With Scotland's Year of Young People 2018 setting the scene, EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh is running a special young ambassadors programme throughout the conference. To get to know Catharina Dahl from Bonn, Théo Fievet from Lille and Jessica Bonehill from Edinburgh ahead of the conference we asked them why they wanted to be a young ambassador, what they would do as mayor of their city and the message they'd send to our president.
Tell us about yourself
Catharina: I am 23 and a trainee in a dual study programme at the city administration of Bonn. I have taken part in different international projects and am happy to meet more people open to new ideas and to build a closer Union.
Théo: After several years of studying abroad, I’m very proud to use this knowledge to the benefit of Lille in our Brussels office. Outside office hours, you are most likely to find me on a running track, watching sports on TV or somewhere in Europe on a city trip!
Jessica: I’m a curator and designer. I'm currently working on an exhibition and have worked as an accessible design specialist and co-curated the opening weekend of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. I’m now the craft specialist at Creative Scotland.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
C: I think it is a really good chance for all young ambassadors to be part of the conference. It will be great to see how work is done in Europe and learn about other cities and their work. The best way to have a strong Union is to work together and get together. I hope to get a lot of new ideas I can spread at home.
T: Being a young ambassador for my city will enable me to experience in a different way the relationship cities and the local level have with the European level and their European counterparts. To me, this link is essential as local governments are the closest to citizens and have the most democratic legitimacy to express their voices. Involving young citizens is an essential step in this process.
J: I wanted to be a young ambassador because I’m a passionate advocate for the creative industries. I want to gain a deeper understanding of how to ensure we continue to provide the infrastructure for our brilliant creative communities to flourish and be more widely accessible. I hope to do this by learning from others, hearing different perspectives and generating collaborative ways of thinking.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
C: Thank you Daniel Termont for working for EUROCITIES, for bringing people and ideas together and for giving young people the chance to participate in the annual conference.
T: First of all, thank you very much for giving young people the opportunity to express their vision of what urban life should look like in the future in Europe. Please do not give up the fight, as President of EUROCITIES, to focus on urban issues in EU policies and funds in general and also in programmes financing benchmarking between cities like Urbact and Interreg Europe. We can do more together than apart!
J: The theme this year is creative competitive cities. If a city is going to be creative, then it also needs to be inclusive. I believe effective creative communities have agency in their realities. If this isn’t currently happening in a consistent, accessible way then we need to rethink the models of engagement we’re using. I want to be a part of that re-design. Help me develop our creative cities as supportive environments for all.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
C: I love the Cherry Blossom Festival in Bonn, when there are lots of colours all around. You can see nature right there in the middle of the city. It makes everything much more beautiful. People get together and enjoy the moment.
T: Lille's Vauban Citadel seems to me a perfect illustration of the harmony brought to Europe since the end of World War II. The citadel used to be a heavily guarded military place controlled successively by France, Flanders and Germany over the centuries. Today, it is hard to see this martial past as it is now the perfect place for runners to enjoy a flat green space to run by the water playground in the middle of the city.
J: Edinburgh is great because it’s both big and small! I believe it has a more concentrated, diverse, international and creative cultural scene than almost anywhere else, but you can still walk the whole city in a day and quickly build a close-knit, supportive and friendly community.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
C: A good, long book, cherry tomatoes and dark chocolate.
T: An Ayn Rand novel, a pair of running shoes and swimming goggles.
J: A sketchbook and ink pens, my violin and a good reading list. I’m not good at being unoccupied!
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
C: I would do something for an active city and invest in sports facilities all over the town for everybody to use. So that we are able to take part in international working groups and be an international city I would start more language classes for my colleagues. I would also love to hire more bilingual kindergarten teachers so that children can learn about other languages and cultures in a playful way.
T: I truly think a cornerstone for a better quality of urban life lies in mobility solutions. More fluid mobility would let city fringe areas develop, green mobility will reduce air pollution and more active mobility will strengthen people’s physical and mental health. My top three actions would therefore be to create a secure cycling path, increase 'bus only' lanes and get the city ready for automated vehicles.
J: I would provide a platform for others and trust my community to understand their own needs and help create the solutions. I would reintroduce making and design skills into the mainstream school curriculum as the creative sector is one of the fastest growing industries and we desperately need agile, creative thinkers to stay at the cutting edge. Finally, I would spend money on supporting creatives to apply their iterative design thinking to engagement methodologies, using design skills to open up access for all.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
C: My Europe in 2030 will be a strong union. Everyone should identify themselves as European, because we can solve worldwide problems much better if we work together. We can learn a lot from each other.
T: My Europe in 2030 will be a Europe of cities where decisions impacting people’s daily life will be taken at local level or at least by a more systematic representation of cities at EU level, while regalian, sovereign policies will be taken by a federal Europe composed of a few core countries.
J: My Europe in 2030 will value the creative sector fairly for its efforts and use creative skills to create a more inclusive future.