Who runs this place?

The vision of a Youth Council for the Winchester district is set to become a reality after a hugely successful youth democracy event took place yesterday (Monday 8 October).

More than 80 young people from Westgate, Swanmore, Perins and King’s secondary schools tried their hand at ‘political speed dating’ among other things in the day of activities organised by Winchester City Council, working in partnership with Hampshire County Council Children’s Services (Youth Service) and students from King’s School.

The purpose of the day was to kick-start the development of a Community Youth Council for the Winchester District by enthusing and educating the students about local democracy.

The day was built around performance and interactive workshop-based events, and was designed to engage and entertain while being informative. Activities included watching a lively performance of ‘Who Runs This Place?’ by Solent People’s Theatre, and then, using an electronic voting system, taking on the role of councillors. The students also made use of a Big Brother-style Diary Room and went political speed dating with more than 30 local councillors and senior decision makers - mostly from the City Council but with representatives from Hampshire County Council and parish councils.

Leader of Winchester City Council George Beckett, who opened the day’s events, was delighted by its success.

He said: “This event has given us the opportunity to hear directly from young people and to explore the importance of local democracy together. It has helped them understand more about local democracy and Council services and, more importantly, aided councillors in understanding what matters to young people.

“It is often said that young people are not interested in politics and local democratic processes, but it is clear from today that they most definitely are. I have met a lot of bright and enthusiastic young people with some good ideas about what changes they would like to see locally. I hope we’ve inspired some of them to take it to the next level and put their names forward for our Community Youth Council.”

The schools will now begin the election process and it is hoped that the first inter-school council meeting will take place within the next few months. Mayor of Winchester Cllr Chris Pines has offered to host the first meeting in his official residence Abbey House.

‘Who Runs This Place?’ was held at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton and was partly funded by a £4,900 grant from the Youth opportunity Fund. The successful bid was made by four Year 10 and 11 King’s students.