Elena Baturina’s BE OPEN Helps Children Take Over City Hall as ‘Mayor for the Day’

Over a thousand schoolchildren from across the capital have been considering how they would make their city even better if they were “Mayor for the Day” as part of the London Children’s Festival developed by the Mayor’s Fund for London in cooperation with Elena Baturina’s BE OPEN foundation, the lead supporter of both the London Children’s Festival and the City Pitch programme.

Focusing on Mayoral priorities such as: ‘Jobs, Skills and Education’, ‘Environment, Health and Food’, ‘Crime, Safety and Travel’ and ‘Housing, Play and Public Spaces’, the London Children’s Festival asks children and young people, aged 9 to 14, to consider how they connect to and interpret these themes and explore their ideas and vision relating to the future of London.

On 1 December, 250 pupils will convene at City Hall, for the Festival’s culmination event – in a presentation of their thoughts and ideas which will feed into the development of a new London Children’s Charter, to representatives of the Mayor’s Office, the Greater London Authority, the Children’s Commissioner for England and BE OPEN. The Charter will help to advocate, influence and prioritise what young Londoners feel passionate about, and inform policy makers about what matters to the next generation.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London is the greatest place in the world to grow up – it is incredibly diverse and open, and there is a world of opportunity for everyone. Young Londoners will be the leaders of tomorrow and the London Children’s Festival will give hundreds of schoolchildren from across the capital the opportunity to think about how they can help improve our city.”

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive, Mayor’s Fund for London, said: “It’s fantastic to see children and young people taking over City Hall as ‘Mayor for the Day’ to share their visions and ideas for a better city. Drawing on themes from our City Pitch programme, the London Children’s Festival provides young Londoners with the opportunity to build aspirations, develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills and influence future mayoral policies, while policy makers will benefit from a fresh perspective on their work.”

Elena Baturina, founder of BE OPEN think tank and a trustee of the Mayor’s Fund for London, said: “At BE OPEN we genuinely believe in the transformational potential of younger generations, and ensuring that they feel they have a stake in their city is vital to the future of its success. Based on our experience of working with young people, we expect to see some amazing ideas that may transform the way we approach important issues of today, as well as hard work and commitment to bringing those ideas to life. I am sure that letting children have their say as ‘Mayor for the Day’ will prove to be a very useful practice for any city in the world. With leadership also at the heart of this year’s City Pitch programme, the Festival will set the tone perfectly.”

Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, OBE, added: “It’s so important that children have a voice and are heard by the policy and law makers in the UK who make decisions about them. Launching a Charter that has been shaped by young people, in line with the Mayor’s key themes, ensures they feel like they are not only being given a voice, but that voice is heard. The ‘Mayor for the Day’ theme also fits perfectly with the Takeover Challenge, taking place on November 24, which puts young people into decision-making positions and encourages organisations and businesses to hear what they have to say. Children gain valuable insight into the adult world and gain experience of a workplace, while organisations benefit from a fresh perspective on their work.”

Last year’s edition of the Children’s Festival was also supported by BE OPEN; it was dedicated to the London Curriculum programme that aims to improve subject knowledge and skills by helping teachers bring subjects to life by making illustrative and inspiring connections to the city, its people, places and heritage. The festival saw hundreds of pupils hitting the banks of the Thames and Potters Field, near City Hall, to get a taste of what the curriculum offered. Activities included Clay, Archaeology, Dance, Drumming, Art and Storytelling with the festival culminating in an all-singing and all-dancing finale.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, officially launched the festival, saying: “Our history and culture is a truly global one, so what better way for primary school children to learn, than directly from London’s museums, art galleries and other fascinating institutions. Huge thanks to Elena Baturina and BE OPEN – their recent incredible support for the London Curriculum truly shows that London is open, as ever, to ideas from around the world.”