A wondrous event took place in London town last night. A premiere like no other, vInspired's Swing The Vote set out to reveal what's remained a secret 'til now: exactly what will get the UK's 18-24 year olds to the ballot box next summer.
The event, hosted by Rick Edwards, a TV presenter and panellist on BBC3's Free Speech, happened in Shoreditch (where else?) and featured Secret Walls, the graffiti artists' return to London. All very cool, new style politics. Take note, House of Commons!
The film was created to try and set free the huge political power that's currently locked inside the 6.8 million 18-24 year olds in the UK. This demographic (I so wanna write, 'our' demographic right now, but sadly I fall out of the category by a year. Boo) is large enough to create a massive swing for one of the parties. By making a film that gets under-24s engaged in political issues and tells politicians what they're wanting from their government, the guys at vInspired hope to generate a bit of a revolution. Hear! Hear! (As they say in parliament.)
It's a catch 22 situation, younger people have got to be switched on to politics and ready to vote for politicians to take them seriously, but politicians have got to get their act together to generate young people's interest in politics. So who's going to give first? Looks like, with the help of this innovative campaign, the younger contingent will be the bigger person in this tussle. Bravo! (Getting into this lingo aren't I?)
It was fascinating to hear the ways in which 18-24 year olds are already so socially and politically active and really have their finger on the pulse when it comes to some of societies trickiest issues. In the film we saw young people complete the sentence; "I'd vote if..." and the answers were amazing: If more money went into women's sports, if the government abolished unpaid internships (agreed, my friend), if tuition fees were lowered (again, I hear ya), if affordable housing was generated and if the government represented more of society, including seeing more female faces sitting on those famous green leather benches. Bang on the money, I hope you'll agree?
The evening's host, Rick said this: "The stereotype that young people don't care about politics is old-fashioned and inaccurate. Young people are self-starters who aren't afraid to take action, rather than waiting for politicians to change things. Politicians need to engage with young people and shape policy based on their needs, with 6.8 million votes up for grabs and a large portion undecided on how they'll vote, the passions of young people should be brought to the forefront of policy."
The film was made by youth volunteering charity vInspired and featured young people from across the UK as well as the likes of Pixie Lott, TOWIE's Ferne McCann and Eastenders' Maddy Hill who all came together to spill the beans on what would get them voting. The premiere coincided with new research from the charity, revealing 52% of young people intend to vote next May, however 34% are still undecided as to who they'll vote for. So, as it says on the tin, they really could swing the vote!
The research revealed the top ten issues that matter most to young people and world-renowned street artists, Secret Walls, brought all ten to life last night. The two artists used the findings and live tweets from the event to create unique, urban representations of the thoughts and voices of the nation's youth. The pieces of art covered it all; from feminism to police brutality and transport costs, nothing was off limits. It was so great to see the different ways we can express issues usually reserved for formal discussion by people who, more often than not, remain unaffected by them (i.e. politicians who are already on the property ladder, whose degrees were paid for by the government, who didn't have to complete a string of unpaid internships... and who aren't (sorry to say this, ladies) female.
The event was packed with hundreds of young people from all over the country and with such a buzzing atmosphere it was no surprise that #SwingTheVote got trending on Twitter. What a phenomenal event to totally embrace and encourage the collective power of young people. Long may it continue!
Ultimately, the aim of the Swing The Vote nationwide campaign is to increase the youth turnout in May 2015. Great news is that the film will be taken to party leaders at political party conferences starting on 21st September. DC, NC and EM, get your notepads at the ready!