In the New Year unite and fight for humanity’s sake

The ruling class, the elite, the powerful [call them, what you will] wish to render us perpetually anxious. In the last few years energised by the ‘pandemic’, their propaganda has sought to leave us in a suspended state of fear. The next existential crisis, the latest emergency is always imminent, staring us in our oft-masked faces or lying suspiciously in wait just around the next corner. We are witnessing disaster capitalism in full flight from the consequence of its wilful, almost mindless exploitation of humanity and the earth.

Aided by their behavioural lackeys and the supine mainstream media, they use the time-honoured and still profoundly effective tactic of ‘divide and rule’. To this end, politicians, bureaucrats, psychologists and journalists [or rather stenographers] lie and deceive. In particular the unvaccinated were identified, chastised and depicted as a death-inducing threat to young and old, whilst children were told they could kill their grandparents. Medical practitioners, great and small, questioning the absurdity of governments’ claim to be following the Science had their reputations and prospects trashed.

As for ourselves how do we explain our embrace of or our resistance to this calculated conspiracy of contempt? On what I suppose is my side of the fence many took to Mattias Desmet’s theory of mass formation psychosis, in which a majority of society is said to have been captured and mesmerised by the dominant narrative. I am not so taken. Such a generalised view of human practice offends my decades-long, faltering attempt to comprehend the unique, yet always social individual. For my part I prefer to call on the idea of ‘uneven consciousness’ to express the differing degrees of consistency and contradiction in our thought and practice. I am loathe to accept that people are hypnotised into compliance with authoritarianism. I am loathe to see those, who have disobeyed the orders from above, as enlightenment incarnate. In the main, we are neither sinners nor saints.

Tellingly none of the draconian restrictions upon our existence suffered during the ‘pandemic’ were even subject to the illusions of representative democracy. Parliaments were utterly ignored. The demos was conspicuous by its absence. For now, the constraints have been largely lifted but continue to be available as the powerful see fit.

It seems to me, to borrow Malcolm Ball’s favourite opening caveat, that the dehumanising grip of technocratic authoritarianism can only be loosened by the emergence of diverse forms of direct democracy at local regional, national and international levels. To imagine such a revolutionary development demands humility on all fronts. It will demand being in critical dialogue across ideologies and faiths, which have seen themselves as in opposition to one another. It will require listening to one another, setting aside prejudices, refusing to jump to immediate judgements. It will necessitate cooperating in the service of a shared sense of purpose despite significant disagreements. For what it’s worth, back in the 1980s I was mortified by the refusal of feminists, whom I knew well, to support the 84/85 Strike on the grounds of the miners’ sexism. Yet, across ensuing years we worked together across a range of political issues. Today, given the emphasis on identity politics. is it possible to envisage relating to someone, who joins the public service picket lines, is involved in ‘Kick Racism Out ‘ yet continues to believe that biological sex matters? Is this person to be excluded from the oppositional alliances we need to create? We need beware the imposition within our own ranks of correct lines, which cannot be criticised, lest excommunication follows.

Images from the 1970s in Birmingham, I think – trying to find out more. Ta to the flatpackfestival.org.uk

Who you are is what you do

The politics of identity which led individuals to use an innate aspect (their gender, colour etc) as ipso facto a right from which to judge others, could itself become a way of setting up a hierarchy of oppressions. Siva criticised all forms of identity politics which did not reach out to try to transform society, for, not just the self, but for all. The transformation of the individual would take place in the process of a larger collective struggle but a politics based in the self would not open out in that way. Identity would not be confirmed in isolation. ‘Who you are is what you do’ [A. Sivanandan writing in the 1980s] 

To paraphrase something I wrote long before I came across the idea of intersectionality. ‘My point is no more and no less than that the political struggle for individual and social autonomy, against technocratic authoritarian capitalism, must have a rounded and interrelated understanding of the oppressive and exploitative relations of class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith. None of them makes emancipatory sense without constant reference to each other’. 

Time to take a breath I set off scribbling without knowing where I was going. Obviously, this erratic ensemble of assertions begs more questions than it answers. If only for my own sanity I’ll pursue these in future posts in 2023. We will see.

A Day in the Life of…….

