Post-Seminars, Post-Steering group, Post-Election reimaginings – awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion

The dates for the IDYW seminars on the question of state-funded youth work/National Citizen Service plus our steering group meeting were in the diary long before Teresa May’s opportunist blunder in calling a General Election. Little did she know, but her snap decision and its fallout influenced significantly the nature of the discussions at all our gatherings. In essence, an important and far-reaching question was posed for our consideration.

Despite losing, does the unexpected support for a Corbyn-led Labour Party, riding on an explicit social-democratic manifesto, signal a promising break from the suffocating grip of neoliberal ideas upon society at large and youth work in particular?

 

In wondering thus, we are minded that the Open Letter, which launched IDYW, first drafted in late 2008, exuded what might be seen as a naive optimism.

 

deepslumber

Ta to theatlantic.com

 

Capitalism is revealed yet again as a system of crisis: ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Society is shocked into waking from ‘the deep slumber of decided opinion’. The arrogant confidence of those embracing the so-called ‘new managerialism’, which has so afflicted Youth Work, is severely dented. Against this tumultuous background, alternatives across the board are being sought. We believe this is a moment to be seized. Our contention is that we need to reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work.

In 2017, suitably sobered, our meetings displayed a cautious optimism towards the turn of events, declaring no more than this is a moment not to be missed. In this spirit, we are in the midst of preparing a discussion paper for your perusal and criticism, which will also be the basis for a range of IDYW gatherings in the late Summer/early Autumn, which will hopefully include young people as well as ourselves.

Contrary to the stereotype of IDYW as a haven of nostalgia for a post-Albemarle Golden Age, still peddled recently at a national conference, the paper will seek to reimagine the possibility of state-funded, open-access, pluralist youth provision, which learns from both past and present, good and bad practice, not least in terms of hierarchical and horizontal management approaches; which engages with the often disjointed relationship between the so-called statutory and voluntary sectors; which weighs up recent developments, such as the emergence of social enterprise initiatives and the spectre of the National Citizen Service; which revisits the issue of what sort of training and development might inform the renaissance of youth work as a distinctive educational setting; and which explores tentatively what local and national structures might be congruent with our vision.

Looking down the road we hope that our discussions will lead to the creation of a policy statement aimed without apology at those political parties seeking to break from austerity and neoliberalism.

Watch this space and muck in as the argument flowers.

 

Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners

 

commengagement

Ta to sustaining community

 

As ever we are more than pleased to draw your attention to this excellent resource, courtesy of CONCEPT, produced by those stalwarts of critical practice, Mae Shaw and Jim Crowther. Speaking personally it highlights the common ground occupied by youth workers, community workers and community educators; underlines our shared values, skills and knowledge base; and crucially faces up to the contradictions of our interventions into the lives of young people and the community. To whet your appetite, find below the introduction.

Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners

Introduction

The motivation for this critical guide to community engagement
comes primarily from our experience over many years as teachers on
undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of community education.
These programmes have historically been validated both by the
university and the appropriate professional body, so they are firmly
located at the interface between academic and vocational standards;
between theory and practice. We have found that these di!erent,
sometimes contradictory, demands create a productive dynamic which
has been at the core of our teaching, our writing and our relationships
with the broader field of practice. We consider that an engagement with
significant theoretical frameworks, an awareness of important historical
traditions and an empathetic identification with the social reality of
marginalized groups are all necessary in order to practise critical
community engagement.

One way in which we sometimes characterise this dynamic relationship
is through the notion of ‘theorising practice’. Except in the most
instrumental of cases, practitioners don’t put theory into practice in
any straightforward way. They put themselves into practice! This
suggests a need to think critically and carefully about what role
community engagement fulfils in particular times and places.

It also means that practitioners need to develop the confidence,
skills and knowledge to apply that understanding in practice.
The role of practitioners in seeking to make creative and critical
connections – between personal experience and political structures;
macro-level decisions and micro-level consequences; the potential
for personal agency within constraints of power – should be a core
feature of professional practice as well as of academic study.
The following chapters have been designed to work as one-o!,
freestanding sessions, or as a relatively coherent educational
programme. It goes without saying that they should be modified to
suit particular situations as required. They are intended to open up
discussion rather than to stifle or close it down. In some cases further
efforts will be required by practitioners to make them accessible and
relevant to specific circumstances or groups. Above all, they are
intended to develop clarity about, and consistency between,
educational values, purposes and roles.

Finally, at the heart of this project is the idea of the practitioner as
an active educational agent, rather than simply as an agent of policy.
This position necessarily creates tensions and dilemmas that need to
be confronted, and some of these are presented here. In particular, it
requires practitioners to engage strategically and creatively with the
politics of policy, whilst also attempting to enlarge the democratic
spaces available to communities. We hope this critical guide will
enable people to do this more systematically and more collectively.

Mae Shaw, University of Edinburgh
Jim Crowther, University of Edinburgh
(jim.crowther@ed.ac.uk)
May 2017

UK YOUTHVOICE write to a Prime Minister, who can’t and won’t deliver

 

Youth voice

UK Youth Voice outside 10 Downing Street. Ta to UK Youth for the photo.

 

On Wednesday, June 20 a deputation from UK Youth Voice delivered the group’s manifesto to 10 Downing Street. Addressed to the Prime Minister the detailed contents of the manifesto are to be applauded. Amongst the demands are:

  • Make youth services a priority public service
  • Enable every young person to take an active role in democracy
  • Provide accessible, high-quality education for all young people
  • End discrimination, prejudice and hate crime towards young people
  • Enable future generations to live in a clean, safe and sustainable
    environment

Contrary to a number of pre-election statements from leading youth sector organisations Youth Voice explores these headings in detail. For example the reader will find calls to protect the NHS; for votes at 16; for young people’s involvement in the EU negotiations and the replacement of the Erasmus+ funding stream; free education at all levels plus the cancellation of student debt; equality of pay and an end to zero-hour contracts;  the protection of environmental legislation; and much more.

READ IN FULL at Youth Voice Manifesto

The contradiction facing the young people of Youth Voice is that many of its demands cannot be delivered by a Tory Prime Minister and government, increasingly out of touch with significant sections of society. Indeed it seems that an overwhelming number of 18-25 year olds voted for the revival of social democracy as expressed in the Labour Party’s manifesto and against the failed free market model of neoliberalism. In this context we are very interested in what might be the next political steps for Youth Voice?  To what extent will it be hamstrung by the idea that Youth Voice should be in some contorted way neutral? Is this a moment when it’s necessary for Youth Voice to climb off the fence and pin its colours to an anti-austerity mast?

We look forward to hearing more about how Youth Voice chooses to use its progressive manifesto. For now we wish simply to congratulate Youth Voice on the work it’s put in. Good stuff. And this might just be the beginning.

 

Speaking Truth to Power- Rys Farthing on Young People and Poverty

The last few weeks have been tumultuous and tragic. In the next few days we will post some thoughts on the present situation, following our Manchester seminar on state-funded youth work and last Friday’s steering group meeting. In the meantime here is a timely and pertinent piece from Rys Farthing’s excellent new blog, entitled ‘A timely note on youth, poverty & powerlessness.’

truthpower

Noting the significant shift in the public mood – a growing recognition that politicians, amongst others, must be accountable – she calls on youth workers and young people to seize the moment, concluding:

So try to be a part of this zeitgeist. Has your youth group been ranting for ages about an issue you just didn’t think you could change? Do you know young people whose truths need to be told to those in power? Demand a meeting with your MP. Write to the national charity that works on this issue. Chalk bomb the council until they listen. Support your crew to go to every public event you can and organise for them to speak. Write to your local papers. Tell your funders why you need to do this. Now is the time for the young people you work with to be heard, and slowly but surely, maybe it’s now time for power to listen.

As always your reactions appreciated. I reckon it’s more than a good idea to follow Rys at Radical Youth Practice.

Education for Actions Week in the Durham Miners’ Hall : July 1-7

Thanks to Jean Spence for this link to a remarkable range of thought-provoking sessions during the EDUCATION  FOR ACTIONS Gala week in Durham. Given the unexpected shift in the political atmosphere the week might well be one of great optimism that the tide is turning away from private greed towards collective need. And, we do well to remember the explicit commitment of the Community and Youth Workers Union to the men and women of the mining communities during the Great Strike of 1984/85.

 

durham miners1

 

EDUCATION FOR ACTIONS GALA WEEK ACTIVITY PROGRAMME

All meetings, unless stated otherwise will take place in the Committee Room or Main Hall (the Pitman’s Parliament), Miners’ Hall, Red Hills, Durham City. All events and activities are open to everyone and are free. The building is accessible.

 

_86339380_rehills

The Pitman’s Parliament

SATURDAY 1ST JULY – REDHILLS OPEN DAY

10:00am – 3:00pm: RED HILLS OPEN DAY (No booking required)
Come share and celebrate with us our mining heritage, in this wonderful and unique building. A wonderful opportunity to explore the ‘Pitman’s Parliament’ and beautiful grounds. Guided tours by heritage experts: These will take place at: 10:30am; 12:00pm; and 1:30pm. There will also be an Exhibition of children’s work from Great Lumley Juniors’ School exploring their mining heritage.
Refreshments (Tea, coffee, biscuits, scones, etc.) will be available for a small donation.
For further information or to book a bespoke guided tour contact: education4action@durhamminers.co.uk.

MONDAY 3rd JULY – EDUCATION 4 ACTION

10:00am – 3:00pm: RED HILLS SCHOOLS VISIT
A day long education and arts workshop, working with a local secondary school exploring history, politics, music, trade unions, mining communities and heritage. For further information or if your school is interested in attending or arranging a visit please contact: education4action@durhamminers.co.uk

TUESDAY 4TH JULY – HERITAGE DAY

1:30pm – 3:00pm: THE WORKERS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: HISTORY & HERITAGE BRANCH
A tour of the building will be followed by a presentation by Kath Connelly on the work of Education 4 Action, followed by a meeting to formalise the constitution of the WEA History & Heritage Branch.
(Committee Room)

3:00pm – 5:00pm: FILM SCREENING: ASUNDER
A film by Esther Johnson. Using archive and contemporary footage and audio, Asunder collages the stories of people from Tyneside and Wearside to uncover just what life was like on the home front, with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballer. The narrative moves from and Edwardian golden era, in which sport grew in popularity and aircraft and cars pointed to a bright new future, to a war that horrifically reversed this progress. In the battle of the Somme, British, French and German armies fought one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in a confrontation of unimaginable horror. (Main Hall)

6:00pm – 7:00 pm. There will be a tour of the building followed by:
The NORTH EAST LABOUR HISTORY SOCIETY Presents:
MICHAEL CHAPLIN: SID CHAPLIN’S DURHAM: A VOYAGE AROUND MY FATHER’
Last year Michael edited a new collection of Sid’s poems, short stories and essays written in the 1940’s when he was a pitman at Dean and Chapter in Ferryhill. It was published in the autumn to mark his birth centenary. Born in County Durham Michael Chaplin is a theatre, radio, television and non-fiction writer and former television producer and executive. (Committee Room)

WEDNESDAY 5th JULY – EDUCATION 4 ACTION

 

10:00am – 3:00pm: RED HILLS SCHOOLS VISIT
A day long education and arts workshop, working with a local primary school exploring history, politics, music, trade unions, mining communities and heritage. For further information or if your school is interested in attending or arranging a visit please contact: education4action@durhamminers.co.uk

THURSDAY 6th JULY – STRIKES, PROTESTS & SOLIDARITY

Join us from 5pm, for evening of literature, music, talks, film and poetry

5:00pm – 6:00pm: BOOK LAUNCH – JUSTICE DENIED: FRIENDS, FOES AND THE MINERS’ STRIKE
This is a timely book written by former miners and radical academic researchers, the majority of whom were participants in the 1984-85 miners’ strike in Britain. It is particularly welcome today as calls intensify, despite the attempts by the establishment to silence them, for a public enquiry into the policing of picketing at Orgreave. Not only is it a marvellous account of the bravery of the men and women and their allies during one of the longest industrial strikes in British history, it is also testimony to the resilience of mining communities in the face of state repression. (Committee Room)

6:00pm – 7:00pm: PIT CAMPS
Flis Callow and Caroline Poland, who were active in Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures in 1984/85, and in the 1992/93 struggle to keep the pits open after Heseltine’s announcement to close 31 more pits, will present and share their experiences of the Houghton Main Pit Camp in 1993. They are currently gathering archive material and stories about Houghton Main Pit Camp in Yorkshire, as well as the other 6 pit camps set up in 1993. This is a little known story they hope to tell in a book written in conjunction with Gary Rivett and Sheffield University’s ‘History of Activism’ project. They will be interested to hear from anyone involved in any of the other pit camps. (Main Hall)

7:00 – 7.30pm: THE NORTH EAST SOCIALIST SINGERS
Hailing from all over the region, the community singers will perform a range of songs, drawing on our region’s rich mining heritage and socio-political history. Expect songs of protest, freedom and solidarity. You are most welcome to join in. (Main Hall)

7:30pm – 9.30pm: MINING THE MEMORIES
The ‘Mining the Memories’ project supported ex-miners and former colliery community members in South Yorkshire to write and produced a series of short films which tell their stories of the 1984/85 miners strikes and the continued legacy the decline in the coal mining industry is having on their communities. In total 5 original short dramas, 1 original animation and 2 documentaries. One documentary focuses on the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and their continued fight for justice, the other focuses on Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire. (Main Hall)

FRIDAY 7th JULY – POVERTY IS POLITICAL

Join us from 2pm as we explore Red Hills. Followed by an evening of talks, film and lecture exploring issues surrounding one of the most prevalent problems in our society today; inequality. Food and refreshments will be available.

