Friday 14-08-2015 - 14:00
After a night of karaoke it was back to business at Y Talwrn, starting with speeches from NUS Wales Director Steve Coole and NUS UK CEO Simon Blake.
Steve spoke of the power a students’ union has to provide people with vital opportunities:
“Each and every one of you in this room has the power and influence to create first, second and third chances for students and the people of Wales, and it’s a big responsibility. But it’s a responsibility that we should embrace and do great things with.”
Steve went on to reflect on the changes that officers and staff in students’ unions have said they want to see within NUS Wales, and how the relationship between NUS Wales and students’ unions must and will be stronger than ever.
He finished by calling on students’ unions to organise together ahead of one of the most important elections in our history.
“We need to be more organised, empathetic, and more collaborative, together, as one movement. This year, in a year when the political climate is such that a lot of what students value and hold dear is under threat, that collaboration will be more crucial than ever.”
NUS UK CEO Simon Blake reiterated the importance of the Welsh Assembly elections, and emphasised that this was a national priority for NUS as a whole.
He went on to explain that NUS needed to listen to and learn from its members, and prioritise what students’ unions want:
“I and NUS will continue listening, ensuring our work is focused on the need of students’ unions, and co-create with you ways for you to lead your NUS into the future, securing real wins and change.”
Simon finished by challenging NUS and the student movement as a whole to be bold and to stand together to shape the future:
“We need to make sure we have a clear message of what we stand for, not just what we stand against.”
Staff and officers were then given the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with each other in more roundtable discussions, which focused on topics such as enhancing and increasing the value of activities and sports, supporting autonomous liberation campaigns, and debating whether students’ unions should be political.
The keynote speech was delivered by Siân James, a former MP for Swansea East who was an active campaigner during the South Wales miners’ strike - her role in the strike is played by Jessica Gunning in the film Pride.
In her speech she spoke about politics, activism and what she learned from her involvement in the miners’ strike:
“People and communities aren’t apathetic. We can have faith that local activism will create change.
She advised students’ unions to energise people through highlighting issues they care about, and to unite people around common causes.
“You can’t change anything unless you are a part of something. Through working collectively a great deal can be achieved.”
Siân James spoke about her recent work on penal reform and the experiences of women in the criminal justice system, explaining how between 50 and 80 percent of women in prison have suffered domestic and/or sexual abuse.
She finished by answering questions on the barriers she’d faced as a woman and the role of women in leadership:
“Women are very good at thinking that what women have to offer isn't as good as men and that's just not true."
The final set of workshops explored aspects of NUS Wales’ Scheme of Work in more detail, including youth engagement and student opportunities, student rights and the role of liberation campaigns, and the Wise Wales project, which supports partnership between institutions, students’ unions and students.
Closing Y Talwrn 2015, NUS UK President Megan Dunn reiterated the need to reclaim collectivism, and for NUS as a whole to listen to and work with students’ unions.
NUS Wales President Beth Button added that this year was an opportunity to shape the future of our student movement, education sector and society as a whole, and urged students’ unions to make the most of that opportunit