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Big Democracy project takes over Senedd for a day

The first workstation at the Big Democracy Project.

One stand at the Senedd focused on disability.

CAMPAIGNERS and performers took over the Senedd for a day in the latest stage of a project designed to encourage people to have more of a say in the future of Wales.

Saturday marked Phase Two of Big Democracy– a three-year project by National Theatre Wales.

Debates and performances explored voter apathy, asylum and identity, the disabled community and austerity, and education reform. Artists and political activists joined the public and politicians for discussions of the four themes.

The Big Democracy Project’s first phase (2014-15) involved four “Regional Assemblies” being held in north, south, mid and west Wales. These were organised by local communities, voted for by the public and discussed ways to create the Wales the public wants.

NTW Creative Associate Gavin Porter, who directs the Big Democracy Project, said: “We have achieved what we set out to achieve. We wanted to use art to instigate political conversation and ask the people of Wales what they would like to talk about.”

The company’s TEAM Panel member Sophie McKeand hosted the north Wales element. She said: “I’ve really enjoyed being part of this over the past two years.

“Over in Bangor our assembly focussed on voter apathy, before moving across Wales to discuss big themes and issues such as working with Oasis Asylum and Refugee Centre to discuss identity and working with disabled artists at Celf o Gwmpas.

“Working with artist Amanda Powell on the Fforwm Anabledd/Disability Forum was informative and, yes, a little depressing as we workshopped and discussed the question ‘Is austerity disproportionately affecting disabled people?’.”

Ms McKeand wrote a poem for the Senedd event: “It’s great to have opportunities to stretch the writing and explore new characters; I tend to write from my lefty-perspective so creating the right-wing politician Sarah Heathcote has been a interesting experience.”

One of the questions posed to visitors at the Senedd.

One question posed to visitors at the Senedd.

The event ended in the late evening with an interactive series of votes covering topics such as immigration and Welsh independence.

Disability campaigner Rosie Moriarty-Simmonds spent 10 hours at the workshops and performances on Saturday. She said: “The disability workstation showed how difficult the work capability assessment stage can be for disabled people. It can’t be as simple as a box-ticking exercise.”

This year Phase Three will see the theatre company collaborate with artists and communities as The People’s Think Tank to develop a major piece of work for 2017 on the big theme chosen at the Senedd event.

Follow the Big Democracy Project’s progress at #NTWDemocracy on Twitter, or find out more on the National Theatre Wales’ website.

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