Leeds puts Britain on trial

24 October 2011

The young people of Leeds will have a unique opportunity later this month to come together and discuss institutional racism and other social issues facing Britain today. The event coincides with the start of a retrial of two men charged with the murder of black student Stephen Lawrence. Stephen’s death on a South London street 18 years ago prompted a major debate about racism in this country.

After what happened across the country’s streets this summer, we need to know: Have we moved on? Where are we now?” said Jane Trowell, coordinator of Shake!, one of the organisations behind the event.

'Britain on Trial: Young Voices Speak Out' will provide an opportunity to discuss the challenges young people face to make sure their voices are heard and to develop creative ideas for change. This one-day event is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science and is also open to members of the public concerned about these issues.

'Britain on Trial' will connect young people with leading writers, artists, academics and activists. The day starts with a discussion led by young people on racism and other social problems. In the afternoon, participants will make and share their own creative responses to the issues they have explored, using performance-poetry, art and drama, later coming together to share the work and draw their conclusions. The evening ends with film screenings of two powerful documentaries on the anti-racist struggle in Britain, 'Blood ah go run' and 'Step Forward Youth'.

"Our event in Leeds is a rare chance for the public to hear academics, activists and young people speaking together," said Ms Trowell. "We are excited by the prospect of young people putting forward their views and insights to the public, through presentations, poetry and performance. So we welcome people to come and get involved."

Simon Murray, communications director at Leeds Young Authors, an organisation involved in the event, said: "The artists and academics will work with participants to help them share their perspectives. We want to help young people make their views heard and their feelings known in creative and constructive ways," he said. "We need more opportunities like this for young people to work together and make a contribution to social change. Youths will be speaking out on injustice at a time when they may feel that the government and wider society can be quick to condemn and make pronouncements on young people, but rarely listen to their concerns."

Esther Stanford-Xosei, Co-Vice Chair of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe, will chair the event. "'Britain on Trial' will provide a unique opportunity to creatively re-examine the prevalence of racism and other serious violations of human rights in Britain," she said. "It will make timely proposals for what we as a society, seeking to be the change we wish to see, must collectively do to remedy these ills."

For further information contact

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Notes for editors:

  1. Britain on Trial, Young Voices Speak Out
    Organiser: Jane Trowell, Shake! Coordinator
    Date: Saturday 29 October 2011 11.30- 19.00
    Venue: The Carriageworks, 3 Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire
    Audience: Suitable for the general public but advance booking is strongly recommended
    To reserve a place, please email platformshake@gmail.com
  2. For more information: visit Britain on Trial: Young Voices Speak Out
  3. The event will include contributions from Leeds Young Authors; Shake! Young Voices in Arts, Media, Race & Power; Leeds Black Film Club; Dr Stuart Hodkinson from the University of Leeds; and Dr Carl Hylton, from the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project. Further information please visit the following websites: http://britainontrial.wordpress.com/about,        www.leedsyoungauthors.org.uk, www.geog.leeds.ac.uk/study/masters/courses, www.parcoe.com
  4. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council which runs from 29 October to 5 November 2011. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year’s Festival of Social Science has over 130 creative and exciting events aimed at encouraging businesses, charities, government agencies; and schools or college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival.
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk