‘Whatever Happens’: Pauline Grace and Malcolm Ball being relaxed

I had heard about Malc before I met him. Youth work is such a small world really which is a blessing and a curse. What I knew about him was that he was a good bloke, trade unionist and a well respected youth worker.

Our first meeting was at Youth and Policy’s  History conference in March 2009. I was new in my post as a lecturer and this was my first conference so I was giddy with excitement. Little did I know but I would be working alongside Malc for the next decade or more. In attendance at the conference were all of these ‘names’ in youth work and I was, I must admit, slightly intimidated by it all. However, it quickly transpired that I was amongst fellow travellers. It is no surprise to me that on reflection it was at this conference that the In Defence of Youth Work campaign was brought into the world.

Together at an IDYW conference in Brum

I remember Malc being the person who found common ground at our national steering group meetings. He was easy to talk to, I always thought he was a consummate diplomat. The IDYW steering group is a collection of strong personalities. Just because we were fellow travellers didn’t mean we were in agreement with each other about everything! In these moments, Malc would say something that enabled us all to agree, see the commonality rather than the difference. All with a glint in his eye, a smile on his face.

Later on I would have the privilege to work with Malc on an international level. He was well known in Europe with the work he did with the Lewisham young mayor project. What I loved about him was his down to earth, matter of fact attitude. I was running around like a headless chicken at the launch of the International Journal of Open Youth Work in Lithuania 2017.

The infamous Vilnius ‘Whatever Happens’ workshop

Not only was I in a panic about the launch but I was also feeling stressed about a workshop session that Tony Taylor, Malcolm and I were due to run over the event. True to style, Malc took me to one side and said “it seems to me that all the hard work has already been done, relax, you’ve got this and whatever happens will be what was meant to happen”: he was right of course.

Kind, generous, supportive words from a genuinely nice bloke.

Mal with Lars Largergren at the launch of the International Journal of Open youth work

I could go on and on and on, but would just like to end by saying that the world of youth work locally, nationally and internationally have lost a truly remarkable friend.

Pauline Grace

Senior Lecturer, Vice-president Professional Open Youth Work in Europe (POYWE) Chief Editor of the International Journal of Open Youth Work – but Malc was never a big one for titles!

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