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


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


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:
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:
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.

Trumping the odds : Talking to Young People about the USA Election

Occasionally we’ve posted on issues you might well be chatting to young people about. Thursday’s ‘shock’ result from across the Atlantic seems a likely talking point. How on earth did Trump pull this off? Hence I found myself wondering what I would say, either in response to a young person’s comment or as an opening remark of my own, hoping to get a conversation going. As I did so, I recognised that the chat would be similar, yet different, according to the young person’s gender, race, sexuality, disability, faith and class. Pondering the contradictions I realised that my own perspective was less than sorted out. Indeed throughout today the emphases of my best crack at what’s going on have fluctuated. Let me share a bit of a diary.

8.00 a.m. Whilst walking my beloved mongrel, a neighbour greets me with the news that Trump is President. ‘What is the world coming to?’, he conjectures. I’m almost indifferent, not buying the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument. I need to own up to a decades-long prejudice against the Clinton clan. Is this getting in the way of my judgement?

8.30 a.m. Arrive home to find Trump’s unlikely triumph almost certainly the case. An arrogant, failed business person of maverick disposition with no experience of political office has beaten an arrogant career politician backed by the party machine with a quarter of a century’s experience of high office. Sure Trump is an ignorant asshole [note empathetic American spelling], but Clinton is an amoral hypocrite. Even the Murdock Sky News team, now ensconced LIVE all over the States, seem perplexed. What to think?


Ta to Getty images

9.30 a.m. Access Facebook to be met by comment after comment belittling the Trump support, as thick as turkeys voting for Xmas. I scribble. ‘What to do? I don’t normally cut myself off from the world? On the other hand can I cope with another round of patronising and insulting crap to the effect that all those, who voted for Trump, are stupid. racist, xenophobic etc…? Increasingly across the globe we are witnessing a contradictory and complex expression of anger and frustration with a corrupt political class and a failing casino capitalism. The irony in the USA is that Clinton was widely seen as a the living expression of a system you couldn’t trust and that Sanders might well have been a better bet. In this there is hope. What won’t get us anywhere is a sneering disregard for the complicated motivations of those, who voted for Brexit or for Trump. The enormous task is to move beyond the emptiness of personality politics, two horse races, political parties claiming to know what’s best for us as long as we agree with the entirety of programmes they seek to impose on us and the stereotyping/ categorisation of whole swathes of humanity. Clinton or Trump, May or Corbyn the struggle continues.’

11.00 a.m. Phil Scraton intervenes on FB to underline the political consequences of economic marginalisation and social exclusion across Europe, wherein the Right harnesses the deep disillusionment within working class communities where generations now stare joblessness in the eye with a reactionary ideology of institutionalised racism … hence the continuing mantra, ‘getting OUR country back’.  I respond, Further to Phil – a serious dilemma for us is that the mantra is not just reactionary it contains an authentic desire to wrest control from a globalised ruling elite and in grappling with this we are forced to revisit the national and local state, not to mention local communities. Above all the struggle must be democratic, which demands democratically committed citizens. And I would argue you become democratic by experiencing being democratic, which obviously is far beyond participating in a representative charade every blue moon. My feeling is that such a mutual process of democratic education, which will have to grapple with racism, sexism and so on, will have to be nourished firstly at a local level. The Right have appropriated the notion of taking control. In truth History is a continuous struggle by the exploited and oppressed for autonomy, for taking control of our lives in concert with one another. Hence what might be a way forward? It will certainly have to grapple seriously with patriotism in the struggle for internationalism.

11.30 a.m. Walking round thinking that my comments are in danger of being abstract, which doesn’t deter me from a final generalisation on FB. ‘And a last thought on the Trump victory, given a torrent of comment, fearful for the world. On foreign policy Trump is isolationist with little appetite for interventions abroad. To chance my arm further his cautious attitude towards Putin might be welcome if you’re worried about nuclear conflict. As for Clinton her track record as secretary of state was aggressive and war-mongering, witness her role in the overthrow of Gaddafi and the consequences in terms of fuelling terrorism and exacerbating the refugee crisis. In Syria there is every possibility she would have worsened relations with Russia. Of course the situation is more complicated, but, you must, forgive me, if I don’t immediately see Trump as a threat to world peace, which doesn’t exist anyway’

