Generations of Activism – 1918 – 1978 – 2018, to celebrate 100 years of women’s enfranchisement, feminist youth work and current feminist activism.

Generations of Activism – launch event
Fri 23rd March 2018, 10am-4.30pm
People’s History Museum
Left Bank, Manchester
M3 3ER 

Feminist Webs volunteers have initiated a collaborative project, Generations of Activism – 1918 – 1978 – 2018, to celebrate 100 years of women’s enfranchisement, feminist youth work and current feminist activism.

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The project will launch at the People’s History Museum on 23rd March, as part of the Wonder Woman Festival. The event will focus on some 1970s themes from girls work: Our Bodies, Ourselves; Violence against Women; Creativity and Culture; and Women and Work. There will be talks, inter-generational conversations, and opportunities to reflect on activism then and now and to browse the Feminist Webs archive. There will be silkscreen and banner-making workshops and connected creative and adventurous activities in and around the museum… all this and more! Have a look at the Facebook event page and you can sign up already on Eventbrite.

A second strand of the project will involve making boxes to take to schools, youth groups and student groups to stimulate cross-generational conversations about feminism (and for the purposes of oral history). If you would like to be involved in selecting and creating materials for the boxes, please contact Janet Batsleer: J.Batsleer@mmu.ac.uk. There are plans to offer workshops, designed with young activists, as part of the International Day of the Girl Child in October. Suggestions are welcome for schools, colleges or youth groups to work with.

Challenging research into young people’s gangs and the drug trade

Challenging first article of the New Year from Youth & Policy.

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The End of the Line? The Impact of County Lines Drug Distribution on Youth Crime in a Target Destination

Paul Andell and John Pitts explore, through local research, young people’s gang involvement and subsequent engagement with the national and international drugs trade.

 

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Thanks to Somerset Live

 

This article describes a Rapid Assessment Exercise commissioned by a local authority to inform an evidence-based multi-agency response to the involvement of vulnerable children and younger adolescents in illicit drug trafficking. The research was commissioned by a local authority in an English County Town, The researchers analysed relevant quantitative data held by social welfare, health, educational and criminal justice agencies. Interviews were conducted with professionals from these agencies and three key informants previously involved in the illicit drugs trade. Two focus groups were conducted with professionals and three with gang-involved and gang-affected children and young people. The quotations in this article were all derived from these individual interviews and focus groups. The article considers whether the emergence of this problem is simply a result of local contingencies or whether it represents an instance, and a moment, in the evolution and transformation of, the English street gang and the ‘County Lines’ model of drug distribution. In an attempt to answer this question the article considers three models of gang and drug market evolution and assesses their relevance to developments in the Town.

Bethia McNeil muses on the dilemmas of naming and measuring youth work

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Our relationship with the Centre for Youth Impact [CYI] remains inevitably delicate. We are deeply cautious about the consequences of its perspective for a process-led, person-centred youth work practice. However, we have sought to be in critical dialogue with CYI and this desire has been reciprocated. Hence it’s important to engage with Bethia McNeil’s New Year’s musings on what she sees as key issues in the ongoing debate about the relationship between something we call youth work and the heterogeneous layer of humanity we call young people.

Thoughts From The Centre – to be found in the very useful CYI Newsletter
This month, Bethia has been mostly thinking about…

  • What is the most meaningful language in which to talk about provision for young people? Does it make sense to talk about different ‘fields’ of practice? Or approaches? Or even practices? And what about ethics, values and principles? To what extent is shared learning held back by a lack of common language and/or understanding?
  • What is the relationship between ‘organisational’ or ‘practice improvement’ and improvement in outcomes for young people? Are there common areas of improvement, or is it more nuanced? How much is about systems and processes, and how much about relationships?
  • How can we value the act of measurement as much as the data that we are gathering? It feels like there are fractures on both sides of this issue at the moment: there is widespread antipathy towards the act of measurement and its impact on youth provision, and similarly a scepticism that the data gathered can tell us anything meaningful about our engagement with young people. Where to start?
  • What do we actually mean when we talk about ‘what works’? To what extent is this in the eye of the beholder?

