About Merlita Bryan
Councillor Merlita Bryan
Merlita was born in the parish of Saint Thomas, Jamaica, in 1951 and came to join her parents in Nottingham in 1962 at the age of 11 – never imagining that one day she would become the Sheriff of Nottingham.
School in Jamaica - The Early Years
Jamaica is well known for its sandy beaches, rum and reggae music but to most Jamaican education is the jewel in this small island’s crown. One of the better legacies of the colonial era was the dense network of primary schools across the country. Nearly every village had its’ own, and every child was within walking distance of a primary school. Even today, there are 'uneconomical' primary schools with a couple of teachers and a couple dozen students. The geography and settlement patterns of Jamaica, a mostly mountainous country, dictate that primary education has to be highly localised if universal access is to be achieved.
I was born on my grandparent’s farm in a small town in St Thomas called Buckingham, it’s ironic that I am now facilitating a role that resulted in me meeting the Queen who resides at Buckingham Palace. I was brought up in a happy family structure with my grandmother being the matriarchal given that her name is Indiana Jones (affectionately known as Miss Cindy or Nana depending who was addressing her, but to me and my siblings she was just our dear granny) her leadership within the family went without questioning. Sunday was the day of worship. The adults would be in the main hall of the church and I along with other children would enter the Sunday school room. This tradition is as strong today as it was back then. Given this quality of upbringing has made me into the person I am today.
I started school at the age of 5; I can remember it as if it was yesterday. My mother held my hand all the way to my ‘new school’. Prior to that every pre school child (under 5) in Jamaica had some sort of ‘Nursery education’ be it sitting under a tree in the yard with about 8 children. The most academic members in the community would take the mantra of ‘teaching’ the children their ABC’s and arithmetic. This method of pre education prepared the children entering into the primary education system with the knowledge of basic ‘spelling and sums’
When we arrived at my new school my mother gently coaxed me into the school yard, I was very nervous but my mother assured me that I would enjoy it. I soon got use to my school days. The only thing was that the teachers were very strict and if we had to learn something ‘by heart’ we had to make sure that when the teacher points at you to recite what we were told to practice you could not make a mistake.
My childhood in Jamaica was that of a happy carefree child who would spend endless hours playing with my siblings on my grand parent’s farm. My grandfather kept cows, goats so we had constant supply of fresh milk, my siblings and I used to follow our grandfather to his ‘ground’ where he tended and nurtured banana, orange and other fruit trees. Our diet consisted of mostly fish or goat meat, yam, green banana, rice (not forgetting dumplings) and fresh vegetables picked daily, some of which my grandfather sold to members of the community.
England - present day
I arrived in England at the age of 11 years and this was the second time I had gone beyond the boundaries of where I grew up in Jamaica. The first time was when my parents, my aunt and my uncle were coming to England and I was taken to Kingston Airport to bid them farewell and a safe journey to the mother land.
Merlita’s father worked as a labourer for British Gypsum and her mother worked in catering for much of her life.
On leaving school Merlita embarked on a life in manufacturing making everything from women’s clothes for Marks and Spencer to children’s typewriters for Petite Toys. She also gained a diploma in hairdressing from a local beauty school and studied women’s fashion at Clarendon College.
In 1986 Merlita began working at a local bakery and joined the Baker’s Union - now the Baker’s, Food and Allied Workers Union - and discovered a passion for fighting for fairness in the workplace. She was soon elected as a shop steward and rose through the ranks of the union becoming Chair of the District Branch and a delegate to both the East Midlands Labour Party and the National Policy Forum. She also served as an Executive Council member on the Union’s Management Board.
In 2001, Merlita moved from her job on the shop floor into a full time union post as the District Secretary for Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands.
She became a City Councillor representing the Arboretum Ward in 2007, a move that Merlita felt was a natural progression from her work as a union rep.
Since becoming a councillor Merlita has served as Vice-Chair and Chair of her local area committee, Vice Chair of the Young Nottingham Committee and Vice Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. She also serves on the board of directors for Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham City Transport, First Enterprise, Nottingham Race Course and local community radio station, Kemet FM.
2012 -2013 Sheriff of Nottingham.
It has been a great honour serving Nottingham in this historical civic role, I have been overwhelmed with the support and generosity of the Nottingham community.
I have taken part in many key activities and have had the opportunity to meet with so many wonderful people who do such great things for this wonderful city.
It truly has been a great honour serving the civic office as the Sheriff of Nottingham.