4:30pm – 5:30pm: HUNGER PAINS
Author Kayleigh Garthwaite volunteered with a Teesside food bank for two years, a time which inspired her acclaimed book ‘Hunger Pains’. Kayleigh shall share her work and research exploring food bank culture and poverty within austerity Britain. You are invited to share your thoughts and experiences.
Kayleigh spent two years volunteering in a foodbank in Stockton on Tees as part of a bigger project which looked at health inequalities brought about by the huge cuts in state spending through the Government’s austerity programme. Kayleigh provides a powerful insight into the realities of foodbanks. Trussell Trust data shows that 87,693 people including 35,246 children received three day emergency food from the Trussell Trust foodbanks in the North East of England 2014-2015. 13 million people live in poverty in Britain and over half of these are working families and in a town where a boy born in one of the poorest parts of Stockton can expect to live to just 67, a boy growing up just two miles down the road in Eaglescliffe or Hartburn would expect to live to 84. (Main Hall)

5:30pm – 6:30pm: THE DAVY HOPPER MEMORIAL LECTURE. SPEAKER: KEN LOACH
Education 4 Action presents ‘The Davey Hopper Memorial Lecture’ featuring Ken Loach, acclaimed film director and social commentator, director of ‘I Daniel Blake’, ‘Bread and Roses’, ‘Land and Freedom’ and many more. (Main Hall)

6:30pm – 7pm. THE FORGOTTEN WORKERS: LOW PAID WORK AND MULTIPLE EMPLOYMENT
Dr Jo McBride (Newcastle University) and Dr Andrew Smith (Bradford University) will talk about their concerns relating to low-paid work, wage inequalities, the rise of unstable jobs and in-work poverty. Whilst successive UK governments have attempted to reduce unemployment and make work pay, viewing employment as the best route out of poverty/low-pay, there has been a rise in what is termed ‘precarious work’. We have termed these people the ‘Forgotten Workers’ as they are largely absent from official statistics and policy debates. This is the first ever study in the UK to explicitly focus on low-paid workers in more than one job and to examine their work experiences and work-life challenges. We have discovered issues concerning underemployment, intensification of work, extensification of work, challenges and complexities of juggling work and home, issues with zero hours contracts and the well being of people struggling with more than one job. (Main Hall)

7:30pm: FILM SCREENING – THE SPIRIT OF 45
Ken Loach’s impassioned documentary, tells of how the spirit of unity buoyed Britain during the war years, and carried through to create a vision of a fairer, united society. This session will take place in the (Main Hall)

For more information about the Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, please visit our website: www.friendsofdurhamminersgala.org

Cor Blimey! A first chance to reflect on what the Mayhem might mean for youth work – Manchester June 14 and London, June 23

 

mayhem

Ta to the Liverpool Echo

 

Given the shockwave created by the General Election result, the possible implications will now feed into the discussion at our forthcoming seminars, which will be one of the first opportunities to take a breath about what’s happening. Bernard and Tania will attempt at short notice to take the present mayhem, chaos and promise into account in their opening contributions!

WHAT FUTURE FOR STATE-FUNDED YOUTH WORK?

Manchester seminar: Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm at M13 Youth Project

Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ

A short walk or bus ride from Manchester Piccadilly. See map and directions: http://www.brunswickchurch.org.uk/contact–location.html

London seminar: Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm at King’s College London

School of Education, Communication & Society, Rm 2/21, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, SE1 9NH.

Five minutes from Waterloo station (but slightly confusing to find!) See map and directions: https://www.kcl.

In the light of the general election campaign and results, we are looking forward to meeting to discuss its possible implications for youth work – and in particular, on this occasion, for state-funded and state-organised youth work. The slightly tweaked programme is below. Please note that there is no lunch break. You are welcome to bring your lunch and eat during the session. Please arrive on time – or feel free to arrive early, anytime from 12:30 pm. Bookings are still open: please email Rachel@yasy.co.uk or indeed turn up on the day.

1- 1.10: Introduction to the proceedings.

1:10-1:30: Views from the field: Reflections from participants on the general election campaign and results. What does it mean for young people and for youth work?

1.30 – 2.30: Bernard Davies re-imagines how youth work might be supported and provided by the state – beyond the neoliberal mindset (15 min talk followed by discussion).

