Bristol first UK city to sign women charter

9 03 2013

Bristol has become the first city in the UK to sign the European Charter for the Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. Flanked by representatives from women’s groups in the city, George Ferguson signed the charter in City Hall on what he said was “a star day, a top day in the life of the mayor”.

The charter, thrashed out over many years across Europe and one that has come to Bristol in part thanks to Green Party cabinet member Gus Hoyt, looks at how all international declarations can apply equally to women and men, giving practical actions to take by councils to make women’s lives better at a local level.

A vocal group of mostly women attended the charter signing at City hall, where Ferguson was barracked by two members of the audience, first for only appearing to pay lip service to gender equality, and then secondly when seasoned rabble-rouser Julie Boston asked him if he was going to give jobs back to the 300 members of staff Bristol City Council has recently made redundant.

As the electricity metre ran out and the lights went off in meeting room six, it was left to Helen Mott from Bristol Fawcett – and independent candidate for Westbury-on-Trym in May’s local elections – to say that the signing of the charter makes our city a “trailblazer”, and makes her proud to be a Bristolian and will make Bristol a happier place as a result.

European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life signing in Bristol

Gus Hoyt introducing the charter signing. Photo by John Craig.

The return of The Bristolian

7 03 2013

After an absence of three years, The Bristolian satirical news sheet is back. Bristol’s “smiter of the high and mighty” was in 2005 runner-up in Private Eye’s Paul Foot award for campaigning and investigative journalism, but there is not much of that award-winning pedigree in this new issue.

George Ferguson and Zoe SearMud is slung at “public school twit” George Ferguson, former police chief Colin “Doughnut King” Port and “kow-towing journalists who write stories off the web from posh cafes in Clifton”.

The Bristolian’s raison d’etre is to “shine a light on the shadowy back room deals” in City Hall and the two best stories in Volume 4 Number 1 are about council employees.

New legal boss Liam Nevin is revealed to have sent a secretary to the County Court to represent the council at a hearing and being threatened with contempt of court if he did it again.

And council facilities manager Tony Harvey is accused of abusing his privileges by parking his car in the disabled spaces on the City Hall ramp.

Ferguson’s right hand woman Zoe Sear (above) comes in for particular ridicule, with thinly-veiled references to more than just a professional relationship with her boss; while Green Party councillor Gus Hoyt’s activities are satirised in Gus Hoyty-Toyty’s Cabinet Diary.

The Bristolian

The Bristolian is currently being distributed in shops, cafes and pubs across Bristol. Find them on Twitter at @BristolianNews and online at

Ferguson’s first mayoral Question Time

5 03 2013

About 50 people turned up to City Hall to be in the audience for George Ferguson’s first mayoral question time. Not a ringing endorsement of opening up the building formally known as the Council House and the politics that goes on inside to the masses. Yet Ferguson will not care unduly.

When questioned by Eugene Byrne in this month’s Folio magazine about his perceived poor mandate because of the low turnout in first the mayoral referendum and then the mayoral election, he responds with the words: “To that, I say bollocks.”

He was on his best behaviour last night in what was a pilot event that was webcast live as well as recorded for posterity in case anyone wants to relive the moment when the mayor admitted that any building on Filton airfield was beyond his powers to stop, or when he advocated we all bring sofas, music and circus to his proposed car-free Sundays in the city centre.

As his right-hand woman Zoe Sear and Bristol City Council head of communications Peter Holt both furiously tapped away on their iPads, Ferguson answered the questions thrown at him from bus lanes to foster caring. When he didn’t know the answer, he simply started to talk about things that he did know.

“My goodness this is great,” Ferguson said as a sea of hands shot up and he paced up and down the stage as if talking to an audience of five thousand rather than fifty.

Whether our esteemed mayor himself talks “bollocks” remains the opinion of some in Bristol. As a first experiment in open democracy, this was a success. As how to ensure questions from the audience were heard by people viewing online it seemed a failure. And as a mayor committed to building an arena in Bristol where the likes of two-hours-late-on-stage Justin Bieber could play in the future, it was punctilious.

George Ferguson's first mayoral Question Time

This week in Bristol, March 4-10

4 03 2013

Monday: Mayor’s Question Time, City Hall
George Ferguson hosts his first public question and answer session. He will be taking questions from the floor for an hour between 6pm and 7pm.

Monday-Saturday: The Full Monty, Bristol Hippodrome
A brand new production from Oscar-winning Simon Beaufoy that only opened in Sheffield last month comes to Bristol on its national tour before heading to the West End.

