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.

Youth & Policy on Feminism resurgent, Worklessness and the NCS Money-Tree

Having been out of action for a week and with loads happening I can’t sadly do justice to the latest trio of articles from the new-style Youth & Policy. However, they are all worth your time and contribute significantly to our understanding of the fluctuating scenario, within which we find ourselves.


Young Women, Youth Work and Spaces: Resurgent Feminist Approaches

Janet Batsleer begins:

There has – in one thread of youth and community work – been a long-standing desire to link our practice in the most excluded and precaritised neighbourhoods with working-class social movements which also seek to turn back and away from sexism, racism and other oppressive forces (Batsleer, 2013). It is in this context – as such movements against neoliberalism are gathering strength again and being reframed – that I was invited in 2017 by two wonderful projects to act as a consultant to their work. The first is based with YouthLink Scotland and has involved an oral history of the links between youth work and the women’s movement in Scotland ( The second is the publication by a Brussels NGO called Childcare Activists of a pamphlet called: Filles et autres minorises….des jeunes comme les autres? Vers un travail de jeunesse accessible a tou(s) (tes) which translated as ‘Girls and other minorities: youth like the others? Towards a youth work accessible to all?’ ( This study by Eleanor Miller and Mouhad Reghif, highlighted sexism, racism and intersectionality as key issues for street work, all of which have been captured in this pamphlet. In May 2017 I was invited to speak at a Conference for street workers and key figures in Francophone NGO’s from Belgium and France where the pamphlet was launched. What follows is a brief extract from my presentation.


Exploring ‘generations and cultures of worklessness’ in contemporary Britain

Despite research which emphasises that the idea of ‘generations of worklessness’ is a myth, the general public, politicians and the mainstream media still suggest that generations and cultures of worklessness exist in contemporary Britain. Kevin Ralston and Vernon Gayle outline evidence that disputes this damaging myth.

The concepts of generations and cultures of worklessness have popular, political and international resonance. In politics, high profile figures, such as the UK Government Minister Chris Grayling, are on record as stating there are ‘four generations of families where no-one has ever had a job’ (in MacDonald et al, 2013). Esther McVey, when she was UK Minister for Employment, made reference to the widespread idea that there is a ‘something for nothing culture’ among some of those claiming benefits (DWP, 2013). The general notion, that there is a section of undeserving poor who should receive punishment or correction, is a central concept in neo-liberal politics (Wiggan, 2012; Soss et al, 2011; Wacquant, 2009; de Goede, 1996). Ideas associated with generations and cultures of worklessness also regularly appear in the traditional UK print media and the international press. For example, in 2013, the Daily Mail reported the story of an individual convicted of burning down his house, which resulted in deaths. They reported his status as a benefit claimant and described living on welfare benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some.


The National Citizen Service and The “Magic Money Tree”

This article by Sean Murphy draws on interviews with youth workers to argue that youth citizenship and engagement would be better supported by sustained youth and community work, rather than through the National Citizen Service.

We are living in precarious times. Theresa May’s ‘snap election’ has catapulted the United Kingdom into a minority Conservative administration, and a far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ pre-election mantra. The nation is careering towards a Brexit with a limited mandate, its government, the economy and politics are in a state of flux. As Youniss et al. (2002) suggest, these changes can easily reshape concepts such as national identity, nationhood, and multiculturalism within a globalised world; and in such a moment, the meaning of citizenship can no longer be taken for granted. Moreover, the ‘snap election’ has led to the Conservative government devising a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reportedly worth over £1.5billion additional public spending for Northern Ireland.

MMU BA Y&C course under threat! Advice and support appreciated.

The BA [Honours] Youth and Community course at the Manchester Metropolitan University is facing a precarious future. Against this worrying backcloth Janet Batsleer, Reader in Education and Principal Lecturer, Youth and Community, writes to ask our readers the following question.

What would you design into a Community Education course for the future that builds on the learning of the past 40 years or so? Or would you just close it down?

Your replies should be sent to Janet at and would be much appreciated.



Tony Taylor, Jon Ord and Janet Batsleer at the IDYW conference


These are indeed troubled times.

