Tag: Culture

Kyffin Williams at the Senedd

 

Image of Llanddwyn Beach by Kyffin Williams from the private collection of Eryl Nikopoulos

Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd. 

The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, represents Kyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.

Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.

An artist, a teacher and an influencer 

To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings  – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.

Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.

Kyffin Williams painting of Dr Huw T Edwards

A national treasure 

Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!

In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:

‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’

Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!

Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:

‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’

Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.

You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.

Find out more about visiting the Senedd here.  

David Meredith

Kyffin Williams painting "Cymglas"

 

Steddfod at the Senedd

Eisteddfod outside the senedd

During August 2018 the National Assembly for Wales was proud to play an integral role in this year’s National Eisteddfod by hosting a range of exhibitions, discussions and events exploring life in Wales.

Dubbed the Eisteddfod with no fence, the Senedd became home to Y Lle Celf (the art exhibition) and the Societies Pavilion.

The Eisteddfod has hosted an ‘Art and Crafts’ exhibition in some form since 1865. Nowadays Y Lle Celf comprises of a multi-media exhibition of contemporary fine and applied art, and a celebration of architecture in Wales.

This year exhibits included Jin Eui Kim’s eye-catching ceramics, 2018 Tony Globe Award winner Philip Watkins’ paintings of Valleys life and 2018 Gold Medal and People’s Choice award winner Zoe Preece’s ceramic and wood pieces, alongside many other thought-provoking displays.

Covering much of the Senedd’s floor, you can watch André Stitt’s huge installation take shape in this time-lapse video:

The Societies Pavilion saw the Assembly host discussions on issues including austerity, women’s role in politics, votes at 16, democracy and the arts, electoral reform and justice in Wales.

If you missed them the first time you can view them again here:

Democracy and the Arts: the effect of one on the other
Democracy and the Arts play a central role in the lives of Welsh people – but how do they affect each other?
Llywydd of the National Assembly, Elin Jones AM, chaired a discussion panel along with the Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Bethan Sayed AM, Artist Elin Meredydd and leading dance, performance artist and presenter Eddie Ladd.

Democracy and the arts discussion panel
Democracy and the arts discussion panel

Ready for the vote?
An event in partnership with the Electoral Commission to discuss reducing the voting age to 16 at elections in Wales.
The discussion was chaired by Elan Closs Stephens, Electoral Commissioner for Wales with panellists Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales and young people including Ethan Williams, Vice-President of Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Vice-Chair of the Syr IfanC Board, the Urdd’s National Youth Forum.

Women’s Role in Politics
Marking 100 years since the successful campaign to secure votes for women, Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, was joined by historian Dr Elin Jones to discuss the influence of women on politics in Wales, in the past and present. Journalist and TV presenter Bethan Rhys Roberts chaired.

Womens role in politics discussion panel
Womens role in politics discussion panel

6948 people attended events at the Societies Pavilion during the week.

For non-fluent Welsh speakers the Pierhead became the home of Shw’mae Caerdydd – the centre for information about the Welsh language – for the duration of the festival. Sessions included a discussion about Welsh dialects, alongside workshops from clog dancing to hat making.

Friday 10 August saw Llywydd Elin Jones among those honoured by the Gorsedd of the Bards, alongside Welsh rugby international Jamie Roberts and the musician Geraint Jarman, and was presented with the blue robe for her service to the nation.

Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote panel, Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards
Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote? panel, Llywydd Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards

Later in the week there was also the small matter of the homecoming event for Geraint Thomas, celebrating his remarkable achievement in becoming the first ever Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Geraint was welcomed by Llywydd Elin Jones at her annual reception at the Eisteddfod, before being greeted by Catrin Heledd, Band Pres Llanreggub, the band Siddi and finally the thousands of excited fans who had congregated on the steps of the Senedd.

Geraint-Thomas-Senedd
Geraint Thomas at the Senedd

One of the most popular activities at the Senedd during the week was the chance to visit the Assembly’s debating Chamber, where for the first time visitors were able to have their picture taken in the Llywydd’s seat. Over 5595 people took advantage of this unique opportunity to momentarily assume the role of the Llywydd, and experience what it might be like to oversee debates in the Chamber.

During the Eisteddfod we welcomed over 18,000 visitors to the Senedd, over half of which had never visited the Assembly before, and we hope they left knowing a little bit more about how devolution in Wales works.

A big thanks to our partners the Electoral Commission, the Arts Council of Wales, the Morgan Academy, the Wales Governance Centre, and of course the Eisteddfod for making the events over the course of the week such a success.

We’ll see you in Llanrwst!

 

This year’s Y Lle Celf artists were: Justine  Allison, Billy Bagilhole, Jo Berry, Kelly Best, Zena Blackwell, Steve Buck, Ray Church, Nerea Martinez de Lecea, Cath Fairgrieve, Mark Houghton, Gethin Wyn, Jones, Jin Eui Kim, Anna Lewis, Laura Lillie, Gweni Llwyd, James Moore, Marged Elin Owain, Zoe Preece, Glyn Roberts, John Rowley, André Stitt, Caroline Taylor, Jennifer Taylor, Sean Vicary, Adele Vye, Philip Watkins, and Casper White.

Hitting the Right Note: Inquiry Into Funding For and Access to Music Education

An interview with Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

Introduce yourself briefly explain the remit of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

My name is Bethan Sayed, and I chair the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee in the National Assembly for Wales.

Bethan Sayed AM, speaking at the report launch event.
Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Committee, speaking at the report launch event.

We scrutinise government ministers in relation to their portfolio. For example, we’ve recently done an investigation into radio in Wales. We’ve looked at the Welsh language and we’ve also looked at the historical environment as well as non-public funding of the Arts.

It’s been good to be able to have a remit that includes communications so that we can look at the broadcasting landscape of Wales and scrutinise that effectively also.

The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee has just launched its report on its inquiry into funding for and access to music education in Wales. The topic of this inquiry was chosen through quite an innovative and slightly unusual way.  Could you explain the background and what led the Committee to look at this particular issue?

After being on committees for quite some time that, of course Assembly Members have their own ideas and bring ideas for future work to the table, which is valid but it could obviously be based on our own pet subjects.

I thought it would be interesting to go to the public to ask them exactly what type of investigation they would like us to look into what the population wanted us to focus on, and what were the key priority areas.

We did a public poll and it came out that people wanted us to look at music in education the music tuition that people receive in schools and in our communities and how that can be improved and developed.

It was really good to launch this public poll because then people could engage with a committee in a very different way. So I was happy that our committee was the first to try this and perhaps we could do it again to come up with other ideas for the future.

 What were the key themes that the inquiry covered?

They were very keen for us to look at music services in schools. We were seeing, constituents coming to our offices saying that there were problems with the funding of this sector. We were seeing that music services by local authorities were being cut.

So we wanted to get to grips with what was important and come up with solutions to see how we could aid the sector.

We didn’t look at the curriculum, because music education in relation to the provision of tutoring was very different to that. That’s something that we could look at in future. But that’s not what we focused on this time.

During the inquiry the Committee heard from a wide range of witnesses and due to your own experiences as a musician this topic must be very close to your heart – Was there anything that came up through the course of the inquiry that was a particular surprise?

 When we went to Ysgol Pengam, we found that they were doing very structured work in the rock and pop field, and they were competing in competitions in England, but they weren’t able to do that in Wales and there was no ensemble. There’s an ensemble for the orchestra, here in Wales but no rock and pop ensembles.

Maya Morris performing at the event
Maya Morris from Lewis School Pengam performing at the event

So I guess what did surprise me, perhaps because I’ve come from the more classical side, is that there was such an enthusiasm to set up this ensemble so that people who wanted to go into the rock industry or the pop industry could do that through their school structures.

So that was quite enlightening, but also pleasing to see, because orchestras and ensembles is not always going to suit everybody You don’t necessarily have to be able to read music to take part in those types of activities, so it would open up a new avenue.

In relation to funding streams, that didn’t surprise me, because my sister is 18 and she’s attended orchestras, and I know from my interest in this issue that this downward trend of the provision of services was not new.

The report says that music services must be protected, nurtured and accessible to all.  The Committee also states that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s Commitment to put creative activity on an equal basis to other areas of learning and experience.  Why is music education so important? What are the benefits?

I think a lot of schools get it in relation to music because they understand that it’s a transferable skill – it’s working as a team, it’s discipline, it’s allowing people to be creative and allowing their wellbeing aims to be met. But some schools, unless the head teacher really understands the value of music, then it might not permeate throughout the school.

As somebody who’s played the piano, viola and violin from an early age, I think it has to be seen as something that isn’t niche, that isn’t exclusive, that is accessible – because it can aid you in so many different ways in life.

For example, an orchestra course would allow me to become independent. It would allow me to make new friends. You’ve got to learn to listen to others and to be able to be respectful of others, and so is not all to do with the music that’s on the paper – it’s about how you want to progress as an individual.

People who go into music at a young age can take their skills elsewhere and you will meet doctors, you’ll meet scientists, you’ll meet politicians who have used music in ways in which they can be quite focused on what they want to do in life.

I think we need to encourage more schools to understand that it’s not just this fluffy thing about listening or playing music for an hour a day, it’s about how that can be seen as a core part of the curriculum in every shape and form. I hope that through this report that we can convince people that we can grow and develop music in our schools.

With all those potential benefits it must have been troubling for the Committee to hear some witnesses characterising the position of music in Welsh education as in ‘crisis’.  In July 2015, the Welsh Government commissioned a report into music services in Wales – What has been the Committee’s conclusion about the progress made in the 3 years since the publication of that report – is the Welsh Government doing enough to prevent this ‘crisis’ from developing?

It was very troubling to hear people such as Owain Arwel Hughes, a renowned conductor, Tim Rhys-Evans, who conducts Only Men Allowed, say these things, because I don’t believe that they would use the word ‘crisis’ lightly.

The Committee received evidence from Tim Rhys-Evans, founder and director of Only Men Allowed
The Committee received evidence from Tim Rhys-Evans, founder and director of Only Men Allowed

It troubles me that Wales is associated with music and song, and they were saying we may not be the land of song anymore if we allow this, music services are being cut, and may even disappear in parts of Wales. In fact, we’ve seen with the national ensembles, less people have been auditioning for them this year so there is that worry.

Also with regard to the report that was commissioned, , I feel that once certain ministers had left – that it wasn’t a priority for some local authorities. I think that’s why we’ve said so clearly in the report that there needs to be a national guidance and national strategy, because you cannot simply rely on local authorities.

I think some people, to be fair, said ‘well perhaps that’s going a bit too far, we don’t want to scaremonger’. But again, sometimes using those types of phrases can actually say ‘well now is the time to make sure that we don’t get to the point where those services don’t exist anymore’. I hope that our support has allowed for that discussion to happen at the right time before more music services are cut or disappear altogether.

The report itself covers 16 recommendations but what’s the most important issue to take from the findings?

Well, we wanted to come up with solutions because, it’s been close to my heart for many, many years.  Perhaps there’s a lack of coming together in the past of people from different walks of life in the music service to say, ‘well actually, how can we make this happen and how can we improve on this?’

I welcomed the Welsh Government investment in relation to the endowment fund, in relation to the music amnesty and in relation to putting music on the political agenda again. But without structural change, things are not going to improve. So the most important recommendation for us has been to say that we need to establish a national arm’s length body for music services in Wales.  We simply cannot rely anymore on individual local authorities deciding whether they prioritise it or not. We would need to make sure that it was properly funded, and that there would be a regional element to its delivery on a ground level.

At the moment you’re seeing the national ensembles work in a different type of landscape to the work that’s happening on the ground in our communities. It’s called ‘the pyramid’, so you would have the school orchestras, then you would have the community orchestras, then you would have the national ensembles. If you had one national body – they would be identifying young people to come through the system, and that’s what we’re not seeing at the moment.

There was discussion about whether it could be done in a different way, but I think ultimately we came to the conclusion – especially as we were calling for a national music strategy – that one national body to deal with this particular element of the educational workforce would be integral to its future. I think as a committee we want it to be forward looking, we wanted to put a recommendation out there that would challenge people’s minds and that they would look outside the box somewhat to current funding and current structures.

We wouldn’t want to let any of those particular areas get left behind as well. We didn’t want to be too prescriptive but we wanted to put our marker down and say ‘this has to be a national system now’.

To download Hitting the Right Note: Inquiry Into Funding For and Access to Music Education, click here.

For the latest updates from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, follow @SeneddCWLC on Twitter.

Securing a Future for Art in Wales

Guest blog by Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Performance art in Cardiff

In the past ten years, Welsh Government and National Lottery funding for the Arts Council of Wales has fallen by almost 10% in real terms, while the Government has called on the sector to reduce its dependence on public expenditure.

As Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee and as a Committee, I felt the time was right to hold an inquiry into non-public funding of the arts to determine how feasible the Government’s call is, and to identify practical steps to enable the sector to respond effectively to it.

Art needs funding to support its future, but what can be done to secure it?

The importance of art to a healthy society

The importance of art to society is undeniable.

Art illuminates and enriches our lives, which makes it indispensable to a healthy society. The wide-ranging benefits of art to both society on the whole, and the individual, are now widely recognised. From its economic impact to the benefits it brings to education – the potential for art to enable positive outcomes within society should be recognised, promoted and utilised fully by policy makers.

Recognising the challenges faced by the arts in Wales

What became evident very quickly during the inquiry was that arts organisations in Wales face unique, diverse and very difficult challenges when attempting to raise non-public funding. For example, the small size of many of Wales’s arts organisations, and their distance from large centres of population, make raising non-public revenue difficult.

In particular, the dominance of London and the south east of England, in terms of the proportion of non-public funding awarded within the UK, is startling.

A 2013 study found that contributions made by individuals and businesses to the arts in London accounted for 85% of the overall funding awarded throughout England.  Although Wales was not covered by the study, it’s not thought to be out of sync with the regions of England outside of London.

Until such a disproportionate reality is recognised and addressed it’s impossible to see how the situation in Wales can be adequately improved.

This situation is also compounded by the fact that scale and location are key factors in enabling generation of commercial revenue, making it more difficult for organisations to raise revenue outside of large centres of population.

These distinctly Welsh difficulties illustrate the need for the Welsh Government to back up what they have asked the sector to do with a sufficient level of effective support.

Performance art group

What has the Committee concluded?

We have called on the Government to take action to raise the profile of the arts as a charitable cause and to raise awareness among UK-based trusts and foundations of the excellent arts projects and organisations in Wales.

As it stands, the sector does not have the resources necessary to respond effectively to the Government’s call. A shortage of appropriate skills within the sector was a common theme presented throughout the evidence. This is why we have called on the Welsh Government to establish a source of fundraising expertise for small arts organisations, in an analogous fashion to the support it currently provides for small businesses through its Business Wales service.

As might be expected, we found that larger organisations are more likely to be effective when applying for grants as they have easier access to appropriate skills (for example, to write effective applications). When such a small proportion of the funding available within the UK is awarded outside of London and the south east it’s understandable that competition for the remaining funding is fierce.

In such a climate it’s then little surprise that smaller organisations struggle to compete.

This serves to underline the need for a tailored form of support, one which recognises the differing needs and capabilities of arts organisations throughout Wales.

This is not to say that those within the sector shouldn’t explore every opportunity to increase their non-public income. We also received evidence suggesting that Welsh arts organisations could be more proactive in their approach to applying for funding.

We were excited to hear about the impact of the Welsh Government’s trade mission to China, which included a cultural delegation organised by Wales Arts International. Hijinx, a theatre company that works with learning disabled actors, told us that this trip had opened doors to future international tours and collaboration. This is why we have called for the Welsh Government to commission research on international markets with growth potential for Welsh artists, and, where possible, to include a cultural component on trade missions, alongside a strategy to grow international markets.

What is clear is that if the Welsh Government expect their call for the arts sector to reduce its dependence on public funding to have a tangible impact within the sector – they need to back it up with an appropriate level of tailored and informed support.

