First Parliamentary sitting in Oxford for more than 300 years as young people “find their voice”

A number of young people have already taken the opportunity to have their say and participate in a series of events including a trip to the Houses of Parliament, London on November 12. They will also be present for an historic sitting of Parliament at the Divinity School, Bodleian Library on November 19 and decorate a Christmas Tree with wishes and ideas for change at Oxford’s Central Library on November 20 in celebration of Parliament Week.

Find Your Voice is the key activity at the county council for commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and 750 years since the birth of Parliament, and is a collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council Library Service, the Houses of Parliament and arts and cultural organisations. The project is funded by an Arts Council England ‘Grant for the Arts’ in partnership with the Houses of Parliament and Magna Carta Trust.

Parliament visit Thursday 12 November

Sixty five young people took their views to the heart of government on 12th November as they were given special permission to present public 'soapbox speeches' in Westminster Hall in the presence of Andrew Smith M.P. and a crowd of onlookers.

More than 15 speeches covered issues ranging from the problem of available and affordable transport for young people in rural areas, the tax on tampons, cuts to youth services such as Pegasus Theatre and the right to vote at sixteen.

The pupils from King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage, Lord Williams’ School, Thame, Oxford Spires Academy and a group from Pegasus Theatre, visited the Houses of Parliament in London and enjoyed a unique insight into how Parliament works.

Andrew Smith answered a number of challenging questions from the youth groups and offered to follow up with another session to hear more of their concerns.

Project Manager Jacqui Ibbotson said: "Members of the public and civil servants observing were impressed by the role Oxfordshire Library Service had taken in encouraging young people to find their voices where their views were going to be heard and acted upon."

Parliament Sitting, Divinity School on Thursday November 19

Young people will participate in an historic occasion for the City of Oxford as Parliament meets in Oxford for the first time in more than 300 years.

The Bodleian Libraries and the Department of Politics and International Relations will host the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee, chaired by local MP Nicola Blackwood. Young people participating in the Find Your Voice project will attend alongside up to 80 sixth formers from secondary schools across the county.  Members attending are Chair and local MP Nicola Blackwood (Conservative), Chris Green (Conservative), Carol Monaghan (Scottish National Party) Valerie Vaz (Labour), Dr Tania Mathias (Conservative), Derek Thomas (Conservative).

Christmas Tree of Wishes switch-on, Central Library Oxford 20 November

Young people from Oxfordshire will decorate a Christmas Tree of Wishes at Oxford Central Library with Speech Baubles containing their wishes and ideas for change in celebration of Parliament Week. Cllr Lindsay-Gale will be switching on the lights on the Christmas Tree.

Oxfordshire County Council’s library service continues to host Find Your Voice workshops with young people from schools and community groups in libraries across the county until early 2016.

Sessions include sound recording with Oxford Contemporary Music working with youth groups such as Base 33 in Witney, and a Pegasus Theatre ten week performance project based at Oxford Central Library. 

Lord Williams’ School is one of the biggest Sixth Forms in the country for A Level Politics and students are making a film with local film company InsightShare. 
Oxford Spires students, many of whom are recently arrived asylum seekers, are working with nationally acclaimed writer Kate Clanchy on a bespoke poetry/creative writing project around the theme of ‘Me, My Place, My Identity’ to create an anthology publication. Some have entered and won national poetry competitions.

Cllr Lorraine Lindsay Gale, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Cultural and Community Services, said, ‘The first sitting of a parliamentary committee in Oxford in more than 300 years is very significant.

"I am delighted that our library service has been so instrumental in setting this up. It will encourage young people to understand how parliament and democracy works – a primary focus of the Find Your Voice project. We have been working with over 400 young people in libraries across Oxfordshire during 2015 and this is the high point. It has been incredibly valuable and enjoyable.”