Bristol, 7 May 2016.
  16. ^ Harris, John (23 May 2016). "Bristol mayor Marvin Rees: 'My dad arrived to signs saying: No Irish, no blacks, no dogs'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Bristol mayor Marvin Rees to cut 1,000 council jobs". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  18. ^ "Council officially launches Goram Homes", Bristol City Council, 29 October 2018.
  19. ^ Wilson, Kate (23 June 2018). "Bristol councillors overwhelmingly in support of city centre arena". B24/7.
  20. ^ Aviram, Alon (5 September 2018). "This is the company set to profit from an arena in Filton". The Bristol Cable.
  21. ^ Ashcroft, Esme (4 September 2018). "In full: Marvin Rees' vote to keep arena in city centre speech". Bristol Post. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  22. ^ Dale, Iain (25 September 2017). "The 100 Most Influential People On The Left: Iain Dale's 2017 List". LBC. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  23. ^ Cork, Tristan (25 March 2019). "Second Colston statue plaque not axed but mayor orders re-write". bristolpost. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  24. ^ Mills, Kelly-Ann (25 October 2019). "Raheem Sterling joins Meghan and Stormzy in top 100 most influential black Brits". mirror. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  25. ^ Cork, Tristan (9 June 2020). "Colston statue - the 83 minutes from plinth to harbour". Bristol Post.
  26. ^ King, Jasper (11 June 2020). "BREAKING: Edward Colston statue retrieved from Bristol Harbour". Bristol Post.
  27. ^ "Edward Colston: Bristol slave trader statue 'was an affront'". BBC News. 8 June 2020. Archived from the original on 9 June 2020. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  28. ^ Pipe, Ellie (10 June 2020). "Mayor to launch commission to research Bristol's 'true history'".
  29. ^ Morris, Steven (7 May 2016). "Bristol chooses Labour's Marvin Rees as new mayor over George Ferguson". The Guardian.
  30. ^ "Who is mayor Marvin?". Bristol24/7. 5 May 2016.
  31. ^ Ian Onions, "Labour's Marvin Rees wins election to become Bristol's next mayor" Archived 11 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Bristol Post, 7 May 2016.
  32. ^ "The Mayor's Race documentary film". The Mayor's Race film. Retrieved 26 August 2019.