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22 June 2016

You’ve probably been inundated with information about the EU Referendum. I know I have. You may have even had a sticker with either “remain” or “leave” plastered all over it thrown in your direction; seen posters in your neighbour’s windows, badges on fellow commuter’s lapels, and had leaflets about it thrusted in your hands as you come out of the train station. There really is no getting away from the looming referendum!

I’ve been constantly hearing why I should vote for remain and why I should vote for leave. It has been the topic of choice in every aspect of my life: at the dinner table with my parents, on the train with strangers and even in bed as I scroll through my twitter feed late at night.

But yesterday I was lucky enough to win tickets to an intimate event at a secret location promoting voting in the EU referendum, with a twist. I was drawn to it as one of my favourite bands, Bastille, were playing. As I queued outside with 50 other people of ranging ages, I saw a familiar face. Rio Ferdinand, the famous footballer who doesn’t need an introduction, walked across the road from me and into the entrance marked “Restricted Access”. With little information on what to expect next I headed through a warehouse and up some stairs finding myself in a room with a glass roof and a single microphone set up against the back wall. I sat cross-legged on the floor which flooded back memories of school assemblies. But this time this was somewhere I really wanted to be.

First up was Nego True who gave a stunning performance explaining some of the facts that so many young people have been denied. My favourite was the way he explained the impact of inflation. Inflation is the reason why Freddos are now 25p – an issue I’ve heard young people complain about. Maverick Sabre followed, singing his well known hit “Let Me Go” acoustically. He spoke about the inequality people face, a topic that inspired him to write “I used to have it all” which explores being judged by one’s financial situation and skin colour.

Then Michael Sani, Founder and CEO of Bite the Ballot was joined on stage by Kenny Imafidon Partnerships & Programmes Coordinator and Change Maker at Bite the Ballot. They shared some of the comments they’ve heard from the thousands of young people that Bite the Ballot has helped engage in politics to date: “my vote means nothing” and “nothing ever changes” seem to be a recurring opinion. Kenny responds with “stop letting politics happen to us” in the hope young people will realise they have the power to be heard. They paid tribute to the hundreds of women that fought for the right to vote. Kenny commented that 100 years ago his skin colour would have denied him the freedom to vote. Both of these boundaries were fought by men and women who wanted change and were determined to have their voices heard no matter what. Why don’t we all feel like this anymore?

If you had a spare ticket to an event and had 2 people asking you for it, who would be easier to turn down: your best friend who you speak to all the time or an acquaintance that doesn’t engage with you? This is how politician’s look at the 7.4 million 16-24 year olds in the UK. We are easy to let down and ignore as we aren’t participating and don’t pose a threat to the people with the most power. We are playing to the stereotype that we have been labelled with but we have the opportunity to change how politicians perceive us.

In a time where people don’t seem to be agreeing on much, I have heard many agree on one thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re in or out, as long as you turn up on Thursday 23rd June and use your vote.

 

Katie, Michael, Kenny and Rio