Young people, politics and power on the agenda at upcoming debate

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Tuesday 09 June 2015

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A discussion about how young people’s creativity, conviction and commitment to change can improve the way politics and society work in the UK is set to take place in Coventry.

Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), in association with youth democracy movement Bite the Ballot and the One Young World forum for young leaders, is hosting the debate at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry from 4.30pm on Wednesday 10 June. The debate is open to the public and is free to attend.

Entitled, ‘Election 2015: How was it for you?’ the event forms part of Coventry’s Positive Images Festival and is the latest in CTPSR’s The Big Question lecture series, which provide a public platform for discussing the economic, political and social challenges facing contemporary British society. 

The forthcoming debate at the Herbert comes in the wake of research undertaken by academics at the university about young people’s engagement with politics and is intended to contrast the stereotypical view of Britain’s youth as disillusioned and apathetic towards politics and power. 

Since the general election, academics from the university have been working with young people across the city to explore their engagement with politics in Britain today. Contrary to popular opinion, many of those surveyed said that they were interested in how the country was being governed but expressed concerns about being marginalised and excluded from mainstream political discourse.  

The views gathered by the university’s researchers will form the basis for the upcoming discussion to be chaired by author, political commentator and special advisor on youth policy Kenny Imafidon. Panel members on the day include Curtis Blanc, an ex-prisoner turned entrepreneur; human rights activist Rose Neelam; Sawsan Bastawy, a community organiser for youth democracy; and Nathan Coyle, leader of a young persons’ civic engagement organisation. 

Professor Heaven Crawley from Coventry University, convener of The Big Question lecture series, said:

Politicians and public figures often claim that young people are disaffected, disengaged and not interested in politics. We know from our research with young people in the UK and around the world that that is simply not the case. 

Young people are passionate about a huge range of issues but they tend to express themselves in different ways, often outside the realm of traditional party politics. This forthcoming Big Question event provides a prominent public platform for their views on politics and I for one can’t want to hear what they have to say!

Sawsan Bastawy, from the event’s co-hosts Bite the Ballot said:

Young people aren't represented adequately in positions of power; however they are at the heart of grassroots change and at the forefront of politics when it involves protests, petitions and expressions through writing, art, music and using social media platforms. They are often removed from traditional sources of power, which has to change to improve how democracy works in Britain today.

‘Election 2015: How was it for you?’ takes place at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry from 4.30pm on Wednesday 10 June. The event is free to attend but places must be booked in advance. 

Further information about this event and others in The Big Question seminar series, including how to register, is available online or by contacting Julia Baron, Events Co-ordinator on +44 (0)24 7765 8236 or via email

The event will be followed by a drinks reception where there will be an opportunity to speak informally with the panellists and others attending the event. 

The Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations brings together expertise from across the social sciences and humanities to drive progressive change and strengthen human security and resilience. More information at 

Bite the Ballot is a party-neutral movement on a mission to empower young voters. Their core values when engaging those furthest away from politics are to be unconventional, inclusive and bold. In the run-up to the 2015 general election over 500,000 people registered to vote with Bite the Ballot.  

One Young World is the preeminent global forum for young leaders aged 18-30 and gathers the brightest young leaders from around the world to debate, formulate and share innovative solutions for the pressing issues the world faces.

Kenny Imafidon (Chair) is a political commentator, special advisor on youth policy and author of a series of ‘Kenny Reports’ on issues such as, voter apathy, crime, education, young unemployment and youth engagement in politics. He is currently the chair of the social enterprise ‘Push Your Passion’, a trustee of the British Youth Council and is reporting for the Europe Commission on how to engage more young people in social action and political participation across Europe.

Curtis Blanc is the founder of Tisrespect Enterprise, a music production and artist management platform which seeks to shape the positive role models of tomorrow. He has interviewed Asher D, Terry Waite and the Foo Fighters, which is unusual because the interviews took place in Brixton Prison, where he was serving a two and a half year sentence. Curtis has now turned from former prisoner to entrepreneur and award-winning volunteer.

Rose Neelam is a global human rights activist and public speaker who has spoken at the United Nations, to the UK Parliament, and at numerous conferences for Muslim majority country nationals on issues of LGBT rights, forced marriage and feminism. Rose has also received the UPF House of Lords Youth Achievement for her commitment to Global Peace, been elected on the National Union of Students Black student campaign as Further Education Women’s representative and has served as a Prince’s Trust Ambassador.

Sawsan Bastawy is a Community Engagement Officer for Bite The Ballot, a Middle East Editor at Asfar, a volunteer with the British Chinese Project and an Ambassador for Wild Futures. She is currently producing a show, Beyond the Ballot: A People's History of Democracy' based on Howard Zinn's “The People Speak”.  

Nathan Coyle is the manager of Social Breakfast, a young persons’ civic engagement organisation that looks to give people a voice via social innovation and civic tech. Most recently Nathan led on a campaign called #BeatThePoll, a youth led project which looked to hold incoming MPs accountable through a range of creative projects such as podcasts.