Not Westminster

UKGovCamp is sponsoring Notwestminster 2018

Below is the text of a successful grant application.

Description of the proposed Event: Notwestminster is two days of workshops, conversations, quick-fire talks, practical collaboration and inspiration in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. It’s a free event for everyone who has something positive to say about local democracy and anyone who is up for the challenge of making it better. Our aim is to create a stronger local democracy, and we think that everyone needs to be part of the generation that makes it happen.

Local government officers, digital makers, open data champions, activists, councillors, academics, democratic organisations and young people all participate in Notwestminster. It’s this mix of people, all with enthusiasm for finding practical ways to improve our local democracy, that makes it a unique, productive and inspiring event.

Notwestminster 2018 will be at the Media Centre in Huddersfield on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th February 2018. We’re holding a Democracy Maker Day, to encourage our participants to collaborate more, plus a PechaKucha Night and Curry on the Friday. Our main event is on the Saturday. We are also working with partners on ideas for some fringe events.

You can find out more at:

How much they want: £500

What they would use the funding for: We first need to cover our basic costs, such as food and refreshments for 80 participants on the Saturday, and for up to 50 participants on the Friday. We would then like to be able to support one or more fringe activities, particularly to support more of our young citizens in participating. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (#vote100), so we’d like to do something to mark that. We’d also like to be able to cover the travel costs of community participants if needed.

About them: [Diane Sims is] a community activist, digital practitioner and local democracy advocate. For me, local democracy is about being able to get things done where you live, having a voice, and being connected to decision-making processes. It’s also about growing personal relationships. I believe that good things can happen when people are open to working together. Notwestminster is about connecting the people who care about our local democracy and who want to make it stronger.

Although I co-ordinate Notwestminster as a volunteer, it is closely linked with my professional work. My role at Kirklees Council includes supporting our Democracy Service to work with citizens and partners, with a particular focus on digital engagement. For the past year I’ve been working with the Kirklees Democracy Commission to explore what a strong and healthy local democracy should look like – for the next generation and beyond. We’ve heard from citizens, councillors, community organisations, expert witnesses, academics, council officers and others. I’ve been able to hear people’s direct experiences and frustrations about local democracy, ideas about what approaches are already working elsewhere, and people’s aspirations for the future.

I’m the co-author of the “Growing a stronger local democracy” report, through which we’ve shared these findings and made recommendations for the future. In May, our Full Council had an inspiring and considered debate about the future of our local democracy in Kirklees, in which members of all political parties actively participated. We all saw how bringing some of our young citizens into that debate changed the tone of the council chamber, much for the better. Following the Votes At 16 debate in parliament yesterday, I cannot help but wonder whether the members of Oldham Youth Council (who were watching from the gallery in the House of Commons) came away feeling that their voices had been heard.

This week I visited Jacob Stelling, one of our Kirklees youth councillors, in school and watched him stand up and talk about democracy to 1,000 of his fellow students. At Notwestminster this year, our participants were blown away by an incredibly powerful talk from another of our youth councillors, 15 year old Emily Warrillow, who spoke with raw emotion about her friendship with Jo Cox MP. I have the great honour to work with some amazing young citizens, and Notwestminster is part of my personal commitment to giving everyone the kind of local democracy that we want and deserve.