SECOND NATIONAL CONFERENCE, SHEFFIELD : STRATEGIES OF RESISTANCE

Despite our anxiety the Sheffield conference proved be a positive experience. Over fifty supporters from across the country warmed by the welcoming atmosphere of the beautifully renovated St Mary’s Conference Centre focused on how to take the Campaign forward in these troubled times.  To get a flavour of the day’s events, go to

http://vimeo.com/16706922

Here you will find a 20 minute video, expertly put together by Rory Gault, from which the still photos in this post are taken. It includes excerpts from the contributions made by Alima Sonne, Tony Taylor, Gill Archer and Doug Nicholls, together with comments from both participants and representatives from the regional groups.

Given this resource we will concentrate here on outlining the proposals for action taken at the gathering, which we hope all our supporters will take to heart.

STEERING GROUP PROPOSALS

It was agreed that the core members would be Sue Atkins, Malcolm Ball,  Bernard Davies, Donald MacDonald in liaison with Tony Taylor, whilst emphasising that meetings are open to all supporters, whose presence is very much encouraged. Next meeting is provisionally planned to take place in Durham on Thursday, December 2. More details to follow.

– It was agreed  that supporters be encouraged to join the appropriate trade union in their locality and to be involved fully in the the growing campaigns to defend jobs and services within the state and voluntary sectors.

– Following upon the successful North-East event focused on collecting the ‘stories’ of our encounters with young people, it was agreed that other regions be encouraged to organise similar evidence-creating events. Support to do this is readily available.

– Regions are encouraged to identify two people to act as links with the central Campaign – see separate post identifying these stalwarts!

– In addition regions are encouraged to organise independently open, argumentative, controversial debates about the issues facing us e.g. the Youth Work under the CONDEMNS day held in Manchester.

–  It was accepted that we should pursue enthusiastically the possibility of playing a significant part in next year’s  Social Work Action Network April conference in Birmingham.

– It was agreed that we should pursue with groups from Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland Italy, Luxembourg and Norway the concept of a European Network of Open Youth Work.

The afternoon saw people working in regional groups exploring ‘strategies of resistance’ and ‘how best to organise at local and regional levels’.

Strategies of Resistance

Amongst the suggestions were:

– to revive our commitment to being ‘in and of’ the community, which has been undermined by the  often short-term and distanced emphasis of so much targeted work.

– to encourage and support local meetings of workers outside of work on a regular basis in the coffee house or pub, where information can be shared and tactics debated. Isolation needs to be overcome.

– to work directly with young people locally around such questions as ‘what do they get out of youth work?’,’what would they do if it disappeared?, ‘how do they feel about the wider attacks on education and welfare?’ Moving on, if possible, to young people interviewing their friends using video, using the material to engage with managers and councillors. Workers and young people need to be training together about how things change. We should be taking up demands such as ‘Votes at 16’. We need to reclaim political education, to call the bluff on Youth Participation.

– to recognise that youth work academia is proving to be an important source of resistance. Closer ties need to be made between workers, students and lecturers.

– to continue prioritising the ‘Stories’ project. The North-East event facilitated by Bernard Davies was very successful and should be replicated in other regions. Tania de St Croix is running a workshop on this theme at the Federation of Detached Youth Work conference.

– to make alliances locally and regionally across the voluntary and state sectors, within and among the agencies involved  in Integrated Youth Support Services. We need to resist the ‘divide and rule’ tactics of management and the employer. Our struggle is but a piece in the fight to defend the post-war settlement and the creation of the Welfare State.

Organising Regionally

We will post separately on regional developments as we want to stress the vital role of organising on this basis. In particular we want to strengthen the relationship between the centre and the regions. Thus regions are being asked to nominate two contacts, who will be responsible for maintaining communication with the steering group and the web site. More information in the next few days.

Out of the conference we have high hopes that the North-East, North-West, South Yorkshire/East Midlands. West Midlands, South-East and South-West regions will prosper and become more visible. And, of course we hope that other regions will spring into life.

In the final session we confirmed with one another that the Campaign is a collective and participative endeavour. The steering group will do its best to facilitate, lead and organise at a national level. We will try to maintain a lively and informative web site. However in the end any impact we might make depends on us all pulling together. In the words of one participant, ‘we need to break from the passivity that seems to stifle so many of my colleagues.’ In the words of Percy Shelley, we need to

“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number-
Shake your chains to earth like
dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many-they are few.”

In closing we must thank all the platform speakers for their stimulus, Sue Atkins for her sterling work behind the scenes, the staff at St Mary’s for their hospitality, Tania for her notes and again Rory of  Redking Video productions.

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