This film addresses why free travel for under 18s in London is essential

Director Alex Donaldson’s poignant two-minute film, The World Is Your Oyster, is released in tandem with London Challenge Poverty Week, giving young people the chance to reclaim their voice.

The transport system is a vital artery that connects different households, livelihoods and experiences.”

That’s one of the lines from Alleycat’s latest film, The World is your Oyster: a poignant and compassionate response to the government’s call to scrap free travel in London for under 18s – an egregious and unfair decision that was made as part of the coronavirus TfL bailout in May, from which the hugely successful #DontZapTheZip hashtag and campaign was born.

This situation compelled Alex Donaldson (who produced the film) to chat with teenagers via Twitter during lockdown. How do they feel about this? How is it going to affect them? In turn, this back and forth caught the eye of Alice Woudhuysen, a campaigner in London for the Child Poverty Action Group. 

Why not create something visual that would give young people back their voices, at a time when it has so blatantly been taken away from them?

After all, they’ve had a hard time over the last few months. There was the free school meals thing, then the whole exam fiasco,” Donaldson says. I remember free travel being so important to me as a young person growing up in London, that fluidity of being able to get around.”

Under 18s have been able to travel for free in London since 2005. Taking that away now, when kids have missed out on so much school, on seeing their friends and families, when many parents have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, feels senseless and cruel.

It really seems to be adding insult to injury,” Woudhuysen says. In spite of what people think, London isn’t a wealthy city. It has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK: 700,000 (37 per cent) children in London are living in relative poverty. In a classroom, that’s 11 children out of 30. That is a really high number.” 

Alex Donaldson

Under 18s have been able to travel for free in London since 2005. Taking that away now, when kids have missed out on so much school, on seeing their friends and families, when many parents have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, feels senseless and cruel.

It really seems to be adding insult to injury,” Woudhuysen says. In spite of what people think, London isn’t a wealthy city. It has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK: 700,000 (37 per cent) children in London are living in relative poverty. In a classroom, that’s 11 children out of 30. That is a really high number.” 

In August, the government (kind of) buckled under the pressure applied by the #DontZapTheZip campaign. They pushed back the suspension of free travel for under 18s until after the October half-term, before pushing it back until the spring and granting exemptions which fall under strict criteria. 

For example, children get to keep free travel if they live more than two miles away from their school, if they have a social worker, if they’re attending a pupil referral unit or if they don’t have a safe walking route to school. Children on free school meals will not automatically be exempt from paying for travel though, which means poorer families will often have to end up paying more.

I worry that these delays are a tactic to try and force the campaign to lose momentum,” Donaldson explains. Young people’s voices need to be more recognised than they currently are. There’s a lot of dodgy legislation being swept under the carpet.”

The World is your Oyster allows the voices of Gen Z, the bare-all generation” to take up much needed space. Their testimony is moving and vital, as is the need for loud, proud campaigning and holding our government to account. 


Loading...
00:00 / 00:00