Reflections on Bristol: European Green Capital 2015

In January 2015 I published a blog about the start of city_review_box_jpg__560x380_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscaleBristol’s year as European Green Capital:

Much has been said, done, and reported since the year took place. Some is published here in the official City Wide Review of the year:

I’ve been looking back at the year and the issues raised around it, and I was disturbed at the almost total focus on issues around invoices for services used through the year, and little if any attention on the many projects, achievements, volunteers, and outcomes from the year. So next week I’m asking the Mayor of Bristol to answer the following questions:

Question(s) to the Mayor at Full Council on November 8th, 2016, from Councillor Martin Fodor  

Subject: European Green Capital

As a former member of SERA (the Socialist Environment and Resources Association) I was interested in reports of your speech to the group in Liverpool as Mayor of Bristol, and a local MP’s input.

It’s reported (I can’t find any text, and I know the report may not be reliable to what was actually said ) that you think green politics is more about tackling fuel poverty than saving the planet, and tackling environmental problems has to go hand in hand with alleviating poverty. I gather you said you did not want Green Capital to be for those in affluent, bohemian suburbs who could afford to pay a bit more for food. It’s reported you said you’d like the environmental movement to become more inclusive.

I agree with all that, and am on record as saying I wanted the European Green Capital year to involve the whole of Bristol, and I got involved accordingly, thinking that’s more effective than criticising the activities from outside as some did for the entire duration. But I wish to bring to your attention  the breadth of activities and projects that took place through 2015 across our city, and recognise the many inclusive, socially and environmentally integrated projects underway then and in many cases still continuing to this day, thanks to the stimulus from our year as European Green Capital.

Here are a few of the new partnerships created and things that took place thanks to Bristol 2015 in our city:

  • The 91 ways project that involved all 91 languages in the city around the theme of food which I believe is still active
  • The new collaboration among the surplus and waste food charities and projects, who now work together across the city to get more food to those who need it instead of being landfilled or destroyed;
  • The 30,000 school pupils in the city who used the educational material developed here in 2015 and now available worldwide;
  • A kitchens on prescription project, to support healthy cookery, and cookery events across the city;
  • Food growing projects in every postcode, still going on;
  • The first healthy city week, now repeated (involving you);
  • The Big Green and Black debates with Ujima radio (you took part);
  • Workshops to tackle fuel poverty across the city targeted at people at risk of fuel debt – I personally helped deliver some of these, working with a debt advice charity. We more than doubled the Green Capital grant with Lottery funds, and we helped residents in Hartcliffe, Easton, the inner city, and Knowle West – one was excited to say she saved £10 a week, equivalent to £500 a year, after a session she took part in.
  • Around 800 partner organisations formed around the winning bid, a model for partnership working in cities gaining a European title; they now have a CIC to continue to work together. I believe a number of the partners are involved in your new City Office now.
  • The £2m grants are more than any other European Green Capital ever awarded – with 200 projects of all sizes.

The year is expected to lead to lots of inwards investment, but was of course far from perfect. I would not have prioritised some of the grants and activities myself. Only 4 events were obligatory to the successful city. But thousands took place, and visitors arrived from across the world.

The City bid with the agreements of partners and all party support. No funding was attached to the title when it was won, as it is not a prize, but this first ever European title meant the city has gained enormously and fostered new collaboration through working groups and events.  A lot of good was achieved thanks to the £12m funds and value marshalled for the year from many sources. It’s spending that would not have taken place in the city in most cases and of created much added value.

I note that activities took place in every single neighbourhood of the city, most schools, and the local grants were prioritised to the areas with most need.

The headlines since you took office have focussed on a review of invoices. You also have access to all the reports of project outcomes, events, and outputs from the year – there has been lots of information to look at.

  1. It is always good to learn lessons for the future but with all this available could you explain if you meant to denigrate the year and the partnerships fostered through it, and can I ask what do you have to say to those from all walks of life who worked across the city in all neighbourhoods and contributed through  ideas, grant projects, volunteering, and enthusiasm?
  2. Are they all people who could afford to spend a bit more on food, or do they, and those in this council who took an active part and got involved, deserve thanks, not criticism?





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