Young People Speak Up in Parliament
Over the past months, I’ve watched a group of young people from Bridge Academy in Hackney go through a process of change. Working with poet Keith Jarrett and a team of volunteer writing mentors, they each drafted a speech on something they care about – something that makes them want to speak up. Their subjects were wide ranging: modern slavery in Libya, the gender pay-gap, renewable energy, housing. They crafted arguments and counterarguments, edited rigorously and worked their speeches into compelling performances. Last Tuesday, they delivered those speeches in parliament.
All this was part of Speak Up, a collaboration between the Ministry of Stories and Parliament’s Education Service, which introduces young people to speechwriting and gives them a platform from which to be heard. Over 100 students have now taken part, delivering their speeches to politicians and campaigners and building their confidence as writers and speakers. Hackney Citizen joined us on Tuesday to document the visit:
Listening to their speeches, I was moved by how many of them brought in personal stories – stories of video-game addiction, racism, a family member experiencing homelessness. These were speeches full of both research and story, anger and hope for a change. They were brave and heartfelt. Each of the young people rose to the occasion, including those who felt incredibly nervous and thought they might not make it.
The audience was visibly moved by the speeches. Amanda Stone, Coach and Consultant to Campaigners with Sheila McKechnie Foundation, spoke to the young people about her experience of becoming a campaigner and urged them to seek support and community to continue speaking out for what they believe in.
For me, the power of this programme is in the writing process – the journey from articulating an idea to speaking out in parliament – and in the impact of the speeches on the audience. That power was palpable in the room. There was a sense of growing confidence among the students as we experienced politics as something that – rightly – belongs to all of us.