EU Trip: Reunion and Reflections

“When people talk about study visits to Brussels, I hold up the WEA as a model of good practice. From forward planning, holding courses and events, the visit itself and the follow-up films and showcases, the way the WEA organise these engagements is outstanding.”

Julie Ward MEP


The often forgotten writer, Stefan Zweig, once wrote that a fear of “something indefinite is always worse than something definite”. It is easier to conquer the defined, the greater fear is the nebulous, the unknown. This is what Brexit often feels like. Our little island, sitting lonely, surrounded by a sea of uncertainty after triggering Article 50. It was heartening then, to see the friendly faces of the intrepid WEA EU & Democracy students, meet up once more, to discuss and reflect on our trip last year, and to postulate on what lies ahead.

This time we were not in Belgium though, instead we met closer to home; in Salford, in the perhaps aptly selected venue of ‘the People’s History Museum’. There was a great turnout, with many making the long journey from the Yorkshire and Humber region, as well as those scattered across the North West. There was a definite warmth in the air, as friends met up once more, and happy memories rekindled. We watched a few short films made on our trip (links below), centred on the themes of ‘Fear’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Identity’. We also engaged in an activity in which we wrote down our thoughts on ‘What a bad world looks like’, ‘What a good world looks like’, and ‘how can we make it happen.’


We were lucky to have the MEP Julie Ward in attendance, who kindly gave a passionate talk, and engaged in our lively discussion. Julie has been a great advocate for our trip (and the WEA ethos as a whole), helping in any way she can including being a project sponsor for the North West students.  A great voice and advocate for the EU, Julie is fiercely proud of its achievements both at home and across Europe.


After an hour lunch we were given an excellent tour of the museum by our friendly and impassioned guide Katie, followed by an interesting look around the archive. In both cases it was fascinating to see the parallels of the political situation now, and the similar discussions and arguments that were going on decades, even centuries earlier.


We ended with a group exercise of ‘active listening’, in which we were encouraged to voice our thoughts or feelings without discussion or interruption. It was a thought-provoking way to end the day, and in a way left us feeling hopeful. Hopeful that if this group of students can carve out a vision of what a better world will look like, then it could be the beginning of something bigger. A lighthouse through the nebulous fog, towards something we might recognise as home.