#BUEU2014: Students travel to the EU Parliament in Brussels, interview MEPs

BU EUIn mid-March, 34 students from across the Politics and Media Degree and other Media and Business School programmes spent a week in Brussels on a fact finding trip to prepare for a project that focuses on the 2014 European Parliamentary Elections. Television Production second-year student Edward Lawrence was amongst those students. Below is a reflection on his time in Brussels:

EU Parliament - Bloom and Lawrence

Second-year student Edward Lawrence interviews Independent MEP Godfrey Bloom.

With the European Union parliamentary elections approaching in May, I travelled with over 30 students from a range of courses at Bournemouth University to the European Parliament in Brussels for 5 days to meet with MEPs and explore European Politics first hand.

In recent months, European politics has been very much at the forefront of political debate with many people now demanding a referendum on the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. Largely anti-EU political parties like UKIP (The United Kingdom Independence Party) have risen in the polls suggesting that people have had enough of the EU.

The attention gained by UKIP and Nigel Farage has forced Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to promise a referendum/ re-negotiation of the United Kingdom’s relationship and forced Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to agree to live televised debates against Farage over Europe – the first of which took place on Tuesday 25th March. Labour leader Ed Miliband however has affirmed that a referendum over membership with the EU would be ‘unlikely’ under a Labour government.

The purpose of the BU trip to Brussels was to educate students about the political union and for them to experience EU politics first hand.

“I want to show why it’s important for the UK to vote in the EU elections”, said Doug Tham, a second-year Politics and Media student who, with the support and assistance of the Media School, was largely responsible for the organisation of the trip.

And for the students who attended it succeeded in that endeavour, as Jason Collins, a Media and Communications student, said “it’s a really good opportunity to broaden my perspective on something that I don’t know a lot about”.

CMC Lecturers Dr David McQueen and Dr Dan Jackson, who helped Doug and organised funding for 14 of the students accompanied the group for part of the week, were impressed at how well students from across the Media School were able to cooperate on the project.

‘This is exactly the kind of activity that Fusion Funding can enable – exciting, innovative projects that make use of the varied talents of students and staff across the Media School. Our ambition is to try to engage students and young people in the election and explore some of the issues in covering an election where there has historically been low media interest,” said David, who is also programme leader for the Politics and Media undergraduate degree.

Many students however had more specific personal interests that they wished to explore.

Charlotte Rogers, a BA Scriptwriting student said, “I chose to be here because I thought it was important to learn more about politics. I really want to, in the future, be an activist for LGBT rights and women’s rights; so for me it’s just important that I explore things that I maybe haven’t thought about and in the process learn for myself why I should vote.”

Having spent Christmas filming with migrants and refugees, some as young as 14, struggling to survive in disgusting and inhumane conditions in Calais, France as they attempted to enter the UK, one of my interests was to explore whether the European Union is doing enough to help refugees affected by recent conflicts and war.

Although both Germany and Sweden have each given refuge to over 10,000 refugees from Syria, Amnesty International has recently accused the European Community of ‘Failing Syria Refugees’ with over 6 million displaced by the recent conflict. David Cameron has recently pledged to take 500 of the most vulnerable migrants and their families however that has not yet happened.

Andrew Greenwood's EU Parliament Press Pass

Andrew Greenwood’s EU Parliament Press Pass

I was also interested in the current crisis in Ukraine and keen to explore the EU-imposed sanctions against Russia as well as the debates surrounding an EU referendum and the engagement of young voters. With prior arrangement, my camera man, Andrew Greenwood (see press pass left) and I managed to interview Godfrey Bloom (see picture above) – the former UKIP and now Independent MEP, Sir Graham Watson MEP of the Liberal Democrats, Nikki Sinclaire MEP of the ‘We Demand a Referendum Now’ party, Glyn Ford, the former Labour MEP and also Julie Girling MEP and Ashley Fox MEP of the Conservative Party who all provided a range of opinions and views informing the debates.

We also have interviews arranged with MEPs from both UKIP and other parties in the forthcoming weeks. The EU parliament staff were understanding and facilitated our filmmaking by providing temporary press passes. This allowed access to most areas including the press centre, press conferences, and some of the debating chambers.

Andrew Greenwood and Joanna Poulton in the EU Parliaent Media Room

Andrew Greenwood and Joanna Poulton in the EU Parliaent Media Room

It is hoped that the interviews and content filmed at the European Parliament will form the backbone of EU election coverage from Bournemouth University that Andrew and I are producing in the coming months. We aim to utilise content created by students from CMC, Media Production and Journalism on the trip to create a live, fair and impartial news and analysis show after polls close on the 22 May that will be streamed live on the internet exploring both the EU and current debates but aimed at younger voters. We have also been given access to film a live debate with MEPs at the television studio in the European Parliament and intend to return in the future.

Follow the hashtag #BUEU2014 for updates or like the Facebook page.

Edward Lawrence is a second year BA (Hons) Television Production student at Bournemouth University. He is an aspiring documentary/ factual filmmaker interested in war, conflict and world affairs. He is on twitter @edlawrence365

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