Cullum McAlpine Elected Leader of Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers

Cullum McAlpine has been announced as the new Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) – one of the region’s leading philanthropic organisations. 

Having spent most of his business in the construction sector in South West England and South Wales, Cullum brings an enormous amount of experience to the leadership role. 

The Society has changed a great deal over recent years, becoming significantly more outward facing. Cullum believes there is still work to do in order to understand better the issues faced by the communities of Bristol and more effectively identify where the support of SMV can make a genuinely positive difference. 

SMV focuses on four key areas: Education, Care of the Elderly, Social Business and Charitable Giving. 

Cullum insists that access to an excellent education is just one ingredient in improving outcomes for young people. Across the nine schools and 3,000 pupils supported by the Society, practical opportunities and training in life skills are vital components also. 

Indeed, in the past year, CGS Trust, sponsored by SMV, has welcomed a fifth primary school – Barton Hill Academy; and Merchants’ Academy Trust has opened Bristol’s first state-funded standalone school for children with Autism, with 63 students in its first year, growing to 84 students over two years. For these children, in particular, the specialist education and purpose-built learning environment will transform lives.   

In Care of the Elderly, SMV continues to drive forward significant developments in the provision of care. July saw the opening of a brand-new specialist residential care home for people with dementia, and the Society continues to work closely with the St Monica Trust, for which SMV is the endowment trustee, on the development of the Chocolate Quarter in Keynsham, which will create over 250 jobs and provide 136 apartments and a 93-bed care home. 

Social Business has also been a key focus of SMV over the past year, with the launch of Bristol & Bath Regional Capital CIC (BBRC), an organisation supported by SMV and designed to bridge the gap between social investors and community projects that need their funds. Earlier this year, BBRC raised £1m to safeguard the future of South Bristol Sports Centre in Knowle, where visitor numbers have soared over the last three months to an average of 3,000 per week.

SMV’s Charity has also given over £230,000 to 90 individual projects and organisations across Bristol in the last 12 months, benefitting a broad spectrum of communities.  

For example, a grant was made to the Severn Project in Whitchurch, a social enterprise urban farm that provides employment for vulnerable groups such as people recovering from alcohol and drug misuse, ex-offenders and others who face barriers to gaining work such as people with learning difficulties or Asperger syndrome.  

The Charity also supported Windmill Hill City Farm in Bedminster to extend its green, open space for the enjoyment and education of school children and members of the community; and in support of end of life care, the Charity made grants to the Jessie May Trust and St Peter’s Hospice. 

“SMV has traditionally not communicated the extent of its philanthropic activities,” said Cullum.  

“However, by heightening awareness of the Society’s activities we can increase the number of organisations and establishments that we currently support,” he explained. “At the same time, as we look to further diversify our membership, we welcome the views and contributions of those who share our commitment to improving the lives of others in and around Bristol.”