As part of a wider webcasting project, I had the pleasure of ensuring that a recorded webcast was produced for the Youth Council activities during Local Democracy Week 2010. It didn’t go out live, but there is intention to use some, if not all of the footage, for promoting democracy across the schools of Kirklees. But this isn’t about the webcasting, it’s about a feeling of privilege, being somewhere so full of vibrant energy that it could make the most hardened of youth critics reconsider how they think about the ‘youth of today’.
Held in the magnificent modernity that is our Council Chamber, the webcast was for a one hour Q&A session for young people to ask questions of a cross party panel of Ward Councillors (Cllr Christine Smith, Conservative; Cllr Cath Harris, Labour; Cllr Andrew Cooper, Green) and youth councillors, to be followed by results of the Youth Council election.
Topics and questions for discussion were all set earlier via workshops facilitated by University of Huddersfield students, the whole operation being overseen by Kirklees Council’s ‘Involving Young Citizens Equally’ team (IYCE), with the councils Electoral Services supporting the election itself.
The topics were broad: Travel costs and transport for young people; Personal safety for young people; ‘Things to do’ for young people; Political education in school; Health services for young people. All of the subjects were met head on with searching questions posed by the young audience. I can also proudly say that responses made by the ward councillors were done so with respectful seriousness and not a flicker or sign of patronising tone; clearly indicative of the value they themselves place on the opinions of young people and their part in our demoratic society.
The most impressive part of the whole event though, for me at least, was the fact that it wasn’t just about the young people in that room; it was also about those who had participated in the voting itself. Of the 22,000 young people across Kirklees eligible to vote, over 17,000 did! That’s a massive 77% turn out, a turn out that I think is pretty fantastic.
Democracy is clearly alive and well, and living in Kirklees.