OBV Profile: Shirley Marshall

Since 2003, Marshall, 46, has been a Lib Dem councillor for Ashley Ward in Bristol. She is currently campaigning to keep her seat in the run up to this year's local elections.

Describing her first year as a councillor she says: "It has been a challenge. When I started my first year there were great expectations of me from all the BME communities. It was hard that first year but it has been a positive challenge. I've been very focused and supportive of my area and the people in it."

Marshall, a church minister, has worked as a family support co-ordinator for Easton Families Project since the beginning of the year. Much of her role involves supporting families in areas such as education, housing and immigration.

Alongside this role and her work as a councillor she also sits as a board member of the Children's Services Scrutiny Commission and on the Licensing Committee. She is also a school governor for a primary school and makes a number of regular motivational presentations to young people.

The mother-of-three will at the end of this month launch Destiny U Can Ltd, a motivational speaking company, holding seminars to motivate women, men and young people.

In 2003 Marshall won her seat in Bristol by a large majority which she attributes to having a very good campaign, a lot of support from the party as well as being well known in the community from her work with the homeless and other community projects.

Marshall already has a number of projects in the pipeline. She has just established an Arabic Women's group, a Domestic Violence Women's Group and an African Caribbean Women's Support Group. She says: "I feel that working in this position at grass roots helps me to be more effective as a councillor."

For the past seven years Marshall has also been in the church ministry. She is presently a minister for Holiness Ministries, Pentecostal Church of God based in Wolverhampton.

Born in Bath, Marshall's late Christian parents were from Jamaica. She grew up in Bath and later went on to college where she qualified in management. She then completed a leadership course at Coventry University in 2003.

She says that no one actually influenced her to get into politics, instead she used her own initiative and pure self-motivation to find out what was happening around her and went for it. Marshall adds: "As I work with so many young people I thought it was necessary for them to see a positive BME (Black and other minority ethnic) role model so that they too can see that they can make a difference."

Describing her most poignant political memory in her career she says: "I'm proud to have been the first Black woman councillor in Bristol. I feel very proud about that. It's something that people in the African-Caribbean community, my children and great grand children can look back on as a major accomplishment."

In June 2006 she started the 'Lives Not Knives' campaign following a spat of stabbing in her constituency. She began a petition to campaign to increase the number of years individuals spend in prison for carrying a knife, from two to seven years. The campaign kicked off with 2,000 signatures on the petition and the police in the community contributed by donating more than a thousand t-shirts with the slogan 'Lives Not Knives'.

Discussing her current campaign for her seat in Ashley Ward for the impending May elections she says: "I'm confident, I'm a good councillor, I've always been myself. Every promise that I made to my constituents I would say I've accomplished to the best of my ability. So for me that is a major achievement."

For the future Marshall says she would like to be in Parliament, hopefully as an Education Secretary. Ideally she says that she wants to continue her work at a grass roots level which is where she says she can be the most effective.

As a message to everyone she says: "If you have a dream go for it, never be distracted, keep focused, and you can make it regardless of what you want to do in life. That's absolutely vital."