I’ve always enjoyed living in Bristol and although not a native have a strange sense of pride about the city. Everyone always has positive stories and thoughts about Bristol, some not even cider related! The city regularly features in top places to live surveys, in fact it topped one published last week. So, when the City Growth Commission decided to hold one of its hearings in Bristol, I was curious to find out what key public figures had to say about the city and the issues it faces.
The City Growth Commission is an inquiry (led by the RSA) into how the UKs major cities can thrive, how we can change thought processes and create inclusive and sustainable growth. The inquiry is currently holding a number of hearings across the UK to further the Commissioners understanding of key issues in cities in the UK and will produce a report in October 2014.
The hearing in Bristol based itself in the Lantern House at the beautiful Old Council House and we settled down to listen to three different panels in rotation. The panels were asked to respond to the same questions (see below), and consisted of an interesting group of people including the mayor, George Ferguson, and the Happy City founder, Liz Zeidler. There was a strong RSA Fellow contingent on the panels also, with Carolyn Hassan, Knowle West Media Centre, James Vaccaro, Triodos Bank and Stephen Atkinson, Aukett Fitzroy Robinson, all making their points.
The key questions the Commission asked were - What are the cities challenges and opportunities? What might the city want, if anything from central government? What else would enable the city and wider economy to thrive?
Varying responses and arguments were put forward, I was interested to learn that Bristol is the only city in England to positively contribute to the GDP, but that there is a ten year difference in life expectancy across different parts of Bristol, pointing to issues around inequality. There was also a plea to be given the freedom to fail – and being less risk adverse.
Some of the clear issues that came out of the hearing, were those I heartily agree with – transport services, housing, need to improve employability and skills of young people. The Commissioners certainly went away with a lot to think about and take forward.
We carried the debate on into the evening with an informal Fellows meet up, and discussed a few key issues that weren’t bought up during the hearing. The high concentration of creative companies in the city and the South West as a whole “is a hotbed of creative and digital media and the sector is growing more rapidly than anywhere else in the UK, employing more creatives than any other region outside London.” (Universities SW.ac.uk). Also the green agenda having for a long time been a priority in the city (see my previous blog).
I look forward with interest to the Commission’s report and hope to continue the conversations about Bristol, with the Fellow-led Making our Futures series.
Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter