First ever PAGE Student Conference a Resounding Success!
This week saw the beginning of the renowned Leeds Beckett Annual Politics Festival, which kick-started with the first ever Student conference on the ‘hot topic’ of Migration. Every year Leeds Beckett University Politics students get a break from normal classes to attend a week of events, workshops and conferences addressing a spectrum of issues pertaining to Local and Global politics.
While the student conference is a sign of a ‘growing’ festival, organised by the Politics and Applied Global Ethics (PAGE) team at Leeds Beckett University, under the auspices of Dr Paul Weatherly, the real winners of this year’s festival are undoubtedly the students, some of whom who spoke of a real sense of relief at having “taken the plunge” and surprise at how well they had done.
According to one of the students commenting about their experience, “It felt different from ‘traditional conferences’ where you are very much ‘on your own’ and questions are thrown like arrows at you when you finish presenting”. Another student expounded by saying, “I felt a part of a learning community, like people were scrutinising my ideas not me!”
The conference was organised and chaired by Doctor Rachel Julian, who spoke of the need to embrace “inclusive pedagogies” in ‘conferencing’ and to “question ideas, not people”, setting the tone for the conference. The speakers, who included Dumi Senda, Sidra Naveed, Kaif Sarfaraz, Jodie Champaneria, John Chijioke Ojukwu and Ioana Popescu, addressed issues ranging from xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the incoherent response to the ‘migration crises’ in Europe to local issues about homelessness in Leeds.
Quite understandably, it may be said that having a student conference at an academic institution is hardly a reason to bring out the samba drums. However, such a view would be overlooking just how daunting and even frightening such an experience can be for some students whose first time it was to stand in front of a large audience and speak about issues they care about.
If the comments by students who attended the conference are anything to go by, then it was a resounding success, and could be the beginning of a long tradition of student involvement in the festival and in political debate more broadly.
The conference concluded with a collaborative poem generated from comments written by the audience on pieces of paper handed to them at the beginning and later collected and edited by Dumi Senda towards the end. The poem was performed by Dumi accompanied by Ioana who played a Nocturne by Chopin: a duet described by Dr Rachel Julian as “the most creative way to end a conference I have ever seen”.
By Dumi Senda
Leeds Beckett University
(BA) International Relations & Peace 3rd year student