I had the privilege to recently interview the newly elected mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, for a study on the social economy in Bristol. I approached him because his peers in the social economy consistently nominated him. I was very impressed with a genuine person engaged with the city on many levels.
He relayed a little story, that has by now been reported many a time, on how he got engaged with ‘collective action’, which I then realised indirectly had an impact on a key decision in my life. The City Council had decided to built a motorway through the middle of the city in the 1970s, level the docks and landfill the floating harbour. Anyone that has been to Bristol would recognise the docks as the defining feature of the city’s character. I myself had decided to take a job in Bristol instead of Liverpool because I was so impressed with the docks!
But back to Ferguson’s story. The council sold a series of dock cranes for scrap for the sum of £2500 in 1975. Ferguson with a number of others set up a company, City Docks Ventures, issued 30 shares at a £100 pounds and then offered the scrap merchant £3000 for buying the cranes where they stood. Subsequently they successfully embarrassed the Council to buy the cranes back off them. The cranes are currently an integral part of the docks and a proud reminder of British industrial history. I have taken some beautiful pictures of them at night and will post as soon as I scan them.
George Ferguson took an oath of office last week that I wish would be integral to citizenship everywhere. He declared that ‘he intends to leave the city greater than the way he found it’. Noble intent. And for all my cynicism of political actors, I believe he means it.