Greetings and solidarity on International Workers Day

Thanks to the indefatigable Sue Atkins for the May Day collage


Greetings and solidarity to all our readers, supporters and critics on International Workers Day. As much as ever we need that fragile, but creative cocktail of dissenting dialogue and collective strength – involving, to use today’s parlance, both millenials, centennials, generation X, baby boomers and the traditionalists – in the struggle for social justice, equality and authentic democracy. Let’s carry on chatting, agitating and organising.

Female workers in the May Day Parade in New York City in 1936 [File: New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images]

Over 3,000 folk follow In Defence of Youth Work on Facebook

To keep non-Facebook followers in the picture I posted this message on Facebook at the weekend.



Pauline Grace is ecstatic as Fin Cullen reveals the number of IDYW Facebook followers! Ta to Justin Wyllie for the brilliant image


Just a note to say that as of now the IDYW Facebook group membership has passed the 3,000 mark – 3,046 to be exact. From its humble beginnings on the back of a 2009 Open Letter, which sought both to criticise and oppose the undermining of open, young people-centred, process-led youth work, it has developed, I think, into the most active and pluralist forum of information and debate in the UK. There was a time when the majority of posts came by way of me. That narrow source has long been surpassed. In recent years more and more people have contributed under their own steam, sparking off unexpected and challenging threads of discussion. Indeed this developing diversity flies in the face of those, who, when it suits, peddle the myth, that IDYW is no more than a bunch of moaners trapped in the past. It is true, though, that a few of us might well be put out to pasture, but for the time being, we’ll carry on mucking in. And as evidence that our collective thoughts remain relevant, look out this week for news of a significant piece of European research led by a Finnish university, inspired by our IDYW cornerstones and our Story-Telling approach to interrogating practice.
In the meantime sincere thanks for your critical support, involvement and solidarity.

The Facebook page is to be found at

Brighton Campaign Protect Youth Services video

As the campaign nears its climax a measured video narrated by Adam Muirhead, which steers clear of simply using the preventative argument. Adam will be contributing to our national conference on March 17.

FEB 23 PYS Protest – Budget Council Meeting 

Hove Town Hall
Norton Road, BN3 2 Hove – 16:00–18:00

Brighton and Hove Council make their final decision about the cuts to the youth service budget at this meeting. This is our final bid to fight for young people’s services – let’s make it a big event. Please join us, share the event and spread the word. Bring your banners and voices – Protect Youth Services!

Keeping IDYW alive – divvying up the tasks


Not that exciting, but necessary. Today in Leamington Spa we’re holding an IDYW Steering Group meeting. Its primary purpose is to work out the best way of keeping the show on the road. As we reported at conference the burden is falling in the main on a few shoulders. Hence we are going to look at how we divide up the diversity of IDYW tasks and how we make sure that our readers/supporters are kept fully in the picture about what we’re up to. In particular we need to keep working at how we involve more people actively in our affairs. The increasing contribution to debate being made on Facebook is something of an inspiration as well as being full of its own ‘likeist’ contradictions.

Hoping to post an upbeat and hopeful report next week. Even a video of the Steering Group in chorus and then again, perhaps not.


Ta to

Best wishes and solidarity to all.

Let’s meet locally and regionally – a new initiative


Bernard Davies and Malcolm Ball setting a date for the next meeting

Ever since our emergence we’ve wanted to encourage local and regional IDYW involvement. Indeed our revised 2014 Statement of Purpose reflected that,

Apart from London and the North-East we have been much less successful in encouraging the flowering of local and regional IDYW groups. This is a major weakness. In truth it means we are a campaign with an appreciative, but largely passive following, relying on the endeavours of a small number of activists to keep the flame burning.

And in reality the London and North-East efforts were not sustained.

However Colin Brent from the IDYW steering group has made a bid, initially on Facebook, to have a fresh crack at bringing people together.

Hi everyone, I’m thinking tentatively about organising some semi-regular seminars (once every three months?) for youth workers and other friends of IDYW to discuss issues around youth work. These would take place in London, be free and open to all and hopefully create a space for people to come together. Is there any interest in this or any ideas of themes? I would like to do one on the ethics of banning young people from youth provision. I look forward to hearing people’s views.

There has been a lively response from the South-East, Yorkshire, Liverpool, Cumbria and Dorset, where cream cakes are being offered as an incentive. However everyone recognises that making this happen, finding the time and energy, is easier said than done. With this in mind we are thinking we should explore this issue together at the IDYW conference on September 30 in Birmingham.

In the meantime Colin is organising a meeting, probably on Friday, November 18 in the metropolis, whilst Tracey Ramsey Lhu is hoping to hold a gathering on the same date in Liverpool. They will be liaising on how the two events might collaborate. More information to follow.

Thanks to Colin for the kick up the backside and to once more encourage supporters to think seriously about meeting and gathering strength from each other.

When two or three are gathered together – in coffee bar or hostelry – we render collective our criticism and resistance. Make a date with your fellow workers. You know it makes sense. (A.N. Other, 2016)

PS The Institute for Youth Work via Adam Muirhead has indicated that it is keen to collaborate in setting up/supporting local and regional meetings under whatever umbrella.



