Featured Image: some of Nottingham’s local businesses who with the Nottingham universities, went to Parliament on October 28th 2016
14th-21st November 2022 was Parliament Week: in the coming year, the next 365 days, how can we understand ourselves as individuals in groups, neighbourhoods and communities better so we can achieve the creativities, productivities, social mobilities we want, need, aspire to?
Six years ago Nottingham University and NTU, their staff, partners, collaborators, thought long and hard about the themes they wanted to take to London with some of our MPs to other MPs, Ministers, Lords/Ladies, civil servants, staff and the parliamentary community. Here’s the report on what it achieved.
Eeeh mi duk it were a reet good gathering and it were reet rejuvenating for’t hard working folk wot attended it. The problem was that we don’t have the local investigative media interested in following these brilliant ideas back to democracy, sharing it and learning from the sharing in the neighbourhoods and seeing things work there, not fail.
We don’t realise how rejuvenating that would be.
What we realise now after Covid, after Boris, After Liz and Kwame and now with Rishi Sunak is that parliament and house of lords should be first and foremost positioned as modern, representative institutions.
We really don’t want to see parliament as a place where barons manage supply chains in housing, education, health and then do charity. We need the local and the regions to humanise the global scale that numbs the culture and makes the infamous bullying culture in the Houses and elsewhere supposedly impossible to address.
We need a parliament and a House of Lords that reflects the UK neighbourhoods and inspires the people who work there to remember their smallness and be reciprocal in their thinking and work.
In the past twenty years both universities in Nottingham have worked across their campuses to create interdisciplinary synergy: to this parliamentary event, although it was headed by Nottm Uni the NTU business and local awareness was also represented, there were over a hundred partners and the mission brought themes, events, partners, collaborations on themes of Food, (where do we go from here) Energy Justice (do you see with Robin Hood Energy we were trying to be local), Sustainable Chemistry (and chemistry that can be integrated into all forms of production and manufacture), Global Connections (how the university is bringing new business opportunities through partnerships), Regional Economic Development, (let’s have a conversation about the region we want to achieve) Culture (how culture has enabled people to grow and develop) Philanthropy,(should we be thinking in a more innovative way about charity in terms of economic regeneration and jobs?) Widening Participation (in all schools, colleges, neighbourhoods, new syllabi, new exam structures) Employability, (great work with graduates here, not so good for the people who live in the neighbourhoods) Entrepreneurialism (we do this with great finesse across the age range and we need then to support businesses as NTU supported them with the Hive. During the pandemic NTU built the Dryden Enterprise Centre which has evolved a workspace and training resource for new businesses from inside and outside the university environment) as their themes.
Nottingham Goes To Parliament was a great idea (subtly based on the 1939 film Mr Smith Goes to Washington) but as many great ideas do it worked for the people who attended it but apart from a Nottingham Post pull out (which due to the low circulation of the Nottingham Post as a newspaper (about 15,000 in 2016) the value and momentum has been lost.
Everyone involved came together with this idea of ‘regional rebalancing’. Six years on, after many innovative research, development and business ideas from the regions and universities and high tech sectors were rebuffed by VIP supply chain preference from government we realise that we do need to make parliament see the universities, the granular detail of economic aspiration in the neighbourhoods is a massive capacity generator, stuck behind prejudice, silos and fear or representation and accountability.
I’m studying Citizenship: I want to help the people who work as parish councillors, local councillors and MPs to know more about the communities around them. I want the communities around the political structures to feel that when they need to speak up/speak out they have someone on their side. Like most people I want to live in a modern and modernising Britain with a democracy that keeps on representing more people, more of the time.
To regenerate the economy we need to understand who in a neighbourhood feels that they’re a citizen but also that the citizenship we need now starts as a conversation with people in the neighbourhoods to write their stories, communicate to them that they have parish councillors, local councillors, MPs who are interested in them want to help them with all of their hopes, dreams, aspirations, problems and solutions.
We need to embrace the people who live in rented accommodation and social housing as a disenfranchised working class that for years has been without allies but has been discredited, exploited and harmed: instead of creative people with high aspirations, working class people of all ethnicities have been dis-served and underserved from health, education and social services and then victimised as if it was within their gift to make the service right.
We need to help the people who work in parliament to change its culture: it should be modern, bright, diverse: full of interest and drive. It should reflect the culture, history, work, people in the neighbourhoods of the UK, not the history of slavery, oppression and privilege. We need to see the dynamic capacity and potential of the great grandchildren of the people who fought as much for their own neighbourhoods and communities in the twentieth century wars as they fought against the genocide of Hitler. We need to remember that this horror has never been properly acknowledged or its aftermath addressed.
Above: How protest is becoming democratic accountability: people who could be described as grandchildren and great grandchildren of people who fought in the second world war on a cost of living march June 2022.
We need to respect the past live in the present and create a future full of purpose because it’s our country, not a company. A country needs a representative democracy and ours needs our help: all the parts of it need to be reconnected by us and to us.
It’s valuable work.