One of Marilyn’s latest paintings, ‘A Village at Dusk’

Of course these perhaps pretentious and pompous pronouncements are the backdrop to ordinary folk getting on with their ordinary, sometimes weary, sometimes invigorating lives. On the ground, my somewhat pessimistic outlook is countered by people simply getting on with things. As for ourselves on the morning of New Year’s Eve, I walked our Glyka, disobeying my music teacher’s instructions not to warble a particular song because in doing so I compounded my mistaken entry – the piece being John Ireland’s setting of ‘Sally Gardens’. If this sounds stuffy I also tried ‘Georgia on my mind’.

After carefully cooked bowls of porridge dripping with honey poured over our very own oranges, managed expertly with cats on her knee, Marilyn fled the house, cash in hand, eager to exchange greetings in our local shops, where everyone knows everyone. Essentials purchased, word had it that some new horses and donkeys had appeared in a nearby village so Marilyn went off in search. To her joy she found them. To her frustration she couldn’t get near enough to inhale their seductive smell. Next time?

In the afternoon we joined hands, electric saw and axe at the ready, in cutting and chopping wood for our two stoves, our primary source of heating – a fall from environmental grace to be rectified, cost allowing, who knows when? After which Marilyn started a new water-colour and I amused as ever the blokes seated outside the village kafeneio by my ageing effort to race walk. To be fair their generous shouts of ‘Bravo’ spurred me on. As dusk fell I accompanied a sciatica-stricken friend’s dogs, Filos and Toula on their evening traipse. I’ve grown to love dogs and there’s something about the three of us having a roadside piss together that cheers me up no end.

Back home preparations for the evening were in full swing. As is only proper Marilyn was making a Hot-Pot with a suet crust, decorated with homemade red cabbage. It was beltin’. There being no real ale available it was washed down with a mix of sparkling plonk and the local village red. Thus fortified we watched an old black and white Agatha Christie film with Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, compellingly all dialogue and no action. Not a car chase in sight. Fortunately, perchance the alcohol, we’d both forgotten the last-minute twist in the courtroom drama wherein Marlene executes her faithless lover. He had it coming. Thence to the highlight of any New Year’s Eve, at least in Germany, the comedy sketch, ‘Dinner for One’, featuring the wonderful Freddie Frinton as the drunken butler, a role he had honed on stage in Britain’s music halls. Evidently, first shown in 1962 on German television, it has acquired cult status in the country.

By this time midnight was still two hours away and the writing was on the wall. Not for the first time, we wouldn’t be welcoming in the New Year. After all nobody was likely to turn up as the first foot through the door with a piece of coal in hand. Hence Marilyn, head buried in her latest book, was in bed by 10ish with a cup of hot chocolate and the ever-faithful, Glyka. She was fast asleep by 11. Basking in the glow of the dying embers I watched a bit of football before putting on some soothing Satie. I was so soothed I fell asleep and wasn’t disturbed even by the rattle of gunfire and blast of explosions echoing across our valley. I crept to bed in the New Year to dream of revolution and the overthrow of capitalism. It’s getting to be something of a tradition.

Time’s running out for me but the fight continues on the streets of Iran, in the fields of Holland and India, on picket lines across the globe and in a plethora of places out of sight, out of mind as far as our ‘betters and experts’ are concerned.

Here’s to a New Year, in which we stop bickering amongst ourselves and renew our shared sense of solidarity in the face of a would-be tyranny, within which our existence will be increasingly policed ‘for our own good’.

The Spectre Haunting Christmas…

One of the joys, amidst the stifling years of the ‘pandemic’, has been discovering stimulating voices, which I’d never have come across in the ordinary course of events. Prominent among these is that of the gay, pagan Marxist, Rhyd Wildermuth, who writes at From the Forests of Arduinna. I’d recommend the blog’s catholic content and dissenting discourse to anyone with an open mind. By chance, Rhyd has just posted a piece from 2019, The Chthonic King of Christmas, which begins with an anecdote about the Dublin tradition of getting ‘piss-drunk’ on Christmas Eve – news to me. at least! It’s the opening to a fascinating reflection on gods before Gods and in particular Saturn. The following is an excerpt, which might whet your appetite.

Saturn has a spectral quality in magical discourse, a haunting truth one cannot ever outrun, so it’s no wonder that Saturnalia itself long haunted European Christianity as just such a spectre. The Church’s war against its continued celebrations was long fought and never fully won. As Rome did for gods, the Christians eventually let in the parts of Saturn’s celebrations that they could not fully eradicate. A truce, as it were: the candles could continue, and also the gift-giving, and in some places even the most curious and dangerous of Saturnalia’s rites.

