This week marks the beginning of UK Parliament Week, an annual festival that seeks to engage people, from different backgrounds and communities, with the UK Parliament and encourage them to get involved in politics.
The festival was first started in 2011 with a week-long programme of events and activities organised by the House of Commons and House of Lords in collaboration with organisations including charities, schools, museums and community groups. It was such a success that the organisers decided to continue the festival encouraging more people to become involved in our democracy and politics.
In 2017, UK Parliament Week reached more than 360,000 people, with over 4,500 events. This year’s UK Parliament Week festival is set to be the largest ever and will see more than 7,000 registered events with over 500,000 people taking part. Participating organisations include Scouts, Girlguiding, and the British Youth Council. There are a number of events taking part across the country with 1056 events planned for the South West of England.
For this year’s festival, there is also a particular focus on the centenary of the 1918 Representation of The People Act which gave woman the right to vote. Events have taken place in Parliament across the year to commemorate this important act where some women and all men were given the right to vote and which began a greater process of giving more people the right to vote. This is part of the Vote 100 campaign which has done some fantastic work over the year to really celebrate this historic milestone in our country’s history.
UK Parliament Week is an also a great way of engaging with younger people who often feel that they have little say in the events that transpire around them. Last week the UK Youth Parliament came to Parliament and debated a variety of issues from mental health, to knife crime. It was impressive to see so many young people passionately debate issues that really matter to them. On a personal level, these events bring back memories of the first time I spoke in public. I had just turned 16 and had been bounced into representing Praze Young Farmers in a speaking competition at Lostwithiel. I can remember wondering what I had let myself in for, but I had some excellent coaching from Beatrice Dyer of Camborne School and never looked back. Recently I took the opportunity to answer questions from students covering a number of topics such as school funding. They were challenging questions, but it was great to see young people engaging with these important issues and engaging with democracy.
Often at times, politics can be challenging, divisive and rather remote from our local communities. UK Parliament Week gives us that opportunity to reset these views and help restore the links between parliament and the people. It is important that people understand how vital their participation is in our democracy, whether that be voting at elections, becoming a councillor or an MP, campaigning on an important issue, or even writing to your MP. Contributions like these are valuable to our democracy and help deliver real change to our local communities. We all have a role in making a democracy successful and I want to congratulate all those who have organised events for this year’s festival and encourage as many people as possible to participate.
You can find more information about UK Parliament Week at: https://www.ukparliamentweek.org/