Sam Thomson is the founder and CEO of Ardagh Community Trust and a Director of Horfield Common Community Interest Company, which is a wholly-owned Social Enterprise that provides services, facilities and opportunities to residents in the Horfield Common area of North Bristol. 

Horfield Common CIC runs a vibrant community cafe, a community plant nursery, delivers a wide range of activities and events and provides fundraising and consultancy services – all of which provide the income needed to pay for the ongoing maintenance and management costs of the Ardagh facility. The Ardagh is an ex-local authority asset in the centre of a public park which was threatened with sale for development in 2010 on the basis that it was providing no value to the local community. The site includes 11 sports courts, public gardens, public facilities and spaces for play activities. Run by ACT since 2019, the Ardagh is now a lively community hub and neighbourhood centre which is used by 1000 local residents weekly for a wide range of sports, leisure, play and volunteering activities.

Sam was previously employed in the Higher Education Sector, working from 2000 – 2017 at UWE Bristol in a range of teaching, research and external engagement roles, latterly as Asscoate Head of School and Director of Civic & Cultural Engagement in the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education. She has also worked in a range of freelance roles as an artist, researcher, producer and project manager. Sam is passionate about the role of public parks in cities and their importance in supporting mental and physical health.

In 2010, large numbers of public parks, and ‘assets’ in them – including the Ardagh – were proposed for sale for development by the local authority in Bristol on the basis that they were providing ‘little’ or ‘no value.’ Parks and green spaces in the UK do not attract statutory funding from the central government. Local authorities do not have a statutory duty to maintain the quality of public parks and green spaces, and are also subject to ongoing pressure from developers.

Founder & CEO of Ardagh Community Trust/Horfield Common CIC
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Leader, academic & creative, social entrepreneur. Champion of public parks and green spaces for community wellbeing.
Parks and public spaces in cities are critical for health and wellbeing - and are under threat from ongoing and increasing demand for development, and reductions in budgets driven by economic systems which do not necessarily understand or value nature. Ensuring that public and community facilities remain available for the future - and that they are run and managed in sustainable ways is important. Community assets like the Ardagh provide space for connections, support and community and space which prioritises people.
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