In March, Councillor Amirah Cole welcomed Year Four pupils from St Werburgh’s Primary School to City Hall, where they gave impassioned speeches about their priorities for Bristol. You may have seen them making headlines recently, as they held a protest against idling outside their school, brandishing banners such as ‘switch off so we don’t cough’. Clearly, these young people are set out to make the change they want to see.
I was very impressed about what they had to say in City Hall. Not only did they look at the challenges facing our city, but they put forward solutions too — with more maturity than we sometimes hear in the Chamber! I suggested that they share reflections on their visit, so that I could share it with the wider city. Here’s what they said:
“Today we went to City Hall. We loved visiting because it was the first time we had been there. It was very interesting and fun. Councillor Amirah Cole told us about how she helps other people and why she loves doing this. We wrote and performed speeches about what we want to change about Bristol.
“Our speeches were about:
· Looking after nature
· Stopping racism
· Not dropping litter
· Stopping smoking
· More green spaces
“The Chamber was huge and we felt nervous. We thought the best speakers were loud and had clear pronunciation. We had to project our voices confidently so everyone could hear.
“We thought about solutions. To look after nature we could not drop litter, drive less, and respect animals and nature. We could also plant more trees. We could help people with homelessness by lowering the price of petrol, making electricity in homes cheaper and lowering the price of rent.“
Their speech topics reflect issues that are important for children and young people in our city them; these issues are also priorities for Bristolians and for us as an administration.
Our administration has always prioritised addressing the climate and ecological emergencies, the housing crisis, and the national cost-of-living crisis. Likewise, we heard speeches about tackling racism, improving public health, and keeping our streets tidy – all very important subjects on which we have acted.
It’s reassuring to hear that our future city leaders recognise the importance of addressing these issues and want this work continued. I’ve always believed it’s important it is to make sure young people can have their voices heard, as it puts them on a path to engaging with politics throughout their lives.
We have sought to amplify young people’s voices through the Youth Mayors and the Youth Council – with youth councillors now sitting on both our One City Transport Board and Young Peoples’ Board, directly shaping transport in our city.
The involvement of young people in Bristol’s politics should continue long into the future. If any of the pupils at St Werburgh’s are reading this: I hope this is only the start of your efforts to make the world a better place.