Walking along Democracy Street

Democracy Street’ is a national collaborative arts project commissioned by the Houses of Parliament Speaker’s Art Fund and Arts Council England.  For me, still lost in post-referendum anxiety, the timing could not be more poignant.

The artist behind Democracy Street is Jon Adams, who I had the privilege of meeting at a National Autistic Society event, he is their Cultural Ambassador.

Jon has Asperger’s, dyslexia and is a synesthete; what he says resonates with how I feel my daughter has tried to articulate her sensory experiences in the past, and often I feel he gives me a better insight into how she ‘literally’ feels…

There are thousands of streets all across the UK named after people and events of significance in the history of Parliament.  The Democracy Street app lets you discover the streets in your neighbourhood that relate to our democratic history.  You can add photos, you can earn badges…

Each street you discover then adds a new element that contributes to the creation of new and original artwork.  The final pieces will highlight the contributions everyone has made, as well as the engagement undertaken in developing a deeper understanding of the importance democracy plays in our political history, as well as in our freedom to decide who governs our country.

The interactive aspect of the project is coming to an end soon, so if you haven’t yet joined in, why not get out in the lovely crisp autumn air, find a street near you (very simple with the app) and make a contribution?

As daughter is home educated, I am, alongside Google, the main source of knowledge and information for her.  We spend hours and hours talking about life, the universe and everything but often the conversation will circle back to human nature and behaviour, society, rules and structures, fairness, equality, discrimination, choice… although she’s only just turned nine, I could definitely see her becoming a social anthropologist.

Democracy is an interesting topic to debate.  Is democracy synonymous with freedom?

Democracy is hard.  You don’t necessarily get what you want, even if you passionately believe you are right.  Just because something is agreed by a majority, it doesn’t guarantee that it is just or fair to all.  But what’s the alternative?

Whilst trying to keep things age-appropriate, I try to answer her questions as fully as possible and challenge her thinking.

Though we have a democratic parliament, I believe it’s important for her to understand that this doesn’t mean everything is fine how it is or that justice, fairness, goodness always prevails: she was amazed to learn that it’s less than 100 years since all women had the right to vote in the UK, that it hadn’t automatically happened.

I think it’s essential that she understands that we cannot just leave it to others to sort the big difficult things out whilst we go shopping in Primark and have a Costa.

Everyone has an opportunity, maybe even an obligation, to challenge the status quo, be aware of current affairs and the ongoing need for critical thinking and change.

Daughter already understands and has experienced discrimination and has also felt empowered by her first efforts as a campaigner for autism awareness and acceptance.

I try not to shy away from tough topics.  The refugee crisis.  Trump.  Fracking.  Brexit.

Knowledge, morals, public opinion and laws change all the time.  It’s only about a generation ago that homosexuality was a criminal offence.  How recently would my daughter have stood a high chance of being institutionalised as mentally deficient regardless of her intellectual ability?

So later this week we’re going to wrap up and go out on an extended adventure to discover more of the people who were instrumental in shaping our democracy.  I hope that it inspires her to continue to forge a life that includes regular consideration of what is right and wrong, justice, equality, support of a democratic process and also fulfilling her responsibilities as a citizen in a democratic society.

I hope that you do that with your kids too.  It makes a pleasant change from hunting yet more Pokémon…


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