A Collective Chance to be Self-Critical – see you in Brum on the 30th





FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 from 11.15 – 4.30


Back in April we postponed our national conference as a number of other broad initiatives were on the go. We said at the time we hoped our rearranged conference would keep the debate about the future alive and ongoing. Our themes, ‘Blurring the Boundaries?’ and ‘Re-Imagining Youth Work?’ raise questions for In Defence of Youth Work. and the youth sector as a whole.



11.15 Where is IDYW up to? What is its role?

11.30 Challenging IDYW’s perspective, ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ – Annette Coburn [University of West Scotland] and Sinead Gormally [University of Hull] with a response from Tania de St Croix [IDYW] followed by open discussion.

12.40 Paul Fenton will share the major themes arising from the Shaping the Future events held by the Professional Association of Lecturers in YCW followed by open discussion.

1.30 Lunch – bring your own snap as per tradition or there are local shops.

2.15 Where are people working? How is youth work surviving? Kirsty Lowrie  [Aspire Arts] and Malcolm Ball [IDYW] will lead off a dialogue in small groups about the state of play on the ground.

3.45 Where do we go from here? Dependent on how the day unfolds we will have a Q&A panel session or break into local/regional groups.

Tea, coffee etc will be available.

Conference fee is a minimum of £10 waged, £5 students/unwaged.

To book a place contact

Please circulate the flyers

idywsept30 – Word flyer

idywsept30 – pdf flyer


This is lousy timing. In the midst of a contemporary quasi-Elizabethan melodrama, wherein the courtiers-cum-politicians plot and back-stab  in their pursuit of an illusory power, within which politics is reduced to personality, we’re asking you to consider these thoughts on the character and purpose of IDYW. Hardly earth-shattering, we know. However, if you can spare a moment from watching or indeed desiring to expose the post-Brexit spectacle of incompetence and hypocrisy, your responses would be much appreciated. Thanks in anticipation.



It’s well over seven years since In Defence of Youth Work [IDYW] saw the light of a gloomy day in Durham. Contrary to our expectations and of those, who dismissed us as romantics, we have emerged as a voice of some consequence. Through our seminars and conferences, our Story-Telling workshops and publications, supplemented by regular outpourings on our blog and Facebook page, we have sought to reveal the corrosive influence of an instrumental neo-liberal ideology upon an open-ended, process-led youth work. Indeed, at a superficial glance, with over 2,500 Facebook followers and in 2015 over 27,500 blog visits from across the globe, we seem to have been a success.

However we are not inclined to indulge in the self-congratulatory culture dominant nowadays, wherein we are invited to believe that everything is going swimmingly, even absolutely, awesomely well. Our existence is haunted by contradictions and concerns. On a practical level the IDYW show is kept on the road through the efforts of a small group of volunteers. Of course this is neither a surprise nor a slight on those unable to be more involved. These remain difficult times. Workers, paid or unpaid, have little time on their hands. Whether disillusioned and weary or optimistic and energetic, it’s a stressful place to be. In this forbidding climate we have failed to become the campaign group of our imagination. Unable to encourage our followers to meet even locally we have failed to forge the forces on the ground to fulfil this dream. Whilst we have done our best to support any flicker of resistance, symbolised by the 2011 Choose Youth lobby of Parliament and our willingness to be involved in a diversity of youth work gatherings, we’ve not lived up to our title.

With all this in mind we’ve been discussing within the IDYW Steering Group ‘who we are?’, ‘where we’re up to?’ and ‘where we might be going?’ The following marks our best thinking up to this point, to which we would welcome responses.

On reflection our most important contribution across our lifespan has been to provide a space, increasingly denied elsewhere, for a collective and thoughtful discussion about the state of youth work. We have sought to provide information, commentary, analysis and research to support this process. To do so is in the best tradition of a practice, which aspires to be reflective. Thus we propose that in the present period, given our resources, it is most fruitful to see IDYW, to view ourselves, as a forum, a meeting place of minds, whose raison d’etre is to question and challenge received assumptions.

In making this case we are not claiming to be neutral. Our desire is to defend and extend the emancipatory youth work practice expressed in the cornerstones outlined in our original Open Letter and the 2014 Statement of Purpose.

Our tentative feeling is that, if anything, we have been less sharp in recent times re developments in the youth sector than we should have been. We have held back for fear of being accused of undermining attempts to forge a refreshed consensus about the work. Meanwhile leading youth organisations don’t seem to give an inch in their continued allegiance both to the outcomes agenda and market forces. We will not hold our breath as we wait for for their disapproving response to the Cabinet Office’s Life Chances Fund, which introduces inappropriately payment-by-results into the complex and contradictory world of social welfare and social education. Hence we need to deal openly with the inevitable tensions created by being an outspoken and dissenting voice, not least by encouraging argument within our own ranks.

Finally, and very much linked to the previous point about our own relationships with each other, making plain that our primary function is to act as a forum of critical dialogue attends to our long-running anxiety about the democratic and accountable character of IDYW or rather the lack of structured democracy and accountability. Whilst we have always striven to be open, we have never established a form of membership, adopted a constitution, elected officers and the like. Clarifying our present character and purpose suggests that IDYW’s constituency is made up in reality of contributors and what we might call a readership. Obviously we hope, if we can end on a personal note, that you will be both contributor and reader, actively engaged, in the light of your own energy and resources. Whatever we deem ourselves to be, we need one another in a struggle to defend not only youth work, but a belief in a holistic education from cradle to grave, a commitment to a radical praxis and the common good. In this context IDYW still has a useful role to play.