After the Referendum : Notes from Manchester via Janet Batsleer

I can but urge you to read this insightful and challenging piece from Janet.


After the Referendum  Notes from Manchester,UK

Janet Batsleer

July 2nd 2016

I woke up on Friday morning to Brexit and, as soon as I heard the news, I felt very afraid.  The sense of loss and shock was enormous. Later I recognised this was something like the feelings I had in the 1980’s when the miners were defeated.   Once I started to make sense of what had happened – I had said to my son that there might be a big anti-establishment revolt from the North – I could leave the house. But the feelings of fear persisted as the only outright winner seemed to be Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, the far right anti-immigrant party.  A wave of anti-immigrant feeling had been unleashed in the campaign: the genie of British racism now out of the bottle, some-one said.  But also, in some ways, a continuity from last summer’s vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.  The cat out of the bag about the class contempt that had been poured in plenty on some of the poorest parts of the country. Now people were kicking back, or just kicking.  Manchester itself, almost alone in the North West, voted REMAIN.  (I can’t claim to understand BREXIT from the point of view of the Conservative voting parts of the country but that seems to be a kind of taken for granted story that no-one can be troubled to tell.)

Oddly ,on the day of the Referendum, I had been in Brussels with Andreas and Anais and Patricia at the European Research Centre. It was OK; it was great to be with colleagues and feel European!  It was strange and worrying too. Maybe it gave me reasons, if I didn’t have them already, to think that change badly  needs to happen in the EU.

My work – including the Partispace project – is listening  and connecting.

Friday afternoon I went out to an event organised by young people at the Art Gallery. I found it hard to concentrate that day.  It was a fine and interesting event that I have written field notes about and one aspect was an intergenerational event.  At the end of the first section a man (maybe my age in fact but I like to think that he was much older) used the open mic session to read a Victory poem printed out on the back of a large voting paper inscribed LEAVE. It was about the country being free at last. First we were colonised by the Romans; then the Normans took out our King’s eye;; then the Europeans came…..but we’ve finally got rid of the sods!)  I was so angry I couldn’t stay.

 On Sunday I was at the North West Youth Council, Youthforia, It had been organised by the Manchester Youth Council and Alexandre and I were both there.  The team from Manchester Youth Council is brilliantly odd and diverse: a young person who looks like a boy with long hair but is called Ashley; two young men,Matthew and Sam (one tall and serious, one small and bouncy) from the Nigerian community now strong in North Manchester; a boy doing politics A level from a leafy suburb and his friend who, when I asked him where he was from (meaning, what part of Manchester?) answered Afghanistan; an enormously competent young woman from the Reclaim project who seemed to be organising the whole lot. After a few minutes in , of welcomes and ‘warm ups’, they announced that they still intended to bid for Manchester to be European City of Youth: because we are Manchester and we are differently diverse!

During one of the breaks I sat down with a young man, Jack, from Wigan, one of the Boroughs where a significant majority  had supported the Leave campaign.  He was a lovely young man and he said his family had been for Leave and that he would have voted Leave if he could have: he is 17 and is planning to do a degree in Cybersecurity at a local University.  I asked him why. He explained that people in Wigan felt the EU had done nothing for them; ‘We don’t have a University in Wigan’ he said. The big firm was an American one, and the small businesses were hampered by EU regulation. ‘Was immigration a big issue in the Leave vote?’  For about 50% of the people, yes. I’m very much for Jeremy Corbyn as well, he said. I told him that when I had arrived at the event I had met a youth worker close to tears because three Czech young people who were part of his project had arrived at the project on Friday to ask ‘Do we have to go home today?’  ‘That’s bad’ Jack said looking really sick.

There was an escalation in racialized and xenophobic abuse and assault over the weekend. It seems to be calming a little now.  There were also various attempts to get the vote declared invalid by middle class educated people who only support democracy when it goes the right way!