 

If I can get my act together I’ll scribble some sort of response to these pertinent questions in the coming week, but it would be brilliant if other folk contributed.

Newsletter
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Knowledge Bar with a social purpose in Manchester, January 18

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Our friends at 42nd Street – the project now 36 years old – illustrate their continuing creativity and commitment to their roots. True to their philosophy amidst the gloom and stress, giving folk in Manchester something to smile about.

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Manchester-based mental health charity 42nd Street is inviting the public to their Knowledge Bar; a social evening with purpose, Thursday 18th January 6.30 -9pm at The Horsfall, 87 Great Ancoats Street, M4 5AG.

Each month Knowledge Bar aims to improve Manchester’s wellbeing with healthy food and drink tastings, creative workshops and talks by professionals with insight into how to live a more balanced life.

The event is held at 42nd Street’s creative venue The Horsfall, opened just a year ago with the aim of improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing through creative activity.

The idea for this public event came from research which uncovered stories of 18th Century Salons held in Ancoats and which gave people an opportunity to socialise and share ideas and knowledge.

42nd Street has taken inspiration for the project from the Ancoats Art Museum; a unique social and artistic experiment established in Ancoats, Manchester at the end of the 19th Century. Its founder, Thomas C Horsfall sought to promote wellbeing and social change through contact with art and nature. Horsfall filled the museum with artworks, sculptures, music recitals, public lectures and even live birds in a bid to make the lives of those living in the surrounding slums more bearable. The Horsfall project will draw on this rich, but little-known story and make it relevant and useful to young people across the city today. {Extract from earlier publicity}

This month you can learn to roll your own sushi with Sahabat Boat Café, pick up tips for turning chaos into calm with The Clutter Fairy and upcycle what otherwise might be thrown away with Taylor Made with Love.

The event is free.

IDYW National Conference, Friday, March 9 in Birmingham – put the date in the diary

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ADVANCE NOTICE

THE NINTH IDYW NATIONAL CONFERENCE 

FRIDAY, MARCH 9 at THE BIRMINGHAM SETTLEMENT

‘Swimming with or against a turning tide? Where should youth work be heading?’

from 12.30 – 4.30 p.m.

Towards the end of last year a series of regional ‘Is the tide turning?’ events were held around the country. As a result, we are attempting to draw out of these diverse discussions a coherent set of proposals and demands that might be put to what we see as the progressive wing of British politics, those parties willing to ditch the damaging legacy of neoliberalism – namely Labour, the Greens, the Scottish Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru and increasingly the Liberal Democrats. The conference will be our collective opportunity to debate and revise both the purpose and content of such a policy paper.

As last year we are organising on the basis that the starting time will help those travelling longer distances and that you will have consumed your lunch in advance.

PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME

12.00 Arrivals, socialising – drinks available. Participants responsible for own lunch.

12.30 Welcome, housekeeping 

12.45 – 1.05 Presentation of the major themes in our draft set of proposals. These will have been circulated in advance. 

1.05 – 2.00 Small group discussion about and responses to the proposals

2.00 – 2.15 Break

2.15 – 3.00 Responses to the proposals from invited representatives from the wider youth sector, such as the National Youth Agency, UK Youth, the Training Agencies Group, UNITE/UNISON and the Centre for Youth Impact

3.00 – 4.00 Further small group exploration of how our proposals might be taken forward

4.00 – 4.30 Taking a collective breath as to what we might do next?

 

More information soon. In the meantime please spread the word, knowing the conference as ever will take place in the supportive and reflective atmosphere, that characterises IDYW debate and is deeply appreciated by participants. And that the conference fee will definitely not break the bank!

