Students to present their thoughts on the future inspired by Orwell

Author George Orwell
Author George Orwell.

‘To take a rational political decision one must have a picture of the future’ (George Orwell, 1944)

This Friday 80 sixth form students from across Hull will gather at the University to debate societal change and the future of technology, community, education and the climate, inspired by the legacy of the author of classic novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, George Orwell.

The Future Forum brings together local and national organisations across the arts and society to support young people to articulate their vision for society and give them a platform to share their ideas in creative ways with those who currently hold influence and power, including Emma Hardy MP and Bishop Alison White.

The day will kick off with four provocations on key areas of contemporary relevance, from experts based in the region and beyond. Hull based playwright and Director Maureen Lennon will discuss the future of ‘community’, focusing on the city of Hull. Lucy Hollis (Grow) will look at education, discussing her work as part of an educational movement transforming young people’s relationship with the food, the land and each other. Dr Darren McKie (University of Hull) will explore both the benefits and ethical dilemmas tied up in future technological developments, and Sarah Barfield Marks (from climate change charity Possible) will consider the challenges of empowering the public to understand the climate crisis. In response, students themselves will become advocates for change in these areas, working collaboratively to present and articulate their own experiences and visions for a better society within their own lifetimes.

Students will be supported to develop their writing and thinking on one of these topics by writers and creatives, including journalist Stephen Armstrong, Steve Arnott and Dave Okwesia from the Beats Bus Crew, writer S.K Perry and actor Michael Howcroft. They will produce outputs such as poetry on climate change and a drama piece on the meaning of community now.  Everyone who attends will also be encouraged to enter this year’s national Orwell Youth Prize writing competition, the theme of which is ‘The Future We Want’.

The Hull Future Forum is the result of a partnership between The Orwell Youth Prize, the Humber Outreach Programme and #thehullwewant and is supported by Rethinking Poverty, the Webb Legacy. At the heart of all organisations involved is the belief that young people deserve to be heard, to be given the tools to think critically, and to have agency to shape their own futures.

Emma Hardy MP said: “The Hull Future Forum stands as the foundation for our young people to stand upon, so they can look to tackle these future challenges and to seek opportunities for change, and it is through the partnership with The Orwell Youth Prize, The Humber Outreach Programme and the University of Hull that they can do this.

“The Orwell Youth Prize is a fantastic competition as it encourages young writers interested in politics to get engaged with today’s society and issues at hand.

“This year’s topic “The Future We Want” could not come at a more timely hour; with the current climate crisis, future technology in employment and business, the continuity of our communities, and looking at how education can better inform us on these issues, young writers from across Hull have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Lucy Mazdon, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Cultures, and Education, University of Hull said: “As Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education at the University of Hull I am delighted to welcome the Future Forum to our campus. Shaping a fairer, brighter future lies at the heart of the University’s vision and mission so it gives me tremendous pleasure to host an event which will provide young people with the tools to question, challenge and impact society and its challenges.”

The Orwell Youth Prize is a political writing prize for young people aged 12-18 from across the UK. Orwell claimed that his main motivation for writing was ‘political purpose’ which he defined in the widest possible sense as a ‘desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after’. Today, Orwell’s desire to push the world in a certain direction has inspired writers and campaigners across the world, whether in politics, journalism or civil society, as well as countless individual readers. The Orwell Youth Prize aims to ensure young people have the opportunity to be part of this group, and that they have opportunities to discuss and debate the society they are a part of and to communicate their own ideas for the society we should be striving after today.

[Alex Talbott – The Orwell Youth Prize]