What is the role of Parliament, and in what way is it relevant to us? The answers are quite obvious if you vote regularly, read up on current affairs and, generally speaking, have an interest in politics. But the truth of the matter is that not everyone would own up to all three of those requirements. Parliament, and the 650 MPs that come with it, play a pivotal role in the running of this country and, therefore, in our lives. But how do we want the politicians to run this power house, how involved should we, the people, be - and is there anything we can do to make our voice heard? You can vote of course, and you should, but you can also tag along to this debate - organised by four Goldsmith University students - at the Deptford Town Hall this Wednesday.
The MA in Arts & Politics is a fairly new degree at the south east London university, and it allows - as this event shows - the students to get together in a cross-disciplinary way to discuss, write, argue, create and explore any subject that falls within the two interlinked areas. So ahead of the group's graduate exhibition this June at White Hall's Porticullis House, the students are using this debate to collect information, ideas and opinions on how this country is run today, and what a future Parliament should look and sound like... Get involved!
Dazed Digital: Who are you, the organisers?
Fabio Altamura: We are four students from the MA Art & Politics at Goldsmiths College, University of London, working on a project for Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament.
DD: What are you hoping to accomplish?
Fabio Altamura: We have been given the opportunity to work with the Curator's Office at the Palace of Westminster and would like to use this chance to debate Parliament within the broadest sense of its accessibility as a public institution, a seat for the Government, a set of legislation, a building, etc. We want to debate and question its outreach by involving individuals and groups from a variety of backgrounds to contribute with ideas and opinions on how to engage and access Parliament and politics.
DD: Who are you inviting, what's your demographic?
Fabio Altamura: Anyone from activists, independent MPs (wannabes included), think tanks but also students and the average citizen that engages with politics on a day to day basis (even simply by voting) and that would like to be involved in Parliamentary debates and either have already attempted to do so or would like to but haven't had the chance so far.We are inviting them to an open debate at Deptford Town Hall on April 13, 2011, 5-7pm along with representatives of Parliamentary Outreach, to start a conversation that will inform an exhibition at Portcullis House.
DD: What's 'Parliamentary Outreach'?
Fabio Altamura: Parliamentary Outreach "spreads awareness of the work, processes and relevance of the institution of Parliament, encouraging greater engagement between the public and the House of Commons and House of Lords". In practice we would like them to engage in an informal debate and answer question by taking their representatives outside of their usual working environment. Deptford Town Hall provides an historic council chamber that -albeit smaller- mimics the setting and traditions of debating rooms such as Parliament's own. Its function has now changed and has become part of Goldsmiths College, so our debate, as well as the project as a whole, would like to reflect this 'openness' towards debate.
DD: An MA degree in Arts & Politics? How does that work?
Fabio Altamura: The MA in Art & Politics started last year at Goldsmiths College. Along with theory on the relation between art and politics, students engage on a practical level with group projects. Apart from ours, other groups are involved with a variety of institutions including a museum, a synagogue and even the London Eye.
DD: Tell me about the exhibition in Portcullis House in June... what's the score?
Fabio Altamura: The exhibition at Portcullis House, titled 'Granted Access', runs from June 13 to July 1. Because of the nature of the building as integral part of the Houses of Parliament, access is available to whoever attends committee meetings (which are open to the public), MPs and members of staff. We would like to implement this audience by collecting opinions, ideas and comments for the exhibition from all the people that we will involve, to bring inside parliament voices from the outside. We do not have an agenda apart from that of 'access' so anyone coming to the debate will be free to set his/her own. The exhibition will be the culmination of the project and will also include tours targeted at specific audiences.
A Debate With Parliamentary Outrech, Wednesday April 13, 2011, 5-7pm, Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall (Goldsmiths College), New Cross Road, London SE14 6NW, click HERE for more information and HERE for travel directions