“The Christmas Lord of Misrule,” by Gustave Dore
“The Christmas Lord of Misrule,” by Gustave Dore

There’s something I should now make very clear about Saturn, a thing I’ve saved until now. But rather than tell you directly, I’ll let a 2nd-century Roman historian do it:

“The first inhabitants of Italy were the Aborigines, whose king Saturnus is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all and undivided as one estate for the use of everyone. In memory of this way of life, it has been ordered that at Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters, the rank of all being made equal.”

The historian Justinius, then, ascribed Saturn to an indigenous people who lived in conditions we could quite easily call autonomous communism. No private property, no rank, no division of class, and no restricted access to the land and its wealth. Other Roman writers claimed Saturn the ruler of the “Golden Age,” a time before recorded history during which the land always provided food for people, labour was unnecessary, and humans were closer to the gods. Depicted sometimes with a scythe in hand, Saturn was the bringer of abundance from the land, sometimes named the father of agriculture (though more likely that of horticulture, rather than mass-scale farming). And most of all, he was the god of a time before slaves and masters, a propertied class and the landless, king of a time before kings themselves.

As such we can guess why Saturnalia’s most fascinating tradition was the most dangerous to the later Christians.

‘Saturnalia’ by Ernesto Bioni

It was not only customary during the Roman rites of Saturnalia for slaves to be treated as equals, but also often enough for lords and masters to become temporarily their servants. During Saturnalia, slaves ate at the tables of their masters (and were often served by them), and were given the right to wear clothing only the free-born and patricians could wear, thus annihilating the public distinction between the two classes.

We see this part of Saturnalia continued throughout Christianized Europe in a raucous aspect of Christmas that involved the selection of a “Lord of Misrule” or a “child bishop.” During these rituals, a peasant was named king—or in France and Germany a child named bishop—and given powers to overturn the normal order of things. These “world turned upside down” celebrations involved profane marriages between donkeys and priests, crossdressing, mischievous social disorder, carnivalistic riots, and the pillaging of the food stores of nobles and lords.

Closer to the present, these celebrations continued into Britain and Ireland for much longer than the Church or ruling classes were ever comfortable with. A particular ritual was greatly distressing to the powerful: carolling. As with modern carolling, groups of people would wander the streets singing songs. But the similarities end there: rather than singing hackneyed versions of “Oh Silent Night” in gaudy sweaters, carolers would chant bawdy, profane, and rather raucous songs at the doors of nobles who in return were expected to give the rioters at their gates cakes and brandy. Failure to do so meant the carolers had the “right” to break into the manses and take what they wanted.

This part of Saturnalia continued even into the 19th century in the United States, so much so that laws were passed in New England against carolling and being publicly drunk on Christmas Eve, laws which the Church in Europe had never fully succeeded in enforcing. By this time, however, the new order of capitalism had taken enough hold that the Calvinist-Bourgeois values of commerce, the nuclear family, and the sanctity of individual wealth were able to supplant survivals of Saturnalian revelry in most places.

One thing that’s always interested me about this transition is a particular story we all know too well, but whose meaning we tend to forget, that of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” As we moderns have lost the original meaning of carolling, the story seems merely a morality play, an admonition that greed will leave you lonely. But remembering that carolling was a continuation of the rites of Saturnalia, Dickens’ point becomes clearer. Scrooge was an industrialist, part of the new bourgeois order of capitalists who, as Marx noted, had freed themselves from the aristocratic code of noblesse oblige. Re-distributing wealth to the riotous poor during Christmas was an unwritten part of that code in England and elsewhere, but Scrooge and the rest of the new capitalist class refused to recognize their duty.

Rhyd ends the piece, Happy Yule. Merry Christmas. Good Solstice to you. And most of all, Io Saturnalia!

To which I can only add the words of the great Irish comedian Dave Allen, ‘May your God go with you’

Thoughts, writings and speeches of A.SIVANANDAN, 1923−2018 – an always unsettling treasure trove

Ironically, only a few days ago I unearthed a faded photocopy of Sivanandan’s brilliant 1985 article, ‘RAT and the degradation of the black struggle’. Struggling to understand the demise of the Left today, I had gone back to reacquaint myself with its searing critique of post-modernism. In the mid-1980s I regarded it as an eye-opening seminal text. In 2022 my memory was not to be disappointed.

