Making politics more relevant

David Edwards is a writer who lives in Sheffield and runs the Words Count agency in the city.
David Edwards is a writer who lives in Sheffield and runs the Words Count agency in the city.
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In the lead-up to the general election Sheffield will be hosting a Festival of Debate, with discussions, debates and arts events focusing on the social, political and economic issues which impact on people’s everyday lives.

Some 45 events are planned across Sheffield with contributions from Owen Jones, George Monbiot, David Blunkett and Shami Chakrabarti, plus a wide range of local organisations and individuals.

The festival is timely, not just in terms of the impending election, but also in terms of the changes observable in the wider political landscape.

Mainstream parties appear increasingly out of touch. Their membership is shrinking and many are turned off by a political debate based on the shrill repetition of policies resulting in a more unequal and fragmented society.

However, it would be wrong to conclude that people have lost all interest in politics. Last year’s debate on Scottish independence showed that people will get engaged with the political process if they are offered genuine, relevant choices.

In Greece and Spain there has been massive support for parties which have challenged the idea that the majority of people must suffer under austerity policies to address problems which were not of their making.

Life is complex and there are no easy answers, but it can only be positive if we can consider key issues for how we live today without being limited by the constraints of party political cliché.

The Festival of Debate, hosted by Now Then magazine and Opus Independents and supported by more than 20 organisations, is not designed with a set of solutions already in mind.

Instead the aim is to enable a range of groups, organisations and individuals to discuss a range of issues, looking at the available options and deciding together which choices are likely to help us move towards a fairer society which values our differences and where everyone can make a contribution.

To find out more about the festival or to volunteer visit