On Brexit day in 2020, when one star ‘fell out’ of the circle of twelve stars on the EU Flag, the idea of ‘Our Star’ emerged. This symbolic imagery led myself and co-instigator Peter French to ask our friend, the famous artist Jacques Tilly, (the creator of the large satirical floats that took part in many anti-Brexit marches in London) to get involved. He made a visually impressive two-metre tall, five-pointed star which was then decorated to our design with the unity ring and six doves of peace on opposite sides, becoming the UK’s Star of European Unity and Peace. Our objective was to use this Star as a ‘talisman’ to galvanise the UK public to discuss and debate our future, using the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFE) as a model.
However, Our Star had to self-isolate during the long period of the Covid pandemic and only emerged from Jacques’ workshop in Dusseldorf in May 2022. It was unveiled at the European Parliament by Terry Reintke (MEP, The Greens) and other MEPs, who had publicly promised to ‘look after the Star until UK MEPs return to the Parliament’. Terry demonstrated her faith by offering to keep safe Our Star at the European Parliament, where it remained as a symbol of our European aspirations. A smaller version took part in a number of events in the UK, including the National Rejoin March in September 2022.
One year later, with increasing evidence of changes in public opinion and more critical discussion of the consequences of Brexit, Peter and I planned a campaign ‘Choosing Our Future’. This was to involve a series of public debates we called ‘Forum for the Future’ which engage UK citizens in discussions about the future direction of our civil society. Crucially, we wanted to see the establishment of citizens assemblies where everyone, but particularly young people, would be engaged to ensure their voices were heard.
‘Hopes for the Future’ events in Brussels, September 2023
The campaign was inaugurated in the European Parliament with a three-day ‘Exhibition’, hosted by Terry Reintke, to inform MEPs and officials of our plan, to gain their support and discuss the EU’s plans resulting from the CoFE. The main event, ‘Our Hopes for the Future’, was held on 20 September and attended by 50 MEPs, officials, as well as associates and supporters of Our Star, with a range of speakers, including Terry, who explained: “(Its) really important…that you also link (Our Star) with citizens engagement processes that we have in the EU, . . and also engage with people on the ground, asking them ‘what is your vision’, about what you want in the EU that you want to be part of.”
As a follow-up event, the question ‘Can Citizens Assemblies improve democracy?’ was explored with Daniel Freunde MEP, Anthony Zacharzewski, founder of The Democratic Society and Hugh Pope, editor of ‘The Keys to Democracy’. There was discussion of the Parliament’s Draft Report on the Treaty Amendment which resulted from recommendations made by the citizens assemblies in the Conference of the Future of Europe (see final paragraph), showing the power of citizen engagement.
Our Star rises in the UK
The very next day, having been driven overnight from Brussels, Our Star hosted the first UK event of the campaign, a Junior Forum of the Future, that took place at University of Kent at Canterbury. For the young people in Canterbury, Our Star helped focus their minds, captured their attention and imagination, and also galvanised them to express clear and astute views and concerns for the state of society and politics in Britain today; they delivered a damning indictment of politicians, and an articulate. nuanced and intelligent critique of current social media control, with many additional and varied comments.
The following day, 23 September 2023, Our Star travelled to Downing Street and the National Rejoin March, attracting discussions with many visitors, including Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, the former prime minister of Belgium and passionate advocate of the European Union.
Since then, Our Star has continued its journey west through EU-funded sites in Swansea, the Welsh Valleys and finally Cardiff where an impressive array of senior politicians from a range of parties attended a rally at the Senedd Cymru. From there it travelled north to Scotland, visiting cities such as Dumfries, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In the first few months it has become clear that Our Star attracts attention and increases local focus on events and proves itself to be a true talisman. As Peter French remarked recently: “ . . . the Star’s most important contribution, from my perspective, has been how it has bridged differences of opinion in policies which could have undermined our aims, because we have shared a common sense of purpose by concentrating around the talisman and its shared ideals.”
If you want to know more and keep up-to-date about Our Star and its continuing journey, please visit the website: www.ourstar.org.uk/our-star-trek-in-2023/, and support the project at: www.OurStar.uk/crowdfunding.