You can read the full report and the Committee’s recommendations here.

Follow the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on Twitter @SeneddCWLC

Visit the Senedd and Pierhead: Cadw Open Doors 2017

About CADW Open Doors

Every year, buildings and sites across Wales open their doors to the public for Cadw Open Doors, offering a chance for people to visit hundreds of attractions across the country for free. On Saturday, 30 September the National Assembly for Wales will be offering exclusive access to the public.

While the Senedd and Pierhead are open to the public throughout the year, Open Doors visitors will be able see what happens behind the scenes in some areas not usually open to the public.

Where is it?

The Open Doors tour will take visitors on a journey through the history of both Cardiff Bay and the National Assembly for Wales.

It will include all three buildings within the Assembly’s Cardiff Bay estate:

The Pierhead

Pierhead building with open door

Start your journey through time in 1897 with the Pierhead, an iconic late Victorian building where visitors can discover the history of Cardiff Bay. The Pierhead is now a museum and exhibition centre, open to the public seven days a week.

Ty Hywel
The original home of the Assembly’s debating chamber, Ty Hywel hosts the offices of both Assembly staff and Members.

The Senedd

The Senedd in Cardiff Bay

An iconic landmark in Cardiff Bay, the Senedd is the heart of democracy in Wales. A modern parliamentary building and home of the debating chamber of the Assembly, the Senedd is also one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings in Wales. Visitors will learn about the history and the architecture of the buildings and discover more about the work of the National Assembly for Wales.

Address: National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA

When?

There are two tours taking place on 30 September at 11:00 and 14.00.

How do I book my place on the tour?

Booking is essential as we can only offer a limited number of places on this exclusive behind the scenes tour. The 11:00 tour is FULL but there are spaces available on the 14.00 tour.

Please call 0300 200 6565 or email contact@assembly.wales to book your place.

Further information

Cadw Open Doors is an annual celebration of the architecture and heritage of Wales and is part of European Heritage Days, which take place in 50 European countries each year in September.

For more information, including other participating attractions around Wales, please see the Cadw website.

Visiting the National Assembly for Wales

If you can’t make it on 30 September you can still visit the Senedd and Pierhead buildings which are open to the public seven days a week.

The Senedd regularly hosts a variety of events with performers, singers, exhibitions and activities happening throughout the year so come along and see what’s happening!

You could also find out who your Assembly Members are and how they represent your interests in the Senedd’s debating chamber.

The Senedd is currently open:

Monday – Friday 9:30 – 16:30

Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays (all year) 10:30 – 16:30

Further information for visitors, including information for those with an Autistic Spectrum Condition can be found on our website.

National Assembly for Wales Trip Advisor webpage

Senedd Facebook page

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Public decides on future committee inquiry

Over the last couple of months, the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee at the National Assembly for Wales has asked the people of Wales to decide what issues they should be investigating.

paint-halfsize-twitter-1-en

Although Assembly committees regularly involve the public in its work, and have done so using a variety of techniques (including events, focus groups, web-chats, surveys, video interviews, workshops, and crowdsourcing apps), this is the first time an Assembly committee has asked the people of Wales to decide a future committee inquiry.

How they sourced ideas

The chair of the Committee, Bethan Jenkins AM sat down with James Williams from BBC Wales to talk about the newly formed committee on Facebook live, the first time the National Assembly had ever done so. Bethan encouraged people to get in touch, and make suggestions for priority areas.

The Committee invited people to suggest ideas on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mail, and also held an event at the National Eisteddfod to continue the conversation.

What people said

A number of suggestions were received from a mix of organisations, groups and individuals, which were then grouped and presented to the Committee.  The members then cross referenced this public list with the priority areas they had identified in a planning session they had held.