Lo and behold, this morning I got a message from Phil Scraton, informing me that a website had been created, containing all of Siva’s remarkable output.

HOME PAGE

ABOUT SIVA – his life’s journey

KEY SAYINGS

SIVA’S ARCHIVE

VIDEOS

A.Sivanandan  was one of the most important and influential black thinkers in the UK, changing many of the orthodoxies on ‘race’, heading the Institute of Race Relations for almost forty years, founding the journal Race & Class, and writing the award-winning novel, When Memory Dies, on his native Sri Lanka

As I opened up the website I was almost overwhelmed by the riches therein. For now, because grappling with contemporary identity politics is high on my agenda, two excerpts from the KEY SAYINGS page jumped out at me. More broadly I can only encourage you to explore, muse and act upon its contents.

Who you are is what you do

The politics of identity which led individuals to use an innate aspect (their gender, colour etc) as ipso facto a right from which to judge others, could itself become a way of setting up a hierarchy of oppressions. He opposed all forms of identity politics which did not reach out to try to transform society, for, not just the self, but for all. The transformation of the individual would take place in the process of a larger collective struggle but a politics based in the self would not open out in that way. Identity would not be confirmed in isolation. ‘Who you are is what you do’.

The personal is not political, the political is personal

In his take on the personal v. the political, Sivanandan was starting from the position that racialism, i.e. attitude or prejudice, was not what was meant by racism, which was structural, institutional and /or systemic. Whereas many people concentrated on discussing attitude, language and symbols as manifestations of racism, he felt that it was the effect, the impact of racism on people’s lives and life chances which should be the focus in a fight against racism. Attitudes and prejudices were a reflection of the way that the state had put its imprimatur on racism (especially through immigration controls, policing and the operation of the judiciary) and not vice versa. (And in the Information Society, which he located from the 1980s onwards, the role of the media and social media had become crucial in determining the narrative on race.) Techniques like awareness training which spoke to a supposed white racial unconscious bias could instil feelings of guilt rather than further a larger political struggle for justice.

End but not ending …

Siva was in poor health for some years, though still contributing remotely to the IRR and the journal. He died at his home in Hertfordshire on 3 January 2018. A celebratory memorial event was held on 23 June 2018 at Conway Hall to discuss how to take his principles on into the future. To find out more about how he impacted on a range of people – from the grassroots to the ivory tower, and across continents – look at the tributes page http://www.irr.org.uk/news/a-sivanandan-1923-2018/ and also the longer essays produced in a special issue of Race & Class to mark his  75th birthday, ‘A world to win’, (41/1and2)  July 1999.

Thinking about the Past, Present and Future of IDYW

For the sake of some sort of continuity I’m publishing here my final post from the In Defence of Youth Work website. It contains themes emanating from the authoritarian imposition of the COVID measures, which I will continue to take up in one way or another on this blog.

Below you will find the lead contribution I made to the final IDYW Steering Group meeting held on Friday, October 8th in Manchester. As it was the train of my thought was often, necessarily and fruitfully interrupted by the musings and memories of those present. These interventions made for a challenging yet always supportive critical, collective conversation. Unfortunately I can’t do justice to that process. Hence you are getting no more than my opening and closing remarks. The substance of my offering was an effort to trace major events and significant themes in the life of IDYW since 2009. These are to be found, now archived on this site.

A group discussion at our fifth national conference in Birmingham

Thinking About the Past, Present and Future of IDYW.

Opening Remarks

I’m anxious about this bit of an opening presentation, which might well seem ridiculous. I long ago gave up paid work, selling my soul to the State with all its attendant tensions. Why the disquiet!? The principal reason for my apprehension is that I’ve scoured back through all the IDYW website posts since March 2009. I stopped counting at 1500 plus. What riches, what a turmoil of contradictions, hope and despair and what a plurality of offerings. I was bemused. How could I possibly do justice to this fascinating potpourri? My confusion was not eased in finding myself listening to the videos of the first National Conference in February 2010 – Janet Batsleer welcoming us to an ‘unauthorised space’, Kev Jones introducing my rant, Tania de St Croix warning about surveillance and Bernard Davies making the youth work case. Thoughts and sentiments that would not be out of place today. In thinking about the inaugural Conference I remembered also meeting Sue Atkins on the Didsbury campus in the dark the night before. We had something to sort out. I remember not what. It might well have been 20 years since we’d last crossed paths. A tear in our eyes it was as if we’d never been apart.

