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Heart of the Community

17th October 2023
9:30am - 2:00pm
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Joining Instructions

The conference will be held at One Birdcage Walk, London, SW1H 9JJ, directions to which can be found here - 

Please arrive at 9.30am. The conference will finish with a light lunch* at 1:00pm. 

After the conference, we will walk over to the Houses of Parliament for the reception starting at 2:15pm. The reception is due to finish at 4:30pm.

If you haven’t already contacted your local MP to tell them you will be in Parliament, we encourage you to do so. For support with this, please contact [email protected].

Your reception invitation will be provided within the booklet when you arrive at the conference. You will need this to enter Parliament. Please also find a PDF of the invitation here

The dress code for this event is business.

*Please let me know if you have any dietary or special requirements or if disabled access is required.

Our Heart of the Community Conference is the unmissable political event for the convenience sector, bringing together retailers, suppliers and key policymakers to discuss high priority issues for local shops.

The conference will bring the sector together to hear from leading retailers and senior politicians to understand how the political environment will impact convenience stores now and into the future. This year’s conference will debate how we can deliver safer, connected and more inclusive local communities.

This year’s conference will also feature a partner hub where you can access advice, best practice and essential information about supporting your colleagues, helping your community and tackling crime.

The conference will be followed by an exclusive parliamentary drinks reception which will take place at 2.30pm - 4.30pm and will also feature the presentation of the Raj Aggarwal Trophy for outstanding community retailing and include an address by Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake.

The finalists of the 2023 Raj Aggarwal Trophy, marking the legacy of independent retailer and community champion Raj Aggarwal are:

- Linda Williams, Broadway Premier

- Sheela Keshwara, SPAR Priory Road

- Trudy Davies, Woosnam & Davies News

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Event Speakers

Ayesha Hazarika MBE, columnist and broadcaster

Ayesha Hazarika MBE is a columnist and broadcaster who is known for her insightful and witty opinions and observations on current affairs and politics. She hosts the weekend drivetime show on Times Radio every Saturday and Sunday from 4 till 7pm, where she dissects the weeks news and events across Westminster and beyond with a plethora of interesting and engaging guests. In 2019 she took over as Editor of The Londoner, the Evening Standard’s Daily Diary section. In 2022, Ayesha began co-hosting Take on Tomorrow, the latest podcast series produced by PwC aiming to understand the role business can play in solving some of the biggest issues facing society today.

Having started her career as a stand-up comedian playing clubs across the country, she then took what she thought was a natural diversion into politics as a Special Adviser for the Labour Party, working with them for eight years both in Government and Opposition. During her time in Westminster she worked for Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband, advising them on Prime Minister’s Questions, speeches, media and policy as well as heading up initiatives on topics such as Women and Equality.

Since leaving front line politics, Ayesha has become a much sought after pundit due to her unique position to analyse and comment on current affairs with great wit and insight. She has appeared on Question Times (BBC), Sky Papers (Sky News), The Andrew Marr Show (BBC1), Newsnight (BBC2), The Agenda (ITV) and The Today Programme (BBC Radio 4) as well as using her comedy chops on Have I Got News For You (BBC), The News Quiz (BBC Radio 4), Breaking the News (BBC Radio Scotland) and Matt Forde’s Unspun (Dave). In 2022, she became a regular face on the brand-new political panel show The Talk, launched by TalkTV. She has also presented BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review leading discussions of cultural events. She went from regularly commentating on CNN Talk 3 days a week to being the face of political conversation every Thursday on Good Morning Britain.

In print Ayesha has contributed to The Scotsman, FT, Guardian, New Statesman and Grazia. And for a couple of years, she held the Editor role of the Londoner, the Evening Standard’s Daily Diary section. In 2018 she took her stand up show Girl on Girl – The Fight for Feminism on tour across the UK including a week’s run at the Soho Theatre which followed a successful two week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show looked at the current state of feminism with humour and honesty and tackled topics such as Weinstein, #MeToo and Kavanagh as well as looking at the medias obsession with pitting women against women.

Ayesha’s 2016 show Tales from the Pink Bus was a sell-out hit at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival and the Women of the World at the Southbank Centre. She then extended this show, creating State of the Nation, which she toured throughout the UK in early 2017 including a hugely successful run at the Soho Theatre, which had extra dates added due to phenomenal demand. During the show, Ayesha lifted the lid on what life was really like behind the scenes at Westminster with brutal honesty and humour and asks what’s next for British politics. In 2022, she brought State of The Nation back to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to rave reviews.