There was a lot of common ground between the Committee members’ priority areas and the public list, including:

  • how the ambition of achieving a million Welsh speakers can be achieved
  • concern at the continuing decline of local media and local news journalism
  • lack of portrayal of Wales on UK broadcast networks
  • the role of Radio in Wales
  • the remit, funding and accountability of S4C

Continue reading “Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Public decides on future committee inquiry”

Guest Blog – Opening up committees is a step forward for stronger democracy in Wales

Dr Andy Williamson, October 2016

It’s great to see the fifth National Assembly starting off with a strong intention to increase public participation. The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has already started, committee chair Bethan Jenkins asking the public to help shape what they talk about through a range of innovative and original channels.

This is the stamp of a modern legislature, one that is invested in strong democracy and the best interests of the people that it serves.

Senedd chamber

Open, transparent and accessible legislatures are the way of the future and we can see this happening around the world:

  • in Westminster the Petitions Committee is drawing in new audiences to watch what their parliament is doing and to get involved in debates;
  • in Brazil and Chile legislation is shared online with the public, who can comment, amend and vote on those changes before they are referred back to members;
  • legislatures as diverse as Georgia, Paraguay and France are implementing strategies to increase public involvement in what they do and to ensure that is transparent and accessible;
  • Scotland, Italy and the Czech Republic are examples of parliaments who are providing real-time, open access to their data, whilst the Dutch and New Zealand parliaments provide online, fully searchable archives of their parliamentary record; and
  • Serbia and Peru are amongst the legislatures around the world actively partnering with civil society organisations, finding new ways to open up, reach out, listen and to share.

This is disruptive practice and even positive disruption brings challenges. Members can feel that increased participation encroaches on, some say threatens, their role in a representative democracy. In reality, experience shows us, it does the opposite. And we have to put innovations like this in context; members still make the decisions, they still decide on the majority of committee business. But in the age of social media and constant news, it quickly becomes obvious that being more engaged and better connected significantly benefits members who want to feel the pulse of their communities. The world over, our representatives have to accept doing their job not only in the full gaze of increased public scrutiny but with greater public involvement. This is a good thing; democracy is not about a vote every five years but having a voice every day.

The world has changed, forcing us to reshape the work of legislatures as more and more varied channels of public participation and interaction open up. To understand why this matters we first have to accept the benefits of greater public engagement, and those benefits are many. There are logistical challenges too, knowing which tools to use and not trying to own or control them (or the discussion). We have to develop a willingness to go where the people are, to use the tools they use, to choose what’s best for the job at hand.

A more informed and engaged public makes for a stronger democracy.

Creating new ways to give people a voice and get more involved in what their representatives are doing starts to break down the barriers of mistrust that have calcified across too many of our public institutions. It’s not a panacea, there is no silver bullet and people are slow to trust, quick to push their own agendas, to express frustration when they don’t get their own way. We can’t expect a system that has been distrusted, has often been perceived as closed and controlling, to change overnight and nor should we expect public attitudes to shift immediately either, that would be naive. This is an ongoing process, we need to be cautious and tolerant but equally to press ahead with the confidence of knowing that being more open is better for all of us in the long run.

Opening up committees can feel hard because it is hard. But it is both the right thing to do and necessary. It’s a reflection on the ongoing societal shift in our attitudes and approach to democracy, which will be easier to embrace if we can talk openly and honestly about what it means, for elected representatives, staff and the public.

Opening up committees is about inclusion. It’s about stronger representation, making democracy more participatory and how this benefits members and the public. Open democracy leads to better legislation, legislation that is thoughtful and appropriate, that is based on a wider set of views, immersed in the experiences of real people. Legislation that better reflects who we are. The world is complex and finding new, reliable ways of solving problems will be easier when we can effectively harness that significant reservoir of talent, knowledge and ideas that has lain untapped for far too long. To get there, we need more education, more information and more partners to promote greater political maturity and effective engagement.

We need more people, different voices, to be heard and heard more often. Inviting people into committees, asking them to help shape the agenda and giving them more space to be heard are positive steps forward. This trajectory towards more effective engagement is what modern democracy is all about.

Dr Andy Williamson is the Founder of Democratise and a Governor of The Democratic Society. He recently wrote the World e-Parliament Report 2016 and is co-author of ‘From Arrogance to Intimacy – A Handbook for Active Democracies’.