BBC Free Speech - Cardiff

A few weeks ago I spoke about the TV programme Free Speech in relation to their episode on the Scottish independence vote, a great TV show, it gives young people the opportunity to voice their opinions during a live debate, broadcast on BBC 3. This week the show came to Cardiff, so I went along to be part of the live audience, and to participate in the live debates on Welsh independence, sexism and minimum wage for 18- 21 year olds.

The show isn’t broadcast until the evening, but as you can imagine a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to prepare for the show. So my friend and I needed to be there a few hours early on the night to get ready for the live broadcast, along with the rest of the audience. But this was a great way to get a feel for the atmosphere prior to the debate, and also an opportunity to chat to the rest of the audience and see what had brought them to Free Speech in Cardiff. I would say the audience was predominantly made up of students, with the average age probably being about 21. There were people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, which of course makes for a much more interesting debate.

Free Speech was being filmed in the City Hall in Cardiff, a beautifully grand building located in the city centre and a phenomenal backdrop for the show. Surrounded by statues of St. David, the patron saint of Wales and filmed under the watchful gaze of many of the royal family in portrait form. But although modern looking, you might have believed the Free Speech studio was always there. A three tiered amphitheatre looking towards the panel, the studio layout helped build a buzz and excitement before we went live. The panel this week were from a mixture of different backgrounds. There was Leanne Wood, leader of the political party Plaid Cymru and also one of the people I interviewed at the Scottish Independence conference the other week. Leanne was joined by journalist Angela Epstein, comedian and self confessed male-feminist Omar Hamdi and also founder of the Everyday Sexism Project Laura Bates.

Before the panel came out and before going live, the studio audience were able to have a warm-up debate. One of the topics for debate was put forward by my friend and was not only topical, but was related to sport and diabetes too. She put forward the question as to whether enough was being done to tackle obesity and the lack of activity facilitated in schools at the moment. The comments put forward were of great interest, but not perhaps the answers that you’d expect. Panelist Leanne mentioned that if Plaid Cymru were to gain the majority in the Welsh Assembly, then they would consider putting a tax on unhealthy foods such as chocolate and fizzy drinks. I’ll go into what I personally think on that in another blog, but many of the audience agreed with the idea. My perception of the debate on this topic was that people leant more towards blaming food for causing problems concerning obesity, opposed to self-empowerment and education surrounding the choices about the things that they put in their bodies. Both valid theories.

But warmed up and raring to go it was quickly time to start the live show, presented by Rick and Tina the panel were asked whether they thought we live in a sexist society. Before the question was asked the audience and the viewers at home were shown a video of women holding up boards that they’d written with sexist comments that they’d received on. It was very poignant to view the topic in this way. Some people commented that sexism is very common and ranges from rude remarks, to inappropriate attention and physical abuse. However, some people felt that each sexist incident should be considered in its context. Next we moved onto whether young people aged under 21 should be paid the same amount as those aged over 21. Many people talked about equality in pay for the job being done. Whilst others mentioned that there could be a detrimental effect on small businesses if this was a law to be put into effect. Finally (when in Rome… well Wales) we also talked about whether like Scotland, Wales should bid for independence. As there were some English students in the audience, it was particularly nice to hear their opinions on how much they loved studying in Wales, and how sorry they’d be if we became independent from England.

Participating in Free Speech was an excellent experience and one I would highly recommended if the program comes to an area near you (next show is in Dover). It was free to do and easy to sign up for through social media (they have their own Facebook and Twitter). FreeSpeech is an excellent opportunity for young people to have their opinions heard in a constructive environment, and I look forward to seeing the next show.

My friend and I at the show with presenter Rick Edwards


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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