 

 

Hope for the best, fear the worst – Grandma, Gramsci and Youth Work

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If you’re looking forward to a chirpy, uplifting post welcoming in the New Year, sorry, you probably need to go elsewhere. Someplace where the present and future seems always to be exciting and amazing.  The UK Youth website might be a good start. The charity, which has now absorbed the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services and Ambition, is full of itself. Preening with corporate confidence under the slogan. ‘We Build Bright Futures’, it claims to be uniquely placed to tackle low levels of social mobility amongst young people. And without pausing for reflective breath, without a hint of embarrassment, it quotes approvingly the government’s approval of its fantastic work. Being awkward I find myself thinking, surely praise from the latest in a line of neoliberal parties from New Labour via the Coalition to the Tories, whose policies have widened social inequality, is at the very least to be treated with a touch more caution.

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Hot-pot

I can hear some folk muttering, ‘Taylor must have fallen out of bed the wrong way on New Year’s morn, the miserable old soul. Too much alcohol, far too much neoliberal this, neoliberal that, too little in the way of acknowledging the efforts of the youth sector’s leadership, too few thanks to the grassroots’.  In my immediate defence, I can vouch that the Taylor household did not venture out on New Year’s Eve, preferring to consume traditional Lancashire hotpot with mashed carrots and turnip in front of the fire, fueled by only a few glasses of the local red. Indeed we were in bed before midnight, which, I allow, is pretty miserable. Hence, walking the dog on the first day of 2018 found me in sober mood, thinking of a grandma, whose favourite homily was ‘hope for the best, fear the worst’. Now she spoke only in dialect and had never read the dialectics of Antonio Gramsci, but it struck me her message didn’t seem all that different than the Italian Marxist’s argument for ‘optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect’.

Gramsci

 

Granted, though, my grandma’s advice is passive, ‘what else can we do but pray for the best?’, whereas Gramsci implies that it’s necessary for us to struggle to achieve the best, ‘what else can we do but act to bring about the best?’ In this context, UK Youth might understandably ask, ‘why are you giving us a hard time? We are ‘doing hope’, doing our best’.

Whilst this is a fair point it begs the question, how are we to understand hope? For twenty years or more hope in its neoliberal guise has been thoroughly individualistic and competitive. New Labour’s version stressed the need for young people to be aspirational. For the Conservatives the emphasis continues to be rooted in a notion of self-improvement via which the young person will deserve to climb the ladder of success. Absent from this way of seeing things is the social, which makes it all the more ironic that the term social mobility has such wide currency.  Thus UK Youth can make the remarkable claim that it can increase young people’s social mobility with apparently no sense of contradiction.

I don’t think it’s out of order to ask UK Youth if it considered the following dilemmas before announcing it was ‘tackling social mobility’? After all youth work is supposed to be a bastion of self-reflective, critical thought and practice?

  1. As touched on above the discourse of social mobility is individualistic, linked to the revived myth of meritocracy – you get what you deserve. It ignores utterly structural constraints on young people’s opportunities, underpinned still by class, gender and race inequality, expressed in poverty, inadequate housing provision etc.
  2. As Patrick Ainley has pointed out, ‘the Tories have dramatically increased social mobility. However, it is general, absolute, DOWNWARD social mobility that has increased, whilst the limited, relative, upward social mobility of the post-war, welfare state period is nowadays so statistically insignificant as to be exceptional.’
  3. Social mobility itself is a deeply problematic concept. It is at odds with social equality and social justice. What does it mean to suggest that a working class young person ought to better themselves? How many young entrepreneurs and vloggers as opposed to care workers and gardeners does society need? On what grounds are these socially crucial working class jobs paid less and given less status? The youth sector hosts many a seminar on becoming a competitive entrepreneur. I’ve yet to see a parallel series of workshops on becoming a cooperative public servant. To paraphrase John McLean, the great Scottish socialist, ‘why not rise with your class, rather than out of it?’