1.00 p.m.It’s certain Trump is the President-Elect. As I take this in, munching a corned beef buttie [comfort food?], a series of further posts on FB plus links to a fast growing number of attempts to explain WTF’s been going on bring me back to earth. Trump has ridden to power on the back of a brazen mix of misogyny, racism and Islamophobia, tapping into, at one and the same time, a deep resentment towards the establishment amongst a ‘forgotten’ working class. As to the former it’s necessary to recognise the trepidation felt by many faced by Trump’s Mexican Wall, real or imagined, and the threat to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. It’s necessary to be anxious about a potential attack on a ‘Woman’s Right to Choose’ and LGBT rights. As for the latter Trump’s promise to restore manufacturing to the heart of the US economy via a strategy of protectionism and import tariffs is problematic. Although there is much support for his commitment to pour money into improving the country’s infrastructure. And this is to overlook, for a moment, Trump’s desire to end Obamacare and increase levels of surveillance and policing.

3.00 p.m. Grappling with this reality on the ground is disturbing. Significant sections of American society have reason to be fearful. As one Pastor observed the danger is that prejudice becomes normalised and the new orthodoxy. Back in 1974  Gil Scott-Heron sang,

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain
And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow
And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

4.30 p.m. Given this anxiety am I changing my mind about Hillary Clinton? In truth, not at all, if anything my aversion is deepened. Why? Because, in close company with Blair and New Labour, the Clintons and the Democratic Party embraced with passion the destructive ideology of neoliberalism. Dressed up as a Third Way they imposed an obsessive individualism, which undermined crucially bonds of collective solidarity. Naomi Klein suggests,

Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.

At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.

For the people who saw security and status as their birthright – and that means white men most of all – these losses are unbearable.
Donald Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies – whether Washington, the North American free trade agreement the World Trade Organisation or the EU. And of course, they answer it by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.

6.30 p.m. I’ve had a bit of tea, a piece of cheese on a crumpet and if I was a proper youth worker I’d be getting ready to to go to the youth club [if it was open] or onto the streets on my own, if it was allowed. All of the above is still whirling around my head, some of it sorted, some unsorted, but plenty to be going on with. As ever it all depends on the mood of the evening. Will they be up for it, interested or will they say we’ve had enough of that crap, what’s it got to do with us? We’ll have to see.

7.30 p.m. Bluff called. I’m at home, dreaming about what I would have done if…….

10.30 p.m. Bluff called a second time.  Just received a message from proper workers on the ground.


Probably not much use, but in case you’re posting on Trump I attach a photo from youth club tonight. We discussed the presidential election result (nothing special, just discussed informally as part of club) and invited young people to make print posters in response. Most young people knew about it and were worried about an escalation in racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Bit hard to read, the slogans include ‘be you’, ‘be proud’, ‘no one is illegal’ ‘be yourself’.

Recognising racism and creating community: how to be a better ally

Forgive the late notice, but see below.


Recognising racism and creating community: how to be a better ally

Thu, October 20, 2016
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM BST

The Proud Trust (formerly LGBT Youth North West)
49-51 Sidney Street
M1 7HB

This FREE workshop will be a relaxed, open and non-judgemental space to explore ideas around what makes a good ally; to understand and examine some of the ways LGBT communities and individuals can marginalise people within them and to reflect on how, as people within and outside of LGBT communities, we can best challenge oppressive structures and behaviour, to work towards creating more inclusive spaces for all LGBT people.
The workshop will be led by Chloe Cousins from Rainbow Noir – an LGBT group for people of colour based in Manchester and Youth Worker at The Proud Trust; Manchester’s LGBT youth organisation.
Refreshments will be provided. If you have any access requirements, including around travel to the venue, please email

To book a place go to

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




Racist and anti-immigration views held by children revealed in schools study | Education | The Guardian

Ta to

Ta to

Racist and anti-immigration views held by children revealed in schools study | Education | The Guardian.

Survey of 6,000 schoolchildren finds many have a wildly distorted view of the number of immigrants in Britain, negative attitudes about Muslims, and pessimism about their own future opportunities

This report also prompted the following response.

Your article (Children have negative views of immigration, survey shows, 20 May) is troubling in its own right, but what is more disturbing is the division made between “young people” on the one hand and “minorities/migrants” on the other. The article reports that young people have been hit particularly hard in the downturn and that it’s easy for their economic concerns to be manifested as hostility towards immigrant communities. This misses the point that the young people who have been the hardest hit by the downturn are black and minority ethnic young people (Report, 11 March). Your March article suggests there was a 50% rise in long-term unemployment for young ethnic minority people in the UK, compared with a 2% decline in unemployment for young white people. Indeed, the implicit distinction between British young people and immigrant communities is precisely what needs to be combatted if we are truly to address issues of dispossession and crisis facing many young people in Britain today.
Gurminder K Bhambra Professor of sociology, University of Warwick
John Holmwood Professor of sociology, University of Nottingham

Thanks to Patrick Ainley for the links.

