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Marvin Johnathan Rees (born April 1972) is a British Labour Party politician. Since May 2016, he has served as Mayor of Bristol. In doing so, he became the first directly-elected mixed-raced mayor in Europe.

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 47)
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Kiersten Rees
ParentsJanet Rees

Early life and educationEdit

Marvin Rees was brought up in Bristol, partly in Lawrence Weston and Easton, by his British mother and Jamaican father.[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 involvementEdit

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]

Marvin Rees was employed in the city of Bristol as the Programme Manager for race equality in mental health issues at NHS Bristol.[11] His experiences in the United States included work as an outreach assistant at the Sojourners Community and as a Youth Co-ordinator at Tearfund.[12]

Political careerEdit

In 2012, selected by an individual ballot of Labour Party members in the city, 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]

On 5 May 2016, Rees was elected Mayor of Bristol. He received 56,729 voted in the first round and 12,021 transfer votes in the second round, meaning that he received 68,750 votes overall.[14][15] He became the second ever black mayor in Europe after Rotimi Adebari of Cork, Ireland.[13]

Rees' term of office started with a £60 million budget deficit to 2020, and in August 2016 Rees instigated a voluntary severance programme aimed at reducing 1,000 from the council's 6,970 employees.[16]

Rees' time in the mayoral office is most likely to be defined by his decision in September 2018 not to build the long awaited arena by Temple Meads Station, in the centre of Bristol, despite the vast majority of the council backing the plans.[17] At the time, Marvin dismissed those in support of the plan as "noise".[18] 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. [19] 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.[20]

In September 2017, Rees was placed at Number 78 in "The 100 Most Influential People on the Left" by commentator Iain Dale.[21]

In March 2019, Rees intervened at the last moment to stop a second plaque being added to the statue of the Edward Colston (1636 – 1721), the Bristol-born merchant, to summarise his pros (great philanthropy) and cons (involvement in the slave trade), and accused the Society of Merchant Venturers of being behind a rewording of the plaque, even though many members of the public had contributed to this during the Council-led project.[22][23][24][25] Rees proposed that the wording, which he thought was not harsh enough, would be looked at again as part of "wider work on improving our cultural offer around the transatlantic slave trade".[22][26]

Personal lifeEdit

Marvin Rees, who describes himself as the mixed-race son of a Jamaican father and white single mother,[27] is married with three children and lives in Easton in Bristol.[28][29]

Documentary FilmEdit

In 2018 a documentary film was released with a premiere at Watershed, Bristol,  about Marvin Rees' journey into politics and his two campaigns for the city's top political job. The Mayor's Race, by director Loraine Blumenthal was filmed between 2011-2017, covering Rees' two mayoral campaigns in 2012 and 2016. The film depicts Rees as a character with a sizeable political ambition, who must first convince himself that it is possible to achieve it. Rees positions himself as a mixed-race man from a disadvantaged social background, while the film seeks to knit his story and his prospects together with Bristol's historical issues of race and racism - including Bristol's bus boycott of 1963, St Paul's uprisings and transatlantic slavery. The story is told largely through Marvin Rees' own voice, with his family also contributing to the portrait. The film leans towards a personal biography approach, rather than taking a political emphasis, showing Rees on a journey to grow himself into the role of mayor, as he campaigns for election victory. The Mayor's Race is an independently produced, feature-length documentary, that runs for 80 minutes, co-produced by Loraine Blumenthal and Rob Mitchell. [30]


  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", Bristol Post, 29 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Mayoral Commissions result in joint action to improve lives in Bristol". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  7. ^ Bristol Legacy Commission.
  8. ^ "About us", Bristol Partnership.
  9. ^ Bristol Mayor news. Marvin Rees.
  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 - Mental Health and Wellbeing.
  12. ^ Marvin Rees Biography, BBC News, 2 March 2005.
  13. ^ a b Ashcroft, Esme (2018-02-12). "The details of Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees' private life we found out from his new biopic". Bristol Post. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  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. ^ "Bristol mayor Marvin Rees to cut 1,000 council jobs". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Ashcroft, Esme (4 September 2018). "In full: Marvin Rees' vote to keep arena in city centre speech". Bristol Post. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  21. ^ Dale, Iain (25 September 2017). "The 100 Most Influential People On The Left: Iain Dale's 2017 List". LBC. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  22. ^ a b Cork, Tristan (2019-03-25). "Second Colston statue plaque not axed but mayor orders re-write". bristolpost. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  23. ^ Hill, Julian (2018-10-03). "Most objectors to Colston plaque are just normal Bristolians". Bristol Post (published 3 October 2018): 11.
  24. ^ Hill, Julian (2018-10-23). "Time to bring Bristol together on Colston and slavery issues". Bristol Post (published 23 October 2018): 11.
  25. ^ Hill, Julian (2019-04-09). "Trying to put the record straight on second Colston plaque". Bristol Post (published 4 April 2019): 12.
  26. ^ Horton, Helena (2019-03-25). "Edward Colston plaque listing his links to slavery scrapped after mayor says wording isn't harsh enough". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  27. ^ Steven Morris, "Bristol chooses Labour's Marvin Rees as new mayor over George Ferguson", The Guardian, 7 May 2016.
  28. ^ "Who is mayor Marvin?". Bristol24/7. 5 May 2016.
  29. ^ Ian Onions, "Labour's Marvin Rees wins election to become Bristol's next mayor", Bristol Post, 7 May 2016.
  30. ^ "The Mayor's Race documentary film". The Mayor's Race film. Retrieved 2019-08-26.