The worker for Wigan Youth Council is a man from Wigan called Ahmed who has been a Youth Worker with the Authority for 20 years. He set up the first anti-racist project in Wigan called Rafiki and more recently Kamosi, which works with Eastern European communities. Under New Labour, his work became framed as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour project and then the work moved into the Youth Offending Team. More contempt for working class estates. Now he is turning back to the anti-racist framing of the work. Now is the moment. Because of DevoManc, now is also the moment for Manchester and Wigan working-class anti-racist projects to reconnect….’it’s a very insular place’ he said.  Islands tend to be it seems. But so are cities; too easily cut off by their glamorous centres  from the pain of being poor and rubbished.

The following day I was in North Manchester where, it was suspected, many people voted LEAVE. It would fit with the demographic and the difficulty of knowing whether the flags were for the Referendum or the Football. I drank tea with the youth workers who told me about the Bulgarian boy who comes to the club and is a leading table tennis player.  His fears that he won’t be able to play for the UK now. That he will have to leave. And about the people who have been coming in saying ‘They’ll all have to go now won’t they.’  In turn I hear the youth worker ( a man of 28, one of my former students) flip the contempt: ‘The immigrants are the ones with good values, good attitudes: they work hard, they have ambition. The people on the estate: it’s just like Shameless. Drinking Skol  in the street in the middle of the day…..hardly any clothes on…..playing hoola-hoop while their kids are at school…..they are parents for goodness sake….)

Wednesday I am back in Hulme and working on the Community Learning Festival we are organising for the first week of the school holidays when I am co-ordinating a day on democracy and politics.  The neighbourhood we are linking with is the historic centre of  Manchester multi-culture and the local community activists I am working with on this project are so glad we are doing this as we all see the tension and chaos escalating. We are hearing stories every day of attacks on minority people on public transport in the City.  The anger that has been palpable for weeks seems to be taking a new and nastier turn. We are all happy we are doing this Festival: a place where people can come together. We will invite the people from Europia, the project working to support East European migrants who are facing hate crime, to be involved.

And I am writing a paper on ‘agonistic democracy’ for ECER: is this what it feels like?  I suppose so.

I believe that a small but not at all insignificant element in the situation we are in has been the abandonment of  community education, adult education and open youth work, in favour of schemes which target and shame people alongside the offer of meagre and insufficient resources in projects.  

I also think the reduction of people’s lives to being an economic cipher; the denial of a cultural, political life, a life of generous imagination and political memory, as well as the denial of justice and equality  …. is a further dimension. Projects which link Trade Union education with cultural resources and resources of popular memory  – such as our colleague Geoff Bright’s Ghost Labs conducted in former mining communities – are essential as are many comings together of people who have been denied justice and recognition. Projects which cross national boundaries to do this need to be part of our future as well as our past and they need to include people from all areas not just the ones where people have been to University.

We are all too familiar with the neo-liberal way.  We still need to come together to imagine,  propose and work otherwise; despite the false binaries and above all against the racism and  away from the anti-working class contempt, both so powerfully emergent now.

Note – ECER is the European Conference for Educational Research




The Return of Character Education- A BSA Debate, July 16

What we mean by character has been an ever present issue within youth work, even if at times it has been described in other ways. For example, the sub-title of Baden Powell’s seminal 1908 ‘Scouting for Boys’ was ‘A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship’, whilst a century later the Young Foundation’s 2012 ‘Framework of Outcomes for Young People’ seeks to form the ’emotionally resilient’ young person. At the heart of both is an interpretation of what constitutes good or indeed bad character, which can only be understood fully in the light of the underpinning economic and ideological circumstances of the day. Therefore it’s encouraging to see this BSA conference grasping the nettle of how to understand the the revival of ‘character’ education and to see the involvement of our good friend and critic, Janet Batsleer. It strikes me that it would be more than useful to organise a complementary event focused on youth work and the question of character.




‘Grit’, Governmentality & the Erasure of Inequality’
The Curious Rise of Character Education Policy
A BSA Sociology of Education Study Group Conference in association with Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London and the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

Monday 11 July 2016
9:30am – 5:00pm followed by a wine reception
King’s College London

Invited speakers: Dr Janet Batsleer (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Professor Val Gillies (Goldsmiths).