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

Katy is responsible for setting the strategic direction and priorities for Sussex Police through the Police & Crime Plan. This includes setting the police budget and local police precept – the amount residents pay for policing in their council tax. 

She also has a statutory duty to commission support services for victims of crime - including stalking and sexual and domestic abuse - and to deliver community safety initiatives including restorative justice and crime reduction grants. 

Katy brings a genuine passion and commitment to make a difference and her work to support victims of crime has won her praise from successive Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers. Katy was also nationally recognised for founding the award-winning Sussex Youth Commission in 2013 and the Sussex Elders’ Commission in 2015. 

Katy is a former Director of the Board of the College of Policing and former advisor to the editorial board of the Guardian Public Leaders Network. She is currently: Chair of the Sussex Criminal Justice Board; National Lead of the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (APCC) portfolios for Roads Safety and Business/Retail Crime. She is also the APCC National Spokesperson for Stalking and a Board Director of the APCC. Katy was a former Chair and non-Exec Director of the national Police Digital Service and former Chair of the APCC. In June 2019 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of her public and political service.

Kevin Hollinrake, Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business

Kevin Hollinrake is the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton. He currently holds the Government post of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade).

Image source:

Image licence:

Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow Minister for Investment and Small Business

Rushanara Ali is the Labour MP for Bethnal Green. She currently undertakes the role of Shadow Minister for Investment and Small Business.

Image Licence:

Image Source: Official portrait for Rushanara Ali - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament

Duncan Stephenson, Policy and External Affairs Director, CTSI

Duncan is CTSI's Policy and External Affairs Director, having joined the Institute in April 2022.  He has overall responsibility for the Institute’s policy, campaigning and communications activities.  

Duncan has over 20 years’ experience including leading the policy, campaigns and communications for two national, member-based charities. Most recently, he was Director of External Affairs (and Deputy CEO) at the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), where he established and led a highly successful, department, to create award-winning campaigns, develop policy which influenced legislation and practice, built strategic partnerships worth millions, and ultimately transformed the media and political profile of the charity.

Duncan has led a considerable number of successful and impactful campaigns and profile-raising initiatives on a variety of issues including, advocating for drug policy reform, promoting a range of measures to tackle obesity, raising awareness of gambling related harms and challenging vaccination misinformation.

Prior to joining RSPH, Duncan led the parliamentary and stakeholder relations team for the Care Quality Commission, during a period of change. As Head of External Affairs at the YMCA, Duncan headed up a national campaign on body image, including establishing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image which led to the formation of the national BeReal campaign. He also created a number of national health and wellbeing programmes working in partnership with NHS, DWP and Department of Health. 

Steve O’Neill, Corporate Affairs and Marketing Director, PayPoint

Steve O’Neill has extensive experience as a marketing leader in the banking, telecoms and retail sectors. Having joined HSBC in 2008, he was most recently Head of Retail Marketing, with responsibility for the development and delivery of marketing communications across the both the retail and direct to consumer channels. Prior to HSBC, Steve held senior roles at Carphone Warehouse, Orange and John Lewis.

Steve is responsible for the development of PayPoint’s strategic marketing, consumer insight and brand development agendas across the retail network’s key stakeholders of retailers, clients and consumers.

Edward Woodall, Government Relations Director, ACS

Ed joined ACS in September 2009 having graduated from Roehampton University in 2007. As Government Relations Director Ed is responsible for communicating ACS’ policy positions across Westminster, Whitehall and the devolved nations with civil servants, parliamentarians and external stakeholders. Ed consults with ACS members through ACS’ Policy Committee and Expert Policy Groups to develop policy positions and the organisation's public affairs strategy.

Ed has given evidence to numerous parliamentary committees in Westminster and devolved nations and contributes to policy developments across a range of government working groups including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office.

Ed completed the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Diploma in Public Relations in 2013. Ed is currently studying for his MBA at Surrey Business School.

James Lowman, Chief Executive, ACS

James was appointed ACS Chief Executive in November 2006. He has led ACS on political and policy representation, driven a unique research programme that informs ACS’ policy work, launched an industry-leading assured advice scheme in partnership with Surrey County Council, and created a new and unique events programme. James is a member of ministerial advisory groups including the National Retail Crime Steering Group and the Retail Sector Council. He also sits on the boards of Community Alcohol Partnerships, the Proof of Age Standards Scheme and the London Food Board, and is a sector leader representative to the High Streets Task Force.