Summerhill: Freedom to Learn, Celebrating Humanity in Education – April 6-8

Summerhill: Freedom to Learn


Fri, 6 Apr 2018, 14:00 – Sun, 8 Apr 2018, 17:00 BST

Summerhill, Westword Ho, Leiston, IP16 4HY

The Freedom to Learn Forum is an annual festival, celebrating humanity in education, bringing together progressive educators, families and other pioneers to showcase and inspire unique learning communities governed by equality, freedom, and collaboration.

Unlikely to resemble any other conferences you’ve been to before, the Freedom to Learn Forum is an open-space arena in which adults and children co-create the schedule. Anyone can host a talk or workshop on any topic they are passionate about, allowing us to share our knowledge, experience, and ideas.

This Spring, the Freedom to Learn Forum will be set in the stunning surroundings of the historic Summerhill school, founded in 1921 and still ahead of its time. Delicious food will be provided by their on-site catering team, and students will be adding a ‘Summerhill Sprinkle’ to the affair, hosting mock-meetings and a famous ‘gram’ (disco). There are a limited number of beds for those who wish to have the authentic Summerhill residential experience.

Price varies from £10 to £60

More information and bookings at


Community Engagement: What’s the Problem? The new Winter CONCEPT explores


A warm welcome to the Winter edition of CONCEPT, the Community Education Journal, which explores what we mean by Community Engagement. In particular, the articles guide us towards the rewarding reader, Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners, written by Mae Shaw and Jim Crowther.

Community engagement is generally assumed to operate for the
good of various kinds of communities, but it’s not as straightforward
as that. Thinking politically about community engagement means
delving beneath the surface claims it makes for itself to ask questions
about what it’s really for. What is its purpose? This means looking
at how it’s funded, for what and why? Who is considered to be
‘the community’ and who is not? Who benefits and who loses out?
Engagement on whose terms? How can communities operate within
these circumstances to shift the balance of power in their favour?
These are all questions that raise political issues



Vol 8 No 3 (2017): Winter

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.


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: 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.

It’s communication isn’t it? Using theatre to bring people together

Youth Work has a rich history of using theatre/drama to stimulate critical conversations about personal, social and political issues. I’m out of touch with how much it features in today’s practice. Meanwhile thanks to James Ballantyne for this link to an excellent piece by theatre director, Toby Ealden.

What Once Was Ours

National Tour Autumn 2017

Created against the background of Brexit, What Once Was Ours uses beautiful imagery, striking original music and immersive design to create this powerful new production, which asks why we’ve become so fearful of anyone who is different from us.

“Stuns the audience into silence”


“What the play achieves best is fluidity – between moments, emotions, politics”


It’s communication isn’t it? Using theatre to bring people together

There’s an assumption in some corners of the theatre sector that creating work for young people is somehow a soft or easy option. Our experience is the opposite. Young audiences seek authenticity and honesty. They want drama that tells it how it is and keeps them engaged. If you don’t tick these boxes then the audience will soon let you know. Young people can handle abstraction better than most adults, and they aren’t afraid of being challenged by big ideas or difficult questions. In short, they don’t take any bullshit.

This kind of immediacy is why we create productions for this age range in the first place. Most of our audiences are first time arts attenders, so they don’t enter the theatre with any preconceived ideas or norms of behaviour. We respond by creating immersive worlds in our shows, removing the seating and placing the audience in the centre of the action for a 360-degree experience in which they can actively feel the show rather then passively spectate.

Armed with hours of interview recordings from our tours, we set about boiling all the noise and conversation into a coherent narrative—using these voices to inspire the production but also littering the script with verbatim quotes from the interviews. The resulting show, What Once Was Ours, aims to illustrate the effects of global and national politics on one family—the macro panorama of the bigger story boiled down into the life of a pair of estranged half siblings called Katie and Callum.

Read in full to find out more.

Latest CONCEPT traverses youth work, adult education, governance and mental distress


Another stimulating group of articles from our good friends at CONCEPT.

Vol 8, No 2 (2017)


Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners



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


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
May 2017

Spring is in the air with a new edition of CONCEPT

Our friends at CONCEPT inform us that the Spring edition is now online at Always worth exploring.

Vol 8, No 1 (2017): Spring
Table of Contents
Feminism: A Fourth to be Reckoned With? Reviving Community Education Feminist Pedagogies in a Digital Age by Mel Aitken

Vulnerable Practice: Why We Need Honest Conversations To Make Change  by Nicky Bolland

The Challenges of Community Planning for the Community and Voluntary Sector in the Current Climate: A Road Well Travelled? by Mae Shaw

Youth And Community Based Approaches to Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: Reflections from India by Marjorie Mayo, Deboshree Mohanta

On The Block: The Fairer Scotland Action Plan and Democracy  by Jim Crowther


Poem: United Colours of Cumnock by Jim Monaghan


Review: Peter McLaren, (2015) Pedagogy of Insurrection by Juha Suoranta

Review: William Davies, (2016) The Happiness Industry by Christina McMellon