Remembering the Battle of Lewisham and the involvement of youth and community workers

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It’s perhaps revealing that in the preparations for the demonstration and on the day itself local authority and voluntary sector youth and community workers, alongside young people, were to the fore. With all its tensions and contradictions, being involved was seen as the ABC of political education.  Forty years later, in working environments where talk of politics is seen at best as a distraction, at worst as a disciplinary issue, how many practitioners would see matters in the same way? Whilst circumstances have changed, racism remains at the heart of our present political turmoil and remains a burning issue in our work with young people.

 

Remembering the Battle of Lewisham 40 years on: Weekend of events 12-13 August

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This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, when the Nazi National Front were blocked from marching between New Cross and Lewisham town centre. The first time a national NF march had been stopped from reaching its destination.

It is one of the most significant historical events in Lewisham’s history and for race relations in Britain. There is a weekend of events planned to commemorate this event.

Unite Against Fascism have organised a Commemorative March through Lewisham, Assemble 1pm, Clifton Rise, London, SE14 6JW. Event page: http://bit.ly/2hIWFHY
This will be followed by a Love Music Hate Racism event at New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Rd SE14 6AS. Hip hop artist Logic will be performing at the event. Event page: http://bit.ly/2sGWs90
Remembering the “Battle of Lewisham” community festival: Sunday 13th August

On Sunday 13th August Love Music Hate Racism, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Council and the Albany Theatre are running a community festival commemorating the “Battle of Lewisham”. The free event will include live music, screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions, stalls, food and an evening gig.

The event will begin with the unveiling of a plaque 12.15pm Clifton Rise, London SE14 6JW followed by a festival at The Albany from 1 pm full details here.

Queer Politics and the contribution of Youth Work – remembering Clause 28

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality the papers today are carrying a range of articles covering its significance – see, for instance, Queer politics has been a force for change; celebrate how far we’ve come by Jeanette Winterson. Within her piece, she remembers the infamous Clause 28.

In 1988 the Thatcher regime passed into law clause 28 of the Local Government Act, making it an offence to “promote” homosexuality in schools. Nobody really knew what this meant, with its malign claims of “pretend” family relationships; all teachers knew was that they couldn’t be positive about any sexual identity other than straight. For me, also 28 at the time, it felt like legalised hatred.

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Led by lesbian youth workers, in particular, many of us refused to abide by this deeply prejudiced legislation. Ironically, I’ve just been trawling the Youth & Policy archive, now online in its entirety, and there you can find evidence of this resistance in two articles from the time –  Mike Heathfield’s ‘The Youth Work response to lesbian and gay youth’ in Youth and Policy 23, Winter 1987/88  and Peter Kent-Baguley’s fierce polemic,’One Too Many’ in Youth & Policy 24, Spring 1988.

This is a bit rushed. Other folk of the time might have links to other materials.

But for a living example of where the struggle is up to in 2017 and the strides made, see, for example,  the Proud Trust – home of LGBT+ youth

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Celebrating Youth & Policy 4 – Positive for Youth: Is policy meeting practice? Pat Kielty explores.

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In the last of the first four pieces on the revamped Y&P website, with a new youth policy evidently in the offing, Pat Kielty subjects the past Coalition’s ‘Positive for Youth’ rhetoric to critical scrutiny.

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Beginning:

As we await the release of a new youth policy, this article considers Positive for Youth and explores how political rhetoric relates to practice. This is done by considering three key policy concepts; respect, empowerment and belonging. These notions are complex, contested and clearly not restricted to the field of youth work. As such, a complete analysis is beyond the scope of the piece but there will be a commitment to view them from the paradigm of youth work and young people.

All quotes within this article are taken directly from current youth policy or from young people. Focus group research was conducted with members of the Thurrock Youth Cabinet (TYC) and Riverside Youth Club (RYC) in Tilbury. Research participants were asked to consider the identified notions in the context of their lives and the youth work provision they attend.

Concluding:

This article aims to give some critical consideration to a selection of values contained within youth policy. It was suggested earlier, there is a discourse in Positive for Youth around the young person undergoing individual transformation. As such, they are to become ‘empowered’, to develop and receive ‘respect’ and obtain a ‘sense of belonging’. The fundamental concern here is the lack of attention given to these complex notions. Policy does also not take account of the wider political and social factors, the environment of the young person and the understated role of association.

From a practical perspective, I would support the view that respect, empowerment and belonging do have relevance to youth work. However, I believe these need careful deliberation, exploration and application both from the worker and the young person. Claims without dialogue and rhetoric based on assumption need to be avoided. Freire (1972) states that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Youth policy appears to place a number of requests on young people, but perhaps policy makers should reflect on a simple but powerful message:

They should listen to us more. (Member RYC)

Celebrating Youth & Policy 3 – Bernard Davies on ‘youth volunteering – the new panacea’

 

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There are few people better placed to put today’s interpretations of  volunteering and social action under the microscope than Bernard Davies, author of a trilogy of ‘Histories of the Youth Service in England.’ Drawing on his extensive historical research Bernard seeks to interrogate policy and practice in an arena, which has come to be seen as simply ‘a good thing’.