Noam Chomsky Neoliberalism

Of course the issues I’m raising go far beyond UK Youth. They express the way in which neoliberal ideas are the common-sense of our times. Despite the fact that the neoliberal economic model is broken they express the way in which its individualist, ‘dog eat dog’, market-driven ideology has been insinuated deep into the soul of youth work – so much so that is hardly ever questioned. For my part I’ll carry on banging on about its destructive consequences for youth work. I’ll pursue further the way in which it has incorporated and distorted concepts such as empowerment and social justice. That’s my New Year’s resolution, tempered by the recognition that I need a few more jokes.

Let me end with the first part of a proposal from William Bodrick, which has resonance, in my opinion, for youth workers of all persuasions.

We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place
where people must always find us.

[Thanks to James Ballantyne for the link to Brodrick]

 

 

 

Youth Work Cuts, Bits & Pieces and a touch of Christmas Cheer

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Head done in, as usual, so simply sending seasonal greetings to all our readers and supporters- Ta to Justin Wyllie for photo

It’s always difficult to know what and how much to post across the holidays period, particularly the Christmas and New Year festive season. Thus this will be the last post of 2017 and inevitably a mix of gloom and hope, of contradiction and tension. It does contain links to articles/reports and blogs that you might read over a warming drink on a dark winter’s night in Macclesfield or indeed a cooling beverage on the beach in Mozambique.

CYPN reports that Youth service cuts ‘deeper than predicted’Spending on youth services by local authorities last year fell by £42m more than initially predicted, government figures have revealed. Statistics published by the Department for Education show that total expenditure by local authorities on youth services in 2016/17 came to £447.5m. This is £41.99m less than the £489.5m councils had told the DfE they were intending to spend and a 15.2 per cent cut on actual spending in 2015/16 of £527.9m.Separate figures published in September for predicted, as opposed to actual, spending show that funding is set to fall further, with councils saying they intend to spend £415.8m on youth services in 2017/18.

I think some IDYW followers were involved in CIRCUIT, a national programme for 15– 25 year-olds, led by Tate and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. From 2013-17, ten galleries worked in partnership with youth organisations, aiming to create opportunities for a more diverse range of young people to engage with art in galleries and to steer their own learning. Circuit highlighted the importance of the arts and youth sectors working as allies to champion positive change for young people. A number of reports are now available at https://circuit.tate.org.uk/explore/

The latest Youth & Policy article sees Gus John composing ‘a searing critique of policy in relation to youth violence – Youth Work and Apprehending Youth Violence. Gus focuses in particular on black young people and calls for a renewed role for youth work and education’. As he notes in the piece Gus trained as a youth worker in the late 1960s and was a practitioner and youth service manager for twenty years before becoming a director of education and leisure services. Significantly, he was one of only two directors of education / chief education officers who had attained that position through a youth work / social education route. See also Fifty Years of Struggle: Gus John at 70 and Reflections on the 1981 Moss Side ‘Riots’ : Gus John.

Mention of the National Citizen Service raises the hackles amongst many of our readers. Nevertheless, Graeme Tiffany, philosophical as ever, attended a recent seminar, ‘Next steps for the National Citizen Service and priorities for Character Education in England’. His incisive reflection on the experience is contained in his thoughts on meaning and value and observations such as ‘I remember Sheffield University’s Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Education, Wilf Carr once asking me: “why do we always ask what education is for, and never what education is?” This is fertile territory, and I suspect Wilf would have acknowledged the progress we made in our attempts to answer his question. Indeed, given the testimony of many at the conference, it seems reasonable to argue that education is implicitly about drawing out character, and particularly that related to good (and democratic) citizenship, perhaps even that it is implicitly philosophical too’.

There’s a lot more going on, but coverage will wait until the New Year. What’s the rush, even if we’re always rushing.

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To close I recommend for your enjoyment James Ballantyne’s ‘Albermarleys were dead to begin with…’ A Youthwork Christmas carol in which Justine ‘Scrooge’ Greening is visited by Lady Albemarle, the NCS, followed by Jeffs and Smith, the outcome being that to this reader’s delight Tiny Tony Taylor didn’t die and grew up to be a youth worker.