2.30 – 2.45 Break.

2.45 – 3.45: Tania de St Croix argues that the National Citizen Service is top-down, prescriptive, and pro-neoliberal, and should be replaced (15 min talk followed by discussion).

3.45 – 4.00: Feedback on the session and ideas for future seminars and action.

Hope to see you at either of these gatherings.

For F*****’s sake! Tories Out!

 For our Future’s Sake, Tories Out

I’ve never been persuaded that turning out, whenever it suits politicians and their paymasters, to put a cross on a ballot paper is the highest expression of my democratic conviction. It strikes me as bizarre that handing over my say about how the world should be to an individual, who is the obedient follower of his or her party and who is neither accountable or recallable to me, is perceived as the democratic moment of my existence. Neither is my doubt an insult to the memory of those, who struggled for the universal adult franchise. This important victory is but a stepping stone towards more inclusive forms of democratic involvement, Even under its own rules representative democracy denies the vote to young people, who are taxed without representation.

Hence I’ve always treated elections with caution,  even though, in my time, I’ve leafletted and canvassed for Labour. Indeed there have been moments when I have also openly argued against voting Labour and shown sympathy with the anarchist slogan, ‘Don’t Vote, it only encourages them!’ This is not one such moment.

Across the years the professional youth workforce has tended to support Labour, seeing it as a progressive party committed to the central role of the state in providing public services. Indeed in 1997 many workers were seduced by Blair’s ‘Third Way’ with its championing of what has come to be called ‘identity politics’.  The price paid was a heavy one as New Labour abandoned class politics and solidarity, embracing both neoliberalism’s masturbatory self-centredness and its fetishistic belief in an iron law of the market.  The price paid has been austerity and widening inequality. The price paid has been the creation of the precarious society. The price paid has been the eruption of a Manichean world of good and evil, of our bombs and their bombs, none of which distinguish between the guilty or the innocent. Even as it forfeited power to the Conservatives, New Labour proved unable to think outside the neoliberal oblong. Thus there has seemed to be little choice in the party political arena – ‘you couldn’t put a Rizla between them’.

However, in the last turbulent months and volatile days, the scenario has changed dramatically. A Labour Party, perceived as in a terminal crisis, has risen from its bed, led by Jeremy Corbyn, an unlikely and much-maligned figurehead. To the dismay of much of its Parliamentary wing the Labour Party has been reminded of its social-democratic heritage. Its manifesto, whilst by no means the last word in radicalism, is being experienced as a breath of exhilarating air, by many more than just the faithful. It asserts the common good against private greed. It desires peace not war. Whilst it says very little about youth work – a promise to stop the cuts, NCS retained – it offers hope for young people, aspiring to free them from debt and zero-hour contracts. For now, our sectional interests are not the burning issues.

Where does this leave us? It seems pretty straightforward – Vote Labour on Thursday. And yet? Despite Labour’s remarkable recovery from being written off, it is very unlikely that it can achieve an overall majority, especially with Scotland in mind. And I’m convinced such a triumph would be deeply problematic. It would be pulled off with the support of a minority of the population, which would not stop Labour from declaring it had a mandate to impose its programme. At odds with the proposal that he’s about a new way of doing politics, Jeremy Corbyn is still tribal in his outlook. He yearns for the revival of the two-party contest, Labour versus Conservative. Thus he refuses to countenance supportive, working agreements with other political parties. The Greens are dismissed, even though Caroline Lucas might well be the first choice for a Deputy Prime Minister. He argues neither the Scottish National Party nor the Liberal Democrats are progressive, not to be touched with a fishing rod. Yet the majority of his own party’s MP’s suffer in stunned silence, unable to get their heads around the collapse of their pragmatic accommodation to the status quo.  Can you believe it, they are now being expected to believe in something other than their own careers?

For sure, it’s a mess of contradiction, but let me end with two proposals, for what they’re worth.

  1.  If at all possible, it is vital to prevent five further years of a growing Tory authoritarian populism.
  2. We need to celebrate the possible emergence of a Coalition of Chaos, which brings together in creative dialogue and practice political groupings, which in opposing the way things are, possess a vision of a fairer society.  In IDYW we urge a practice that is improvisatory and reflective, democratic and emancipatory, knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed.

On Thursday, vote defensively to stop the Tories and vote optimistically for a new way of doing politics. In this momentous clash our vote is but the beginning. Both within and without youth work our obligation is to carry on building from below. Our task is to hold politicians to account. Our commitment is to speak truth to power.

Thursday looks like being more enthralling than we ever thought. Whatever the outcome, the struggle continues.