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Sebastian Field (BA 2005) becomes 535th Mayor of Gloucester

Sebastian, left, with Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester

All aboard: Sebastian poses inside a fire engine

Sebastian meets BBC Children in Need's Pudsey Bear

23 November 2015

Sebastian Field (BA 2005) recently became the youngest Mayor of Gloucester in 300 years. While no stranger to the limelight – having been a professional singer since the age of nine and a Liberal Democrat councillor for Kingsholm and Wotton since 2007 – Sebastian talks about stepping up to the mayoral plate.

How do you feel about becoming the Mayor of Gloucester?

It is a huge honour, especially when one thinks of the long tradition of Mayors of Gloucester – there have been 535 mayors since 1483. In fact, it's likely that there were mayors for several hundred years before 1483, and that the Charter of King Richard III given to Gloucester in 1483 (which set out the rules by which the city could elect its mayor) merely codified what was already happening. Certainly, Gloucester is one of the oldest places to have a mayor.

What role does a mayor play in a modern city?

Where places have an elected mayor, they obviously have a key role in policy and administration. Places that have Lord Mayors, Right Worshipful Mayors (like Gloucester) or Worshipful Mayors, use these posts in a variety of different ways, as they are more ceremonial roles. The mayor is the town or city’s 'First Citizen' and greets visiting dignitaries and delegations: for example, the mayor would be the first person to greet a visiting member of the Royal Family, after Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant.

Personally, I have the role of chairing the council meetings, and I am also an ambassador for Gloucester, promoting all that the city has to offer to its residents and to the wider world. I am frequently asked to open shops or restaurants, to give out awards, and to speak at events. I also take visiting groups of students, tourists, and business visitors into the civic suite where I show them the city's regalia and tell them about Gloucester's history.

What inspired you to become involved in charity causes, such as your work as an advocate for the homeless, and how do you use your mayoral position to help?

I have always felt strongly that there is no need for homelessness in our day and age, and that we need to solve this problem. Being mayor gives me a mouthpiece to speak for the voiceless, and is also a platform for making lots of contacts with charities and people who might be able to help them. As a mayor, I’m able to help in practical ways that go beyond what I’ve done before – when I’ve bought copies of the Big Issue or donated food and money. I can help to find places in accommodation for those in need, for example.

What skills and attributes did you develop while studying at Bristol that have helped to advance your career to this stage?

A love of language and the ability to write good English (I hope!) have stood me in good stead this year, and when it comes to speechwriting, for instance, both are essential. I also developed discipline during my time at Bristol, and because my course was based on essays rather than exams, I eventually learnt how to pace myself and spread out my work. Balance is important in a year where I have already participated in more than 200 events in the first six months.

What are your plans once your term as Mayor of Gloucester has finished?

I am a singer in my 'other life' - I sing in Gloucester Cathedral Choir and teach singing locally, and work as a freelance countertenor soloist and consort singer. I hope to be able to devote more time to my singing again after this year, and I have been very lucky to have had exposure to new contacts and audiences through my position as mayor – my profile being raised seems to have contributed to my doing lots of singing this year as well.

Regarding politics, if I stand for re-election I will once again enjoy being a backbench councillor and having more time to serve my ward of Kingsholm and Wotton. I have a feeling that I will suddenly feel rather awash with time once my term of office has ended in May. I will always look upon my time as Mayor of Gloucester with immense pride.

Finally, what advice would you give to current students at the University?

I can only speak about my course, English Literature, and my own experiences, but I know that if I had my time again, I would work harder in the first and second years, as it was only in my third year that I really started to achieve top grades. I would say try to stay fit and healthy, but I didn't always follow my own advice. Take advantage of the hills in Bristol - they’re good for getting in some fitness on the way to your classes!

Further information

Read more about Sebastian and his mayoral role in the Gloucester Citizen’s online article.