Youth volunteering: the new panacea?

 

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Bernard in discussion with Jon Ord- Ta to Justin Wyllie for the image

 

He begins:

Governments of all parties have long been keen to get young people to volunteer – that is, to give some of their time freely to a worthy cause or activity. Papers and reports going back at least fifty years have been urging them to offer themselves for what was at the time often called ‘community service’. One of these, from the Youth Service Development Council entitled Service by Youth and dated December 1965, prompted me even then to ask: So – is this another attempt to tame the young? (Davies, 1967).

At one point he poses these questions:

How far, for example, are young people engaging on a genuinely voluntary basis – that is, outside adult authority pressures – given that one survey has suggested that in 2015 nearly 75 percent of the participants found their way into volunteering via their school or college? (Offord, 2015b; 2016b).
How far are the programmes’ educational interventions building from and on the interests and concerns brought to them by the young people who are actually participating?
How far are the programmes starting from the process-focused presumption that, in their own right, relationship-building and interpersonal responsiveness – young person to young person and young person to adult – require at least as much dedicated attention as task- and programme-completion?

I hope Bernard’s piece gets the attention and response it deserves, not least from those, for whom youth volunteering is without contradiction.

 

 

Celebrating Youth & Policy 2 – Tania de St Croix bidding goodbye to NCS?

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The second of our pieces from the new-look Y&P sees Tania de St Croix continuing her incisive and provocative analyses of Cameron’s vanity project, once called by Tim Loughton in a phrase of utter ignorance ‘the fastest growing social movement in Europe’, namely, the National Citizen Service. Tania gave a version of this argument to our recent IDYW seminars in Manchester and London. Certainly, its sense of the contradictions within NCS will feed into a discussion paper we are preparing, which will seek to explore future scenarios for youth work in a turbulent political climate.

Time to say goodbye to the National Citizen Service?

 

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Tania de St Croix

 

 

Tania writes:

Until recent political events, the practice of re-imagining youth work – thinking in a utopian way about what youth work could, or should, become – may have been a creatively rich exercise, yet it sometimes felt futile, at least beyond the very local scale. In the light of the recent general election campaign and results, and without over-romanticising the possibilities for electoral politics, it is now not only reasonable but even urgent for practitioners, activists and researchers to think seriously and practically about what kind of youth work policy and practice we would like to see, and how we might get from here to there.

She asserts:

In this context, reviewing the NCS may not appear to be the most pressing priority for the field. However, a re-imagined youth policy that does not question the basis of NCS would be both problematic and contradictory. Just as local authority youth services were, quite rightly, the target of robust criticism by progressives in the past (for example, for being overly bureaucratic, too ready to see young people as ‘problems’ to be ‘fixed’, insufficiently self-critical, and too quick to conform to the policy priorities of the day), today the NCS receives the bulk of government money and support for youth work. As such, it must be subjected to critical scrutiny.

 

Celebrating a new look Youth & Policy 1 – Tom Wylie on the Election

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Welcome news! After a hiatus, Youth & Policy returns in a new format to prompt us into reflection and to challenge what often appears to be our aversion to critical analysis.

The editorial group write:

Dear friends,

We are writing to announce the launch of the ‘new format’ Youth and Policy at http://www.youthandpolicy.org/

The new Youth and Policy will continue to be free, open access and online, yet rather than having ‘issues’ we will now publish individual articles, which can be published as soon as they have been prepared. Most of these articles will be much shorter – around 2000 words in length. This enables us to be more responsive to events as they occur, and provides an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share work in a timely manner and concise format with an international audience. Back issues will remain available free on the website.

Since 1982, Youth and Policy has published articles which provide a critical analysis of policy issues as they affect young people. We have been free, open access and online since 2010. Our new, more responsive format is launched today in response to changes in the fields of youth work, youth research and publishing, and we hope it will continue to contribute for many years to come.
We will be publishing new articles throughout the summer and beyond; subscribe on our website (‘newsletter sign-up’) to be informed of new articles as they appear, and/or follow us on Twitter @youthandpolicy, or on Facebook.

Call for papers:
We are seeking original and concise articles that provide a critical analysis of policy issues affecting young people. We are keen to publish papers on a wide range of themes in relation to young people and policy: youth work, youth services, education, employment, justice, health, identity, equality, media, campaigning, leisure and more. We welcome articles by researchers, lecturers, practitioners and policy makers. See our guidelines for submission on the website for more details.

Yours,

Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Tony Jeffs, Tina Salter, Naomi Thompson (The editorial group)

During this week we will draw your attention to each of the four new pieces now available.

Given our latest post on the post-Election implication for ourselves, Awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion,  it’s good to get Tom Wylie’s sense of affairs in his The (young) people have spoken: reflections on the general election.

 

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie

 

‘And so it came to pass in the dawn’s early light on June 9th that not only had a hubristic May lost her majority but the ideology of neoliberal economics, with added austerity, was badly shaken if not toppled. The result holds out the possibility – nothing stronger – that the years ahead may see some repairs to the institutions which support young people; that there could be an end to the hollowing out of public services; that inequality would cease to rise so remorselessly; that Brexit may unfold more benignly.’

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.

 

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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.