Blurring the Boundaries conference : Immediate Reflections 1

Much to my delight, heeding my plea for thoughts on Friday’s conference, Jon Ord and Fiona Factor filed these instant reflections before their trains even reached their destinations. Much appreciated and more to come on a stimulating and sometimes disconcerting event. Just to send too a message of thanks to Martin and the staff at the Birmingham Settlement, who could not have been more helpful or welcoming and to Kev Jones, pressed at the last minute into being unofficial photographer.


Today, Jon  : Tomorrow, Fiona

Making the most of the opportunity of being able to attend this year’s annual IDYW conference – thanks for making the venue at bit more geographically central – at the Birmingham Settlement, I have to be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… Leaving Plymouth at the crack of dawn I wondered whether the gathering would be much more than Tony Taylor, Bernard Davies and a couple of their mates. What I found however was a very pleasant surprise – one of the largest gatherings of youth workers and youth work educators I have been a part of for quite a while….
The event began with an excellent discussion of the principle of voluntary participation facilitated by presentations from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally who advocated a cogent argument for embracing  the new settings that youth workers find themselves working in, where young people may not have chosen to attend and an impassioned reply by Tania De St Croix.  She reminded everyone that we turn our backs on traditional open access settings at our peril as they provide a unique set of dynamics which can’t be easily replicated, as young people have very few places where they are not either under surveillance or being coerced into some outcome or another.
This was followed by an informative input from Paul Fenton from PALYCW / TAG who shared the findings from 6 consultation events – Shaping the Future – across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. He concluded that whilst he was heartened by the degree of integrity at the heart of youth work in the UK – however challenges do remain around the need to be more innovative. Overall though he was optimistic about the future.
After eating our ‘butties’ as Tony euphemistically referred to our sandwich lunch, we took the opportunity to continue some of the stimulating conversations from the morning session. The afternoon began with an input from Kirsty and Amina from Aspire Arts, and Malcolm Ball from Lewisham, who shared innovative responses to the changing contexts of practice. This continued in smaller groups, where some of the accounts of the swinging and brutal cuts were difficult to hear…

Coming together at the end of the day to share our experiences of the conference and offer suggestions as to a way forward we all felt it was a resounding success – providing a unique opportunity to bring youth workers together in difficult times – sharing our experiences , providing invaluable support and going some small way to ‘defending our unique practice’.

Jon Ord

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