Over the past five years, there has been a growing interest and investment in ‘character’ education. A growing number of policy initiatives and reports have asserted the importance of nurturing character in children and young people – with qualities such as ‘grit’, ‘optimism’, ‘resilience’, ‘zest’, and ‘bouncebackability’ located as preparing young people for the challenges of the 21st century and enabling social mobility. This includes the Department for Education’s multi-million pound package of measures to help schools ‘instil character in pupils’ and the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility’ Character and Resilience Manifesto. The positioning of character education as a panacea to social and educational inequality has coincided with policies promoting ‘resilience’ in areas as diverse as health and housing to employment and welfare. It is notable that the policy traction of these terms has emerged against a backdrop of austerity in which programmes of welfare reform and continuing economic uncertainty have seen rising poverty levels among children and young people, and in which political rhetoric has explained poverty as resulting from behavioral and moral deficiencies rather than the structural inequalities unleashed by neoliberal capitalism. This one-day conference will bring together researchers across a range of disciplines and research areas to critically discuss this policy agenda. It will attempt to unravel how and why it has emerged and at this particular moment, and consider its implications.

Booking is now open.
Conference fee: BSA members £15 & Non-members £30, (includes lunch and refreshments)
Places are limited so early booking is recommended.
For further information please contact: or telephone: (0191) 383 0839.
For academic queries please contact: Anna Bull ( or Kim Allen ( )

Against or Beyond Male Role Models? Working with Boys and Young Men

MenEngage Logo_Final

I’m more than happy to be corrected ,but I don’t hear much nowadays about working with young men around gender inequality. Indeed lately I’ve been wondering about revising/writing afresh something I wrote back in the early 1980’s, ‘Working with Young Men : Towards an Anti-Sexist Practice.’ In reflecting thus I became aware of being out of touch myself with what is being said in the wider world about masculinity, especially after reading Janet Batsleer’s challenging, ‘Against role models. Tracing the histories of manliness in youth work. The cultural capital of respectable masculinity’ in Youth &Policy 113.

All the more so as we’ve just received notice of the following event organised by the Beyond Male Role Models Open University Research Project. If anyone can make this day it would be great to get a report.

And trawling the Project’s web site and blog revealed my ignorance in not knowing of the MenEngage Alliance, composed of ‘dozens of country networks spread across many regions of the world, hundreds of non-governmental organizations, as well as UN partners. MenEngage members work collectively and individually toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice to achieve a world in which all can enjoy healthy, fulfilling and equitable relationships and their full potential.‘ Again if anyone has had contact with this network it would be enlightening to hear your views


Beyond male role models? Gender identities and work with young men – End of Award Conference

Thursday 12th March 2015, 11:00 – 15:30

Followed by celebratory drinks 16:00 – 18:00

Hub Theatre – The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

Research team: Dr Martin Robb (OU), Prof Brigid Featherstone (OU), Sandy Ruxton (Independent Consultant) and Dr Mike Ward (OU)


The Beyond Male Role Models? research project has provided a unique opportunity to explore how young men who use welfare services view the gender of professional workers, and how those workers themselves (whether male or female) see gender issues being played out in their respective relationships. Important findings have also emerged in relation to what supports effective work with young men.

This conference will report on the findings and examine the implications for practice and policy through presentations and a short film made as part of the research.Professor David Morgan, (Emeritus Professor, Manchester University) will open the event and chair the morning, along with a presentation by Kate Mulley from Action for Children who also will be joining us.

This conference is free of charge.

Registration is Now OPEN!

To book your place or for any further information on the project please contact by Friday 30th January 2015.

Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work committed to critical dialogue wanted at MMU

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Janet Batsleer draws to our attention to this Senior Lecturer vacancy in the Youth and Community Work Centre at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

The successful candidate will have proven skills in programme leadership and experience of developing teaching and learning in higher education. You will have experience of and commitment to critical approaches in informal education in community settings. You will also have used creative approaches and have experience of participatory approaches to youth and community work practice. In addition, you will have explored and experienced the power of critical dialogue in work with community/youth groups, experienced what it means to be part of a ‘learning team’ and engaged well with a range of communities such as are found in diverse and fragmented urban contexts.

Full details at