THE BLOG

Experimenting With Democracy: The Big Democracy Project

30/09/2014 13:27 BST | Updated 29/11/2014 10:59 GMT

With the recent Scottish Independence Referendum, Britain has been shaken. What once was considered complacent is now up for question. This makes clear that the United Kingdom is an unhappy one, disunited - some of us have known it for some time. As one of the most unequal countries in Western Europe, we should be constantly questioning what our political system can do for us to make the UK more OK. By everyone.

Surely this begs the question, why not electoral change?

In Germany, polls are open for a week at election time; in Denmark the Pirate Party decides on their policies online; in Wales, we're trying something different. National Theatre Wales [NTW] are developing a new, three-year programme of work called The Big Democracy Project which will explore how art and creativity can play a part in helping communities across Wales re-engage with the democratic process.

This isn't city-centric nor is it Westminster-nepotism, every assembly we hold will be voted for by the public. Our voting periods are long and with each assembly, we'll be tweaking the process from feedback - imagine a start-up democratic process. That's us. We're testing, growing, and tweaking.

We want to combat apathy; to ask big questions about our democracy; to help Wales imagine the future it wants; to make a real change to the lives of people in Wales and beyond; and to instigate action through art.

NTW has been hosting Assemblies - debate and performance events, often proposed and always led by local communities, and voted for by the public - in locations across Wales since it was launched in 2009.

For the first year of the The Big Democracy Project, we're working in north, south, mid, and west Wales, hosting Assemblies as before, but focusing on how we can create the Wales we want, and examine local political issues with a national or even global relevance.

Voting for each assembly can be done online or by text - if we had finances enough, we'd advertise on billboards and TV so everyone in Wales could vote on each.

Our first run has been in North Wales: three proposals were put to the vote and The Poetry Party proposal put forward by Martin Daws, the Young Persons' Poet Laureate for Wales, won.

Now we're preparing for the event and the livestream on October 4th from 7p.m.. The event itself will take place in Penrhyn Hall, Bangor and we'll be getting local people to voice their opinions, their suggestions for changes to the democratic system, and what they'd like to see happen to build the Wales they want. The livestream will be at http://bit.ly/BigDemocracyBangor. We want to inspire grass-roots movements, yes, and we want to connect them to others, worldwide.

The company's artistic director John McGrath said: "NTW has made its involvement with local issues a key part of our work since day one and this project allows us to build on this in a really exciting way. I hope that this will be the beginning of an invigorating conversation about how decisions get made today - and how we can all play our part."

Each Assembly will include performances by local artists and debates among the audience on political issues, as proposed by the community. Crucially, the emphasis will be on action - what can each of the four communities do to move us closer to the Wales we want?

Are we asking for radical change to the constitution of the UK? No - we're asking for a truer democracy, one where everyone gets and feels involved in the creation of their community. By returning the power to change things to those that need it most, this could well be seen as a great change so the question becomes 'Are we asking for radical change?' Yes - we're asking for a truer democracy.