A Toxic Mix for Young People – Privatisation and Incarceration at Rainsbrook

Behaved ‘extremely inappropriately’ –  something of a euphemism, to say the least.

Ta to Open Democracy

Ta to Open Democracy

Children held at a prison run by the outsourcing giant G4S were subjected to “degrading treatment” and “racist comments” at the hands of staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs, a damning report by the education watchdog has revealed.

Ofsted inspectors who visited Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire earlier this year said staff had behaved “extremely inappropriately” towards the young people in their care, causing them “distress and humiliation”.

Rainsbrook G4S youth prison slammed by Ofsted report as children suffer ‘racist’, ‘degrading’ abuse from guards high on drugs

G4S-run youth jail criticised over degrading treatment of detainees

Fifty years on a less well-known Freedom Ride is remembered in Australia

ta to University of Sydney

ta to University of Sydney

As some of you may remember I was invited to speak at the Youth Affairs Network Queensland conference back in August 2014. In many ways the most challenging experience of my time there was to be faced with my ignorance of the Indigenous peoples and cultures of Australia.

Thus on a weekend when a film about the struggle of Black Americans, ‘Selma’, is sanitised in the self-congratulatory glitz of  Hollywood’s hubris, it is timely to recall the little known Freedom Ride of 1965, Student Action for Aborigines.

Freedom Riders Ann Curthoys and Brian Aarons reflect:

Fifty years ago, from February 12 to 26, 1965, Charles Perkins led a group of students, including us, from the University of Sydney on a freedom ride.

We travelled by bus to protest against racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in New South Wales country towns such as Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey.

Although we had done our best to prepare, the non-Aboriginal students were shocked by what we found: desperately poor living conditions on fringe settlements, missions on which white managers controlled every aspect of Aboriginal people’s lives, white people convinced of their racial superiority, and exclusion of Aboriginal people from the basic amenities of a country town.

So, we protested against the exclusion of Aboriginal people from RSL clubs in Walgett, swimming pools in Moree and Kempsey, and picture theatres in Bowraville.

The angry reaction of the white townsfolk to our protests made it clear to a broad Australian public that racial discrimination was alive and well, and led to some serious soul-searching in urban and rural NSW.

There were intense debates not only over the racial discrimination we exposed, but also over the truly dire situation of most Aboriginal people in gaining access to decent housing, health, and education.

The Freedom Ride was an important catalyst for some substantial changes in Aboriginal affairs over the next 10 years or so.

Significantly, it brought Charles Perkins to prominence as a passionate and articulate Aboriginal leader who was not afraid to tell white Australians just how disastrous their racism was for the lives and opportunities of his people.

At this very moment a bus of 50 people, including original riders and a new generation of students from the Sydney University, is partially retracing the route of that first ride. One snapshot of their progress can be read here – Freedom Ride: revisiting the dip in the pool that changed a segregated town

Ta to ann Curthoys

Ta to ann Curthoys

In 1965, Charles Perkins and his fellow Sydney University students ran the gauntlet of booing, fruit-throwing residents to take a group of Indigenous children for a swim in the town pool.

As for Charles Perkins, a formidable and controversial figure on the Australian landscape, I was astonished to discover that in his early twenties, whilst in England, he worked for a brief period around 1957 down the same pit at the same time as my dad. In an interview shortly before his death Charles spoke well about his time in the Lancashire coalfield.

But Lancashire people are generally very good indeed. They’re very earthy people, very friendly. They just take you as they find you, you know and they’re not that wealthy. They sort of … you have what they have and if you can put up with that and cop that and you accept that, well then that’s fine, and you go along with it. And I did. I was able to move amongst them very easily and I used to go to all the dances all the time, and I used to go to the pubs with all the blokes even though I wasn’t a drinker. And I used to sing along with them and enjoy it. And nobody ever came and asked me did I have a ticket to be there, or you know, nobody ever called me a ‘boong’ or a nigger. They always wondered who I was. I was sometimes taken for a dark Greek or Italian or Maori and so on, but nobody really bothered with that. They didn’t want to know. They knew I was an Australian. They were very pleased with me being an Australian. They liked Australians. So they were lovely people, lovely people, and I stayed, as I said before, with Mr. and Mrs. Tilley in Wigan, and they just treated me as a son.