Marvin Rees, who became the first Black mayor of Bristol in the United Kingdom in 2016, has been re-elected for a second term. Rees, the candidate of the Labor Party whose father is Jamaican, defeated his Green Party opponent Sandy Hore-Ruthven, after the second stage of counting votes, as no candidate received enough votes to win in the first round. Rees received 50,510 votes in the first round, while his opponent received 36,331. In the second round, Hore-Ruthven received 45,663 votes, but Rees was victorious with a final total of 59,276.
After winning re-election, Rees thanked his family and supporters and also paid tribute to his brother who died in 2020. Rees said it was humbling to be re-elected to serve his home city and he plans to keep working with residents to deliver more jobs and more affordable homes in an inclusive and sustainable way.
Rees was born in Bristol in 1972 and raised in the city by his British mother. He earned a master’s degree in political theory and government at the University of Wales and a master’s degree in global economic development at Eastern University. Later on, Rees completed Yale University’s World Fellows Program, during which he was an assistant to an advisor to then United States President Bill Clinton. He worked as a freelance journalist and radio presenter at BBC Radio Bristol and Ujima Radio and was Communications and Events Manager at the Black Development Agency, currently known as Phoenix Social Enterprise, which seeks to provide individuals with opportunities to work abroad. He also worked for the city of Bristol as the program manager for race equality in mental health at Public Health Bristol.
Rees is the founder and head at the Bristol Leadership Program, was a member of the Bristol Legacy Commission, and a former director of the Bristol Partnership. Following first seeking the position of Bristol’s mayor as a Labor candidate in 2012, Rees easily won election in 2016, after which he was commonly referred to as the first Black mayor of African descent in the UK.
During his first term as mayor of Bristol, Rees earned special praise for his efforts at building more affordable housing in the city. He instituted a major house-building program that resulted in more than 9,000 homes constructed during his first term. The city also raised the percentage of affordable homes in the city. Rees facilitated the founding of Gorham Homes, a city-owned housing firm established to develop and build homes and re-invest profits in the development of additional affordable and social housing. Rees received an honorary fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects for his work as “a city maker” in October of 2020.
A documentary film released in 2018 explored Rees’s path to politics and his two campaigns to serve as mayor of Bristol. The firm covers his two mayoral campaigns in 2012 and 2016 and the history of race and racism issues in Bristol, including a bus boycott in 1963, the St. Paul’s riot in 1980, and transatlantic slavery.
Photos courtesy of Marvin Rees