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How New Students Can Make a Difference in Nottingham

23 September 21 words: Faith Pring and Frieda Wignall
photos: Eve Smallman

If you're a student starting at NTU or UoN, find out how you can get involved in local politics, activism and more... 

You’re new here, but pay attention and you’ll soon realise that Nottingham is a feisty little city. Whether you’re a true blue Tory, as far left as you can go without falling over, or have never voted before - if you’ve got something to say, this is the place to say it. And if you haven’t the foggiest, university is the time to figure out what you stand for. 

At the intersection of Kings Street and Queens Street is the centre of all the action: the infamous Speakers’ Corner. The first to be established outside of London, this is where the good, the bad and the angry of Nottingham gather with placards and banners, watched over by the Brian Clough statue. Climate justice, migrant rights and the NHS are just a handful of the topics that have been debated on these humble paving stones. 

Occasionally, you’ll catch a peek of your elected representatives on the Speakers’ Corner mic - when they’re not in Westminster, of course. The Nottingham South constituency (containing NTU’s Clifton campus and UoN’s Park and Jubilee campuses) is represented by Labour’s Lilian Greenwood, Nottingham East (NTU’s city campus) is represented by Nadia Whittome and Newark constituency (NTU’s Brackenhurst campus) is represented by Conservative Robert Jenrick.

Lilian Greenwood comes from a trade union background and has been an MP since 2010, while Robert Jenrick, a qualified lawyer and former businessman, has held his Newark seat since 2014. He is currently Secretary of State for Housing. 

Elected in 2019, Nadia Whittome is the country’s youngest MP at 25 and therefore the honorary ‘Baby of the House’. She even has some wonderful words for you lot: “Welcome to the city of Nottingham! I’m very proud to be an MP in the city I have always called home and I hope that in time it feels like home to you too. We are a diverse, united and strong community and a city that has a lot to offer everyone from all walks of life. I really hope you enjoy your time in the city that means so much to me, but if you have any issues or problems, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

There’s always interesting political shenanigans kicking off in Notts, so delve in if you dare

Fancy a spot in the limelight yourself? Campus politics offers several avenues for scratching a political itch, whether it's via the standard societies (Labour, Tories and even the Lib Dems for any centrists), the non-party affiliated societies (Extinction Rebellion, Amnesty International or Marxist), or by standing in the Student Union elections. You’re bound to find at least one person you agree with – and probably plenty to disagree with! 

But politics isn’t all drama and elections. For those searching for something a little more grassroots, check out Community Action Nottingham. Established by NTU students Sam Harris and Katherine Barlow in 2020, CAN is all about giving back to the ordinary folk of Nottingham. Their student volunteers have delivered food parcels, wrapped Christmas presents for disadvantaged kids, served hot meals to the homeless, cleared gardens for vulnerable local residents – basically, wherever an extra pair of helping hands is needed, they’re on the scene. 

Here’s what founder Katherine had to say: “We want to get more young people involved in the areas they live in, not only to develop our local communities but also to improve relationships between students and residents, because students sometimes get a bad rap. We think it’s crucial to do our bit for our communities and we’re aiming to help as many people as possible in whatever way is possible.” 

Another grassroots organisation to get involved with is the Nottingham branch of Citizens UK, an alliance of faith communities, unions, charities and community groups. Current projects in 2021 include their living wage campaign, tackling hate crime and supplying diverse books to every child in the city.

There’s always interesting political shenanigans kicking off in Notts, so delve in if you dare. Oh, and before we forget: remember to register to vote

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