‘I felt elated that I’d done something’: first-time activists on a year of protest | The Guardian

In December 2017, Zac was interviewed exclusively by the Guardian about his introduction to the Labour Party, community activism and politics. The full edited interview reads:

‘Zac Arnold is 17 and studying for his A-levels. He is also part of the committee to save the Dilke and Lydney hospitals in the Forest of Dean.

He came to the campaign through his new membership of the Labour party. “I signed up in May when the general election was announced. So did my dad. We made it a bit of a competition to see who could get signed up first and I think I beat him by a couple of minutes.” He is studying politics at A-level and says he has always been interested, but Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was a deciding factor for him. “I think he seems really honest, and that he actually cares.”

As part of Labour, he attended meetings about the hospital plans and was encouraged by others to become part of the committee, which is bi-partisan. “We’re all very different ages. I think because I’m the youngest I’ve been given a lot of the technology stuff to manage, then I handle some of the press, and I email our volunteers.”

Current NHS plans are to close the Dilke and nearby Lydney and merge the two in a new building. “I’m not against a new hospital but it’s just that we don’t have enough information abut the new plans. We’re all aware of what happened at Tewkesbury, where they got a new hospital and then the floor collapsed. We just want to make sure that we don’t lose out and it seems like the vast majority here are in favour of keeping the two hospitals we’ve got.”

Zac’s mum is a nurse so he says he naturally took an interest in the campaign (his dad stays at home to look after him and his younger sister).  But he’s engaged across a range of issues. The first time we get in contact he tells me he has to rush off because he’s going to a demonstration about Universal Credit. He writes to his local MP “at least once a month about whatever’s on my mind. School cuts, the NHS. I find it amazing that he always writes back to me, even if it does read a bit like a stock response.” His other interests – the Sea Cadets, creative writing – have taken a back seat recently as he tries to go to as many meetings as he can. “And I like to read about other campaigns online. Sometimes I’ll spend a couple of hours in the evening on a site like Change.org and I’ll sign up to 50 petitions. I’ll sign anything I agree with.” He thinks he is one of only four younger members who are active in his constituency (“a 400% increase on this time last year!”) but in many ways he is also the story of 2017. Back in 2005, BBC News did a serious analysis of whether young people were more likely to vote for the winner of Big Brother than they were in a general election and found in favour of the reality show. But as June proved, Zac’s generation are looking for a cause they can get behind. “Doing all these things makes me feel useful. It makes me feel hopeful. I had no hope any more after Brexit but now I feel like we’re making progress.”’