Wednesday: Impero Lounge opens, Portishead
There is no stopping the Loungers as a month after Grupo Lounge opened in Westbury-on-Trym comes Impero in the former Budgens on Portishead High Street.

Thursday: Phantom Laundry, Attic
The launch event of a new night of spoken word, poetry, music and art, sees infamous drug dealer Howard Marks, music from The Triangulators and live art from Still Jam.

Thursday: Soft Rockets, Stokes Croft
A Red Bell-curated event sees the Pipe & Slippers, Croft, Bank and Full Moon taken over for a free dance event showcasing undiscovered talent and underground producers.

Friday: Burn Hollywood, Cube
Rantings, ravings and ridicule as film lovers stand up against some of the greats of the big screen “which should not escape the critical crosshairs”.

Friday: Tom Odell, Thekla
Last year’s Brit Awards Critics Choice award-winner is a 22-year-old singer songwriter from Chichester who is signed to Lily Allen’s In the Name Of record label.

Saturday: Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate (below), Colston Hall 2
A mix of afrobeat, hip-hop, rock and reggae from New Yorker Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate from Guinea, a unique duo singing in French and English.

Saturday-March 16: Once Upon a Time in Japan, Watershed
Five films from the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme which explore Japan’s past through the eyes of contemporary filmmakers.

Sunday: Sam Lee, Folk House
The Mercury Music Award nominated folk musician is someone who the judges said “brings magical new life to the dignity and mystery of old songs”.

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate in BristolSekou Kouyate and Joe Driscoll

‘A Bristol George not a Bristol Boris’

21 02 2013

Mayor Ferguson has told the Guardian that he does not want to be a Bristol Boris but a Bristol George. In the week before the city council vote on his first budget in which he aims to save £35m over the next two years, Ferguson spoke about his plans for some 320 job cuts, as well as proposals to close residential care places for elderly people.

Newcastle is just one council across the country which has decimated funding to the arts. This is not likely to happen in Bristol. “Ferguson makes no bones about his first love being cultural regeneration, and he also prioritises the happiness of residents,” writes Kate McCann.

Ferguson said: “Cultural regeneration is really important. Without it a city is much less attractive as an economic prospect and people are less happy.

“Is local government just to feed the body in terms of delivering essential services, or is it to feed the soul through culture and sports too?”

“I’ll shamelessly sell the city and be forceful about it,” Ferguson adds.

On the issue of an arena, he says: “We are the only serious city without an arena – that is something I’m going to bite the bullet about and we’re going to build one. I’ve got a £35m funding gap – but I’ll bloody well find the money.”

On the question of whether he wants to be like London Mayor Boris Johnson, Ferguson says: “Someone asked if I was going to be like Boris and I said: ‘Boris is a toff and a buffoon, and he never apologises,’ and they said ‘Exactly!’

“I want to be the George of Bristol. I think the important thing is I learn from everybody, but I want Bristol to be different and I want to do it differently. I think difference is a very important thing, that Bristol is different and it reinforces everything that is different rather than trying to be like anywhere else.”


Arenas in the UK

23 01 2013

As an architect by trade, Bristol mayor George Ferguson is in a unique position to ensure the best arena for the city. The proposed £80m arena will be built on empty land next to Temple Meads, and Ferguson is calling on his friends at the Royal Institute of British Architects to help run the design competition.

Bristol could have its long overdue arena by 2016, with the venue seating up to 12,000 people and expected to be a sustainable building.

If you’re thinking of entering the contest, here are some arenas across the UK from Exeter to Glasgow for inspiration:

Belfast ArenaBelfast Odyssey Arena

Birmingham LG ArenaBirmingham LG Arena

Bolton ArenaBolton Ricoh Arena

Cardiff ArenaCardiff Motorpoint Arena

Coventry Ricoh ArenaCoventry Ricoh Arena

Exeter Westpoint ArenaExeter Westpoint Arena

Glasgow Braehead ArenaGlasgow Braehead Arena

Hull ArenaHull Arena

Liverpool Echo ArenaLiverpool Echo Arena

Manchester MEN ArenaManchester MEN Arena

Newcastle ArenaNewcastle Metro Radio Arena

Nottingham ArenaNottingham Capital FM Arena

Sheffield ArenaSheffield Motorpoint Arena

George Ferguson in oils

11 01 2013

He may have only been in office for less than two months but Bristol Mayor George Ferguson has already been immortalised in oils by artist Eva Freeman, who is showing some of her latest paintings at an exhibition in Harveys Cellars on Denmark Street. Freeman’s paintings also show the colourful streets of Totterdown and coastal views painted on holiday in Cornwall.

Eva Freeman - George Ferguson

Eva Freeman’s exhibiton runs until January 31. Click here for more information.

