Edgar Phillips

THE TEENAGERS were the stars – and rightly so. For they have a much greater stake in the future of their city than the old. The occasion was The Wells You Want, an initiative by Wells Independents to provide a forum for ideas about the future of the city.

The evening on Monday started with five brief talks by sixth formers and adults representing different aspects of life here.

First up was Archie Agabani, a 17-year-old local lad who goes to Wells Cathedral School. He had just passed his driving test and suggested an answer to the parking difficulties he was having in Wells. “There are lots of empty driveways during the day,” said Archie. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a system to let people get in touch with the owners and agree to park there?”

Next were Blue School sixth formers Rosie Jones and Jo Woodlock. Rosie said there should be more connections between the school and the different organisations and groups in Wells. She also explained that while teenagers “have plenty of green spaces we can go to during the summer, somewhere indoors would be good in the winter.” Jo said there should be “more opportunities for sixth formers to volunteer in Wells as well as in school. And we would like to see someone who would welcome newcomers to Wells.”

Then it was the turn of Kirstie Harris who told the 60-strong audience in Seager Hall about a new community group she has co-founded called Wake Up Wells. On their Facebook page they have created a questionnaire where people can give their thoughts about Wells and their vision for the future. The results will be fed back to councillors, stakeholder organisations and voluntary groups at a conference in October. “It is really important that all the voluntary groups in Wells collaborate, work together and enjoy a laugh together,” said Kirstie.

Businesswoman Judith Ludovino warned: “We can’t rest on our laurels in Wells. There are serious threats to our economy. “Our greatest export is our young people. Most of the jobs we have don’t appeal to them and are mainly low paid. “Businesses lose thousands of pounds a year because customers leave early because their parking is running out.” Signage in Wells needed improving and new businesses had to be attracted, but high rents were a problem for small shops.

The final brief talk came from Edgar Phillips, artist in residence at the Bishop’s Palace, who told a story about a 12-year-old boy in trouble at school and going drinking in the park. He used this to call for Wells to invest in more opportunities for young people, like apprenticeships and a development centre where skilled adults would pass on what they were taught. At the end Edgar revealed he was the troubled boy who had transformed his life thanks to the guidance and mentoring of a skilled craftsman.

The audience then began a lively discussion. Their points included:

• Praise for the students’ comments about more volunteering and involvement with the wider community.

• A call for the installation of charging points for electric cars to reduce air pollution.

• Showing schools the bags of rubbish collected in litter picks from the countryside around Wells.

• The use of recreation drugs in the city was “massive” and needed tackling.

• High business rates for shops and pubs needed to be reduced.

• Wells needed an arts and media centre.

The last word came from the debate’s chairman Paddy O’Hagan: “We make our own futures as a community.”