George Ferguson made a pledge to hand out a ‘golden ticket’ to all secondary school children in the city to attend cultural and sporting events, during a debate organised by Bristol24/7 with all the mayoral candidates at Colston Hall.
Speaking on stage at the hustings in The Lantern, broadcast live on Made in Bristol TV, mayor Ferguson said: “I want Bristol Live in the secondary schools, and that is giving golden tickets to every single secondary school child in order to be able to attend sporting and cultural activities across the city, because it’s with the young that we build the cultural aspirations of this city that will make this a better city in the long-run.”
The hustings debate, which focussed predominantly on arts and culture policies, saw all 13 mayoral candidates set out their stalls exactly a week before the election on May 5.
Mayor Ferguson unveiled his policy responding to a question from a Bristol24/7 reader asking the candidates how they were going to turn around Bristol’s funding gap for the creative and cultural sectors.
Labour Party candidate Marvin Rees, Ferguson’s main rival in the election, reiterated a pledge to launch a bid for Bristol to become European Capital of Culture.
He added: “But there’s a heavy caveat there. I think you have to be very intentional about challenging the cultural community to deliver against the more fundamental challenges we face such as improving mental health and social inclusion.
“If we show the added value that the cultural community brings to the city then there’s much more scope to be very inventive about the way we invest.”
— Made in Bristol TV (@madeinbristoltv) April 28, 2016
Candidates were grilled over the course of the debate by questions submitted beforehand by Bristol24/7 readers, live questions from the floor and questions received during the hustings through social media.
Conservative Charles Lucas was asked by a reader whether he was anti-cyclist. He responded: “I’m not anti-cyclist, I’m pro-cyclist as long as they behave on the road as car-users have to behave on the road and that they stay within their segregated lanes to protect pedestrians, because pedestrians are road-users as well.”
Tony Dyer, the Green Party candidate, was asked via social media how he would generate more clean energy.
He said: “It is possible for not just Bristol, but the West of England, to supply about 80 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. For instance tidal lagoons would produce 30 per cent of it, another 25 per cent could come from ground source heat pumps, biomass could be another 15 per cent.
“It is possible but it needs encouragement, it needs the council and organisation such as the Bristol Energy Company to be able to support those organisations.”
In the interval, this Bristol24/7 film was screened showing members of the public across Bristol reacting to pictures of the candidates:
The mayoral hopefuls were then asked how they would make politics more engaging in the city.
Kay Barnard, the Lib Dem candidate, said the answer was to target schools. She added: “Let’s get the education into schools to what politics is all about.”
Rees said: “I think we should have a systematic approach in Bristol in which we get young people from unlikely backgrounds to shadow city leaders, elected and unelected to demystify power and decision-making in Bristol.”
Dyer said: “A lot of people in the poorer parts of the city don’t think we are helping them the way that we should be and until we start to deliver to those people in the most deprived areas there will continue to be a low turnout there.”
Paul Saville, an independent candidate, added: “Give us something to vote for, something different. I’ve never voted and I’m 30 this year.
“I’m so disillusioned I don’t believe in the politicians’ lies anymore. I’m sick and tired of it.”
He said he was inspired to stand as a candidate by Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to power: “People don’t believe in these lies being told anymore. If you start giving something for people to believe in, they vote.”