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Dr Joanie Willett and Will Coleman.

Citizens' Takeover of County Hall, Truro

On Saturday 1 November, at County Hall, Truro, there is a unique opportunity for Cornish people to take direct action by saying what Cornwall's priorities should be.

The all-day event, which aims to gather views on Cornish identity and discuss what it's like to live and work in the county, focuses on answering the question ‘What does the future hold for people living in Cornwall?’. The event is being organised by the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI)'s Dr Joanie Willett, from the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, in collaboration with the storyteller, performer, educator, and cultural activist Will Coleman.

Participants will work with Dr Willett and Coleman to develop a ‘citizens’ manifesto’, by discussing what their priorities are for Cornwall. This information will be presented to an invited audience of key people, drawn from councillors and those involved in planning, strategy and service delivery in Cornwall, who will observe the afternoon’s discussion.

Dr Willett, whose specialism is in the politics of identity, said: “Everyone tells us that Cornwall is a great place to have a fantastic quality of life, and many people agree with that. But most of the time people also add a ‘but’ – saying that Cornwall is fantastic, ‘but it’s almost impossible to get a job that will cover my housing costs', or, ‘but it’s hard to access the services I need because everything's so far away’. We want to explore that ‘but’, and have a real conversation about the issues faced by those living in Cornwall.”

She added: “It’s also important how we imagine our lives to be in Cornwall, in the future. We see this as part of a much bigger debate into what we would like the future in Cornwall to be like, and we will be making a film about the day, so that we can continue the discussion at a screening early in the New Year.”

The day will be built around participants' stories, with discussion groups looking at individual, community and Cornwall-wide stories of what life in Cornwall is like. This includes questioning whether people feel that they are able to be a part of the  positive lifestyle on offer, what keeps participants in Cornwall, and what they love and hate about the place. Groups will also talk about what they think Cornwall might look like in the future, compared to how they would like it to look, and how to get to that point. A ‘citizens’ manifesto’ - compiled from discussions earlier in the day - will form the basis of the afternoon session.

The event is part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science which celebrates social science research and its relevance to many areas of life, from personal wellbeing to the sustainability of the economy. During the festival, which runs from 1 to 8 November, University of Exeter researchers will open up their research to a number of different audiences with events in Devon and in Cornwall.

The family-friendly ‘take-over’ event is at County Hall, Truro between 10 – 4pm and participants’ are encouraged to register for the event through the Facebook or by emailing.  The event is free-of-charge and refreshments and a pasty lunch will be provided for those taking part.

Date: 29 October 2014