Kirklees Liberal Youth is a recently established group with the central objective of increasing political engagement within the council area but with an initial focus on bringing liberal politics to the University of Huddersfield. With this in mind, the inaugural event was a “Student Question Time”, a debate following the format of the long running panel show. The event was to be hosted in conjunction with the university’s Politics Society.
The panel included four students from across the left-right spectrum, a representative from the Huddersfield Students Union and the editor of T’Hud the student newspaper. The organisers were careful to allow the widest range of views possible to be aired. When it came to the questions, we wanted to focus on student issues but steering away from the never-ending tuition fees debate. Students submitted a number of questions prior to the event at a stall held in advance. Three questions from the stall were chosen by other students to be answered by the panel. Each participant was given a number of days to conduct research – as we thought that this would facilitate a better quality debate.
The date was set, the room was booked and the invites sent – Monday came and 2 of the panel members pulled out of the event. With 4 hours to go, the organisers hurried around the university frantically trying to find a replacement for the event. The Huddersfield Students Union kindly put forward another of the elected officers and again, the show could go on. Preparation is key to an event of any scale and as such we now realise our fault in not ensuring we had back-up candidates if things were to go wrong.
The event started, with a surprisingly sizeable audience. After all panel members had spoken on one of the three questions we opened the debate up to the audience and requested from them new questions. We felt that the audience participation was key to the success of a debate with this format. Given that the panel was pulled together largely from the student base, without audience interaction we feared that it would become “same old story, we have heard this before” scenario. Whilst we did have many questions from the audience, for future events we will aim to increase participation beyond this and try and include a broader base of students on the panel.
The debate was stimulating, the audience had the time to debate with the SU officer, and the panel members were allowed to react on one another’s points. The event was great success; the feedback that we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and constructive. We feel that in a lot of ways people are put off engaging in politics because the idea scares them. We feel that an event like this allows people with a slight or even no interest at all, to engage with their civic impulses without feeling pressured.
The Kirklees LY Group will be holding more events over the next two months. Please check this site soon for more details. Thanks.