So forgive me if my recollection of IDYW’s history is riddled with absences. If there isn’t a book there is certainly an MA, even, a PhD to be found in the IDYW archives. Although on second thoughts a PhD collecting dust on a shelf would hardly move us forward.

So why did IDYW emerge in late 2008 on the back of the Open Letter I penned. It ventured:

Thirty years ago Youth Work aspired to a special relationship with young people. It wanted to meet young women and men on their terms. It claimed to be ‘on their side’. Three decades later Youth Work is close to abandoning this distinctive commitment. Today it accepts the State’s terms. It sides with the State’s agenda. Perhaps we exaggerate, but a profound change has taken place.

The shift has not happened overnight. Back in the 1980’s the Thatcherite effort via the Manpower Services Commission to shift the focus of Youth Work from social education to social and life skills was resisted. In the early 90’s the attempt to impose a national curriculum on the diverse elements of the Youth Service ground to a halt. However, with the accession of New Labour, the drive to impose an instrumental framework on Youth Work gathered increased momentum. With Blair and Brown at the helm youth workers and managers have been coerced and cajoled into embracing the very antithesis of the Youth Work process: predictable and prescribed outcomes. Possessing no vision of a world beyond the present New Labour has been obsessed with the micro-management of problematic, often demonised youth. Yearning for a generation stamped with the State’s seal of approval the government has transformed Youth Work into an agency of behavioural modification. It wishes to confine to the scrapbook of history the idea that Youth Work is volatile and voluntary, creative and collective – an association and conversation without guarantees.

Of course, the idea of the Letter did not spring out of the blue. It was not at all my individual creation. The inspiration for challenging the neo-liberal consensus goes back for me to the late 1960s. I want to argue that IDYW was but a particular expression of a post-war liberal/social democratic belief that education ought to be child/young person-centred, process-led, holistic and questioning in its desire. IDYW was born too out of a frustration that this humanistic perspective had struggled to dent a behavioural tradition focused on social control and conformity. In my own experience back in the late 1970s, Roy Ratcliffe and I were disciplined for supporting the autonomous voice of an embryo Youth Council. We wrote about this setback and the lack of support from fellow professionals in a piece to be found within the Inner London Education Authority’s ‘Schooling & Culture’, entitled ‘Stuttering Steps in Political Education’. As the Youth Service Training Officer in Wigan, I fought a bitter battle with Youth Service officers and workers to rewrite a part-time youth worker training course that sought to introduce Carl Rogers to Karl Marx, to question liberal taken-for-granteds by way of socialist and feminist understandings. Over in the newly created Community and Youth Workers Union, the Women’s Caucus emerging from the social movements turned the organisation upside down, Stimulated by the sisters Roy and I (in perhaps the best thing I’ve ever done) drafted a member-led and democratic constitution which directly challenged in practice both hierarchy and bureaucracy. Yet despite the radicalisation of full-time training courses, behaviourism was reasserting itself by the late 1980s as the servant of neo-liberal ideology. Indeed some former advocates of a radical grass-roots agenda were to the fore in advocating the managerial imposition of its tenets.

To say the least, this analysis is sweeping. I’ve always tended to be that way inclined. Yet, as an example of the shift, when I went in 1990 as the Wigan Chief Youth Officer to a Confederation of Heads of Youth Services national conference with perhaps 100 managers in attendance I sat in a corner over a drink with at most half a dozen fellow travellers. The majority embraced prescribed outcomes and the accumulation of data as the only way to save the Youth Service and Youth Work.

As it is I fled the scene at the end of the 1990s because of Marilyn, my wife’s serious illness. However, I was not quite finished. With Malcolm Ball, Steve Waterhouse (tragically both no longer with us) Deb Ball, Tim Price and Steve Monaghan we formed the minuscule Critically Chatting Collective, continuing to question what was going on through a website and tiny gatherings. For example, I remember back in 2005 Bernard Davies addressing a central London meeting of no more than six people – hardly an indication of mass support for our meanderings. Be that as it may, this continuation of a critical perspective was essential to my subsequent scribbling of the Open Letter which was rejected by the National Youth Agency’s organ, ‘Young People Now’ as being too heavy for its readership. I declined the offer to rewrite.

