THE LIFE OF RILEY

At Compass Youth, we are always looking for new ways of bringing our campaigns closer to the community. The ideas we try out, the campaigns we work on, the relationships we build together.

Having been inspired by the "talking wall" of a community group in South Africa, and challenged by Compass' very own mission to take "
the pulse of the nation and identify the hopes and fears of the people before outlining some of the policy ideas to build a better Britain."

I wanted youth activists to tell their narrative. I was
amazed by the energy and passion of the people I met - whether they're our members, supporters or from other campaigning groups - and the talents they bring to making change happen.

I wanted to share those stories with you. I hope you enjoy them. We will be publishing these interviews on a regular basis.





Do you want to share your experience of being involved in campaigning, your thoughts on an issue that matters to you? Get in touch with me at noel.hatch1@gmail.com

Most students have gone through freshers week looking round the different stalls, signing up to student societies from "stich and bitch" to "rag", but how many of you have been round freshers fair not to find a labour club. Where do you go to meet other progressives? I met Paul Riley, chair of UCL Labour who was in that same position when he started at university. Here he shares his experiences of starting up a labour club, planting trees and much much more!

Why did you get involved in UCL Labour?
UCL Labour didn't exist before, or at least recently. I was really keen to get the club going again and spoke to friends who were keen to get involved. We also went to see Queen Marys' Labour Club to find out what you need to do to get it going.

Why did you want to become Chair?
I believe in social democratic ideals and wanted to make a difference. I also wanted to address the incredible lack of balance that there was no labour club at the university, but a huge conservative student society.

How did you become Chair?
I became Chair through setting up and pulling people together.




We needed to affiliated the club to the student union of UCL, but when we finally agree to go for it on the Wednesday, we realised the application form to affiliate needed to be in by the same Friday...and we needed 20 members to sign up, which we managed in the space of 48 hours!




Having officialised our existence, I set up the Facebook
group and contacted Camden Labour, who were really helpful and we got together with them to go out for drinks but also help later on for the London elections to re-elect Ken.

What did it feel like getting elected?

I was pretty relieved and very pleased to be able to properly take issues on.

What are your responsibilities as Chair?

I am responsible for directing where we want to go, chairing meetings and providing an overview of what's going on and who's doing what. I also ensure we respect health & safety and other regulations and generally being accountable to the student union as the first point of contact.

What activities & campaigns have you developed?

I was preoccupied with election campaigns which we only established in the second half of term. We produced a leaflet for students at UCL which was supported by Camden Labour. In return, we went knocking on doors with them and in student halls. We also organised a pub crawl called "Vote Ken again" to combine the social and electoral aspect of supporting Ken Livingstone. During the year, we organise meetings every week.

How do you help young people/students get better involved in what you do?

We were really inspired by an article by Ken Livingstone about building a progressive alliance, so we organised a cross-student society cooperation. All the groups that took part were pretty much on the same side and so we wanted to build up better collaboration, such as running joint events, so we could mobilise members together and be more involved within the student union.

We are keen to be open minded and not be entrenched. We said, let's just sit down and talk. We might look at certain things from different perspectives, but it's very simple just to talk and work things out.

What in your daily life makes you feel the most reassured or optimistic about your future?

Being in London is a pretty amazing place to live. Everything happens here. It is dynamically politically and culturally - you feel you're at the centre of things.

It might sound a bit cheesy but people give you hope, people you speak to on the street. You think, yes, they really want to make a difference.

What three things would you change to improve the quality of everyday life of yourself, your friends/family and your neighbourhood?

Paul struggles to work out how he could change his own quality of life, but jumps up when I ask him how he could make a difference to the lives of his friends, family and neighbourhood. To think our generation only think of themselves! For students, I would scrap frees and get free education. For London, I would make all public transport free. For my friends and family, I would plant more trees.

What does being "born free and equal" mean to you?

Everyone should fundamentally be free, equality is the foundation for everything. It's about introducing civil partnerships, the minimum wage, legislating for equal pay. The key thing for me to take it further is progressive taxation. It's pretty concerning that the gap is widening between the rich and poor. A lot of people feel this gap is gross. If I was rolling in the money, I would share it out.

What is your first political memory?

Question Time.

Who's your role model?

In a way, somebody like Tony Benn. He's got the style to remain calm but at the same time an amazing power in how we puts across his message.

What's your favourite activity outside of youth/student politics?

Cinema, music, gigs. My favourite films are "Of Montreal", "Beyrouth" and "The Lives of Others". What is the issue or campaign that matters most to you?

The "living wage" and "affordable housing" are the issues that really matter to me.

What would you recommend to people who would be keen to be involved in a student society?

Start a student club up, it's not difficult - I did it! If you've got the ideas, the vision of where you want to go and what you want to achieve, just do it, challenge the debate. I hadn't been a member of an executive before, so if you've got the passion and the ideas, why not?

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