On the 3rd of May at Trent Vineyard, representations from diverse communities within Nottingham gathered to hold those in positions of power to account.
“Tonight is not a husting or debate. For once we’re not here as individuals”
The event was split into sections focusing on the issues of Health and Social Care, Diversity and Sanctuary, and finally Safety and Sexual Harassment with the Police and Crime Commissioner Candidates.
In their words, “Tonight is not a husting or debate. For once we’re not here as individuals. We’re here as members of our diverse communities having worked together to develop a shared platform where, together, we are powerful enough to talk to decision makers in an organised way”.
Tweeting on the hashtag #Nottinghamaccountable, the event started with an introduction outlining the agenda.
Four representatives from cultural groups pledged their commitment to the assembly, including: Bishop Patrick McKinney representing the Roman Catholic Church, Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovic from Nottingham Liberal Synagogue, Dr Musharaf Hussain of the Karimia Institute, and representing the Trade Union Unison, Barbara McKenna.
It was “people of goodwill working together for common good of the citizens of Nottingham,” according to the Bishop.
The church was packed to the rafters with approximately seventy students from the University of Nottingham in attendance.
The event followed the format that the assembly would present ‘asks’, (requests on the basis of grievances), to the decision makers, then they would have a chance to respond to the ‘asks’ before a period of clarification in regards to their responses.
The decision makers had been given all of the ‘asks’ in advance in order to ensure a considered response.
Mental Health, Social Care, and Loneliness
Each section of the event began with personal accounts of the issues around each theme, beginning with Mental Health, Social Care and Loneliness as representatives from the Care and Loneliness team presented personal testimonies.
It then moved on to the assembly posing their ‘asks’ to decision makers from Nottingham’s Clinical Commissioning Group, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, Nottinghamshire Healthcare (the Mental Health Trust), and Cllr Alex Norris as the chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board.
The ‘asks’ were themed around a greater transparency around who to contact regarding concerns about mental health, and a general frustration at ineffective services and therefore, better training for those involved in delivering mental health services.
The result was resoundingly positive with commitments from all of the groups in answer to the challenges posed by the groups.
“When we come together and act, we can bring about real change”
Diversity and Sanctuary
The event then moved on to tackle the issue of diversity and sanctuary, in particular scrutinising the treatment and inclusion of BME individuals within society and work, and the arrival of refugees into Nottingham and the treatment of those seeking sanctuary.
Again the section began with personal experiences of discrimination and institutional racism, and seeking sanctuary, introducing the audience to the complex issues about to be discussed.
The Assembly was proposing an Independent Commission into Sanctuary and asking the decision makers to pledge support, namely Cllr Richard Jackson, leader of Broxtowe Council, and Cllr Nicola Heaton, portfolio holder in Nottingham City Council.
While Cllr Jackson seemed happy to commit to most, if not all, of the assembly’s ‘asks’, Cllr Heaton was more tentative and less willing to fully commit to some of the more ‘ambitious’ ‘asks’, for example raising the BME representation on city councils.
Safety and the PCC candidates
Finally, the assembly moved on to challenge the candidates for the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections in regards to BME representation within the police and tackling misogyny and sexual harassment.
Sarah Pickup, UON Welfare officer, along with UON Feminists, presented personal experiences of sexual harassment from female students at the beginning of the section.
She stated, “This is a real issue and we need to take action now.”
The candidates were presented with a range of ten ‘asks’ including safeguarding the mental health triage scheme, improving BME representation from 4% to 11%, and budgeting to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment.
Nearly all of the candidates were happy to commitment to many of the assembly’s asks.
“There were really substantive political wins here, which students and citizens of Nottingham should be proud of”
The event concluded with a few words from the one of the organisers who stated that they were happy that the assembly had fulfilled its purpose to hold decision makers to account and reminding the audience of the importance of casting their vote in the upcoming elections.
“When we come together and act, we can bring about real change.”
Impact caught up with Sam Peake, UON Community Officer, following the event.
How do you think the assembly went?
“Delighted with how the assembly went. The room was packed to the rafters with people. In terms of the substantive political business of the assembly we achieved a public commitment from the conservative and labour candidates for Police Crime Commissioner to more than treble the BME representation in the police and more accurately represent the demographics of the county as a whole.
We got really meaningful commitments on our public campaign to tackle street and sexual harassment in a really positive way which affects the lives negatively of many women in the city. So there were really substantive political wins here, which students and citizens of Nottingham should be proud of.”
Do you think the assembly ran more smoothly this year with SU more involved and having media groups within the SU involved?
“Absolutely. We are very grateful for the support of the student news media, including Impact. I have to pay particular tribute to the feminist society. Natasha gave a really moving testimony earlier on in the evening. They really did provide a very strong and clear lead on some of the asks, particularly in relation to sexual harassment. So I would pay particular tribute to them and indeed, all the student groups who have supported us with our work with Nottingham Citizens this year.”