Thus we circulated the Letter at the 2009 Youth & Policy History Conference in Durham, knowing that Y & P itself stood for an open and serious appraisal of the State’s relationship with young people. I have failed to track down the place where the signatories are housed, well over 700 as I remember. In short, the Open Letter opposed the behavioural and instrumental, the imposition of rules, norms and outcomes upon practice. As I argued, “we described a clash between the process of ‘becoming a person, individually, socially and politically aware’, which held good for ourselves and young people and neoliberalism’s desire to manufacture self-centred conformism and unquestioning obedience to the status quo amongst both ourselves and young people”.

All of which preamble leads to a specific engagement with the history of IDYW itself. As I have more than hinted there is a book to be written. I will have to content myself with a limited number of memories.

At this point in my contribution to the meeting, I began to explore all that we had done across the life of IDYW. In this context to do so here would come across as a list with little in the way of explanation and exploration. Hence, for now, I can only ask the reader to interrogate for themselves the IDYW archive. For my part I am committed monthly, if not more frequently, to post afresh gems from the archive and hope you might keep your eye on their appearance. Amongst the themes I touched upon were:

The Annual Conferences
The Regional Seminars
The range of questioning articles and books produced by IDYW activists
Our unstinting support for wider initiatives, exemplified by our involvement in Choose Youth and ‘Is the Tide Turning’
Our input into the European Youth Work debate

Concluding Remarks

Given I’m somewhat retired from the fray I don’t want to overstay my return to a discussion about IDYW’s future or indeed claim that my finger is on the pulse. My piece on ‘Resistance in a Climate of Anxiety’ conveys still much of my perspective.

Firstly, IDYW was born out of a spirit of resistance to and dissension from the mainstream behavioural narrative besetting our relations with young people.

Secondly, therefore, my question is whether IDYW remains a critical voice, given that the formalisation of the informal within Youth Work has continued apace? Or has it been slowly sanitised, swallowed up safely into the mainstream as symbolised by a Facebook page dominated by exchanges and requests far removed from the philosophy and politics of the Open Letter?

Finally, in my opinion, neither Youth Work nor IDYW itself can sidestep facing the implications for both young people and society as a whole of the consciously created COVID pandemic. As best I can see the profession meekly and unquestioningly complied with a flagrantly undemocratic, disgracefully unethical, utterly one-sided governmental response to a virus which, if placed in context, has been far from the 21st-century Great Plague predicted by that methodological absurdity, the Science, its cynical experts and obedient stenographers. We witnessed the overnight abandonment of a holistic, measured, informed Public Health Policy and the character assassination of those brave souls, who pointed this out.

In particular, youth workers and education professionals as a whole ought to examine on what unevidenced grounds they cooperated with the closing down and stifling of children and young people’s provision and ask themselves to what extent they were complicit in the transmission of the fearmongering propaganda disseminated by the behavioural psychologists and their ‘nudge, nudge’ advertising arm? For what it’s worth, even if this emergency dies down and the covid zealots retreat, I don’t think it’s possible to proceed as if not much has gone on, to accept their New Normal.

The logo of our friends at the now defunct National Coalition for Independent Action

Above all, a supposed democratic and emancipatory youth work is now put to the test in terms of its own integrity. Is it possible to abandon the pursuit of truth and critical reflection with hardly a whimper, then as the dust settles, claim to be its principled advocates? I ask this with some pessimism as more than ever in the light of the pandemic I believe that the struggle to defend and extend the power of the people against the technocratic authoritarianism of the ruling class and its supporters on both the Left and Right is now the overwhelming political struggle of our time. Indeed it is a struggle, which transcends simplistic political categories. It is a struggle, within and without youth work, which demands a renewed critical dialogue across a veritable diversity of voices. IDYW in its time sought to do so but fell short. Crucially we never developed a vibrant, living network of local and regional IDYW support groups. It falls upon a younger generation in particular to revive the spirit of its intent.

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK CLOSES ITS BOOKS IN SADNESS BUT WITH MUCH PRIDE

Some readers of this blog will know that I penned the Open Letter, which initiated the Defence of Youth Work campaign in early 2009. For a decade I coordinated the campaign and maintained its website. It took up a big chunk of my life but I was privileged that it did so. By a twist of fate, I had the time and space to do so. I stepped down from my leading role in 2019 but no one was able to fill the gap. No one had the time and space. I cannot escape from the fact that my withdrawