About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Festival of Debate.

Few people can have failed to notice the huge range of events that have been going on in the city during the 'Festival of Debate' . This series of events, organised by Now Then Magazine and Opus Independents, is a huge shot in the arm for political thought and activity in the city.

The reason I say this is quite simple, the majority of the events are organised not by politicians, political parties, or media companies but by those outside the 'bubble'. This may sound trite, but I mean it as a compliment to the power of the individuals and to the small groups of committed souls that think they can make a difference. The Festival of Debate is an outlet enabling them to make that difference.

Some of you will be aware that I am involved in a number of the events. My enthusiasm is about more than my own involvement, I've never needed to crow about my local activism, I do what I do to generate positive change, as I see it. I'm behind the festival because it's giving all those involved the confidence, contacts and experience to continue to be activists after the events are over and done.

With each event that I'm involved in I am trying to give people not just an interesting experience but a glimpse of how they can get involved in local activism. With the PechaKucha event, I wanted people to take away a sense that it's for each of us to decide where we draw that line in the sand beyond which we will not stand for 'it' any more. I tried to show that it's not about being like someone else but about finding your own passion, knowing what you want to change and understanding what you personally can do to effect that change.

The 'Devolution Debate' will, I hope, show how we can take debate to the powerful, particularly around election time, and that it is important to be aware and involved as early as possible to ensure that we get a result that works for the majority and not the usual lobby groups and influential shadows that politicians listen to. I want to make people aware that the knowledge and experience is out there and that we can all tap into it to learn more of the information behind the deliberations of 'decision makers'. Whether it's academics or local community activists, access to their knowledge and experience means we can all have a say, if we find the way that works for us.

My last event is more personal. I will be 'in conversation' with a friend, the writer, Laurence Peacock, in front of a public audience. This time I will be talking about me but mostly about what I do, why I do it and how I do it. I hope that, with this event, I can help others to find their own 'voice and influence'. It's an important part of what I do but that voice is something that we each have, in different ways, we just need to work out how it works for us.

That's why this series of events is so important, it is showing that one person, alone or in a group of like minded individuals, can make a difference. It could be argued that this sort of stuff is easier these days, with modern social media any one person can create their own soap box. That is true, organising and connecting anonymously is easier, but there is still the danger of being one voice shouting into the void. Connections other than clicking 'like' or 'retweet' are more essential than ever.

To hear someone speak passionately about their cause is always more powerful than reading the comparable words in print or on screen and that is why events on the scale of the Festival of Debate are needed, to connect us to each other in a human way. To listen, to talk, to debate. This is what democracy should be about.

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