Mayor pledges to refurbish Colston Hall

30 11 2012

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson has gone cap in hand to London for the first time since being elected. His demands yesterday included extra funding to plug the £34 million in the city council’s finances for next year’s budget, £50 million for a River Avon flood barrier and an integrated transport authority.

Ferguson also wants £40 million for the refurbishment of the Colston Hall auditorium, to create a world class concert venue.

Colston Hall became independent from Bristol City Council in May 2011 when the Bristol Music Trust was formed, with the dual aims of managing the operations of the venue, and also “to drive forward music across Bristol”.

Bristol Music Trust chief executive Louise Mitchell welcomed Ferguson’s aims to secure a grand future for the hall; aims also backed by Simon Cook, former council leader who will be joining the mayor’s cabinet with responsibility for culture.

Mitchell said: “As one of Bristol’s key cultural organisations The Bristol Music Trust is delighted that Mayor George Ferguson is supporting plans to transform the Colston Hall into the international music venue that Bristol deserves.

“The redevelopment of the hall will deliver performance spaces where all types of music can be performed, explored and enjoyed at the highest level.

“We are proud that George Ferguson sees the project as a priority for Bristol and that music can play such a strong role in strengthening the unique cultural infrastructure of our city.”

Ferguson sworn in as Bristol Mayor

20 11 2012

In his first day as Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson has changed the name of the Council House to City Hall, scrapped Sunday parking charges and asked to be paid his salary in Bristol Pounds. He also revealed that council cuts now in the region of £32m were “going to hurt”.

When Ferguson took to the stage at the Passenger Shed, Brunel’s original station next to Temple Meads, he gave a sometimes meandering but mostly well-received inauguration speech.

At 40 minutes in length, it put him almost but not quite in the same bracket as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who has been known to talk non-stop for more than nine hours.

Ferguson called becoming Bristol mayor “the ultimate project”, with the aim of making Bristol “a better place”. Refreshingly, he said he would experiment in office and admitted that he would sometimes get things wrong.

Having expelled, according to some, rather a lot of wind, in his first mistake as mayor he then misattributed a William Arthur Ward quote to George Bernard Shaw: “’The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.’ I will be adjusting the sails of maritime Bristol every week.”

Ferguson’s own soundbites came thick and fast, in front of an audience which included civic dignitaries such as the Lord Mayor, High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant, a few of Ferguson’s defeated mayoral candidates, former council leader Simon Cook whose old office he now resides in, and a number of councillors perhaps hoping to join the mayor’s “rainbow” cabinet.

At the moment, it is unlikely that this cabinet will include any Labour members, with Labour instead providing an opposition rather than Ferguson’s aim of cross-party support.

On Twitter, Marvin Rees’ campaign manager Kevin Slocombe wrote: “Seems to me people are confused thinking Bristol voted for cross-party working. It didn’t -it voted to STOP Labour. Time to stand and oppose.”

And Dave Wilshire, secretary of the Bristol branch of the Communication Workers Union, said: “No true Labour Councillor would be a part of the Ferguson cabinet.”

Ferguson ended his speech by saying the oath made by young men of Athens when they became citizens: “I shall not leave this city any less but rather greater than I found it.” Thanks to That Politics Thing for the Photoshop skills.

Can Ferguson bring an arena to Bristol?

19 11 2012

George Ferguson is being officially sworn in as Bristol’s mayor today in Brunel’s Old Station next to Temple Meads. As an oath, he has chosen the words that the ancient Athenians said: “I shall not leave this city any less but rather greater than when I found it.”

Just a few hundred yards away from where he will say this oath is an area of Bristol which Ferguson hopes he will be able to transform in his time as mayor.

His architecture firm have previously drawn up plans (right) for the derelict Royal Mail sorting office, comprising a mixed use development (right) of office, retail, residential, leisure and student accommodation in what is currently a ghastly welcome to visitors to Bristol by train.

Empty for the past 15 years, the building is currently owned by developers Kian Gwan Land, who have a PO Box address in Jersey.

Another site near to the station is the land off Bath Road long earmarked for an arena and which the now defunct South West Regional Development Agency spent £13m purchasing and clearing in preparation for one, which currently houses a few polytunnels.

Speaking after his election last week, Ferguson said: “We need to deliver a really significant project we can all be proud of and I am absolutely determined to deliver an arena for Bristol. It’s disgraceful that we have to go elsewhere to see the big acts. But it will be more than a building, it will be about what Bristol stands for. So let’s make a Bristol which everyone feels part of.”

If our new mayor brings an arena to Bristol, it could be his greatest legacy.