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A Magazine for Sheffield

Festival of Debate: Join the discussion

Solutions for change rarely appear out of thin air, in vacuum, and it’s almost certain that they don’t achieve consensus unless widely discussed and debated. Responsibility for changing our world into a place where social justice, happiness, equality and wellbeing are commonplace is a task that we, the people, must take on. Look at the world around you and don’t let yourself stagnate, or succumb to a narrative of blame or apathy at the sheer magnitude of hurdles, but instead, embrace the problems for what they are – an opportunity to make a difference. The Sheffield Festival of Debate will take place in the run-up to the next general election on 7 May, consisting of a series of panel discussions, debates, Q&As, artistic responses and keynote speaker events across a two-month period between the beginning of March and the end of April. The aim is to create a meaningful dialogue around key social, political and economic issues, which we hope to record and host online for all to access. The vast majority of the events will be free entry. The festival is curated by Opus Independents and Now Then with the support of many third sector organisations, community groups, traders and universities. The list is too long to name them all here, but you know who you are. In 2014, members of Opus recognised not only the need for people at a grassroots level to discuss the social issues and solutions of the day, but also that this was something that Opus, as a small social enterprise with good access to distributing creative information and networks in the city, had the resources to deliver. We make no claim to be representative of all the issues. We make no claim that this is a one-stop solutions shop and that all will be well after 7 May. We are just providing the opportunity for groups, organisations and individuals to get together over a range of issues and discuss them. Hopefully together we will all realise that the fundamental question is not finding a solution, but picking a series of already available options and deciding collectively how best to implement them for the benefit of all. Our society is facing a host of issues which require informed decision making and strategic planning. If this is to be done in a way that is democratic and for the good of the majority then these issues need to be publically debated and an informed consensus reached. At the root of most issues we face today lie problems of access - access to information, access to resources and, in a wider sense, access to individual agency itself. Future generations will question the decisions we have made on a variety of topics, from the environmental to the economic. The Festival of Debate, with its outcomes and processes recorded and posted online, will act like a message in a bottle, letting our children know we were at least aware of the problems facing us and their potential impact on the future. In a more immediate sense, the last five years have been notable in the social conflicts raised, from the Occupy movement through to austerity measures and all that lies between. On 7 May we will hold a general election, giving people the chance to vote in favour of not just the character of party leaders, but also their suggested solutions for long-term change. Join the discussion. The Festival of Debate Needs You This festival will be run on a shoestring budget. We do not have access to large amounts of funding or a wide range of other useful resources. If you are interested in enabling these discussions and debates to take place, volunteer your time with us. Volunteers will have access to event management, marketing and journalism workshops conducted through February. But most importantly, volunteers will have the satisfaction of knowing that through their hard work, potentially thousands of people have access to new information, creative discussion and individual agency. If you would like to help out with the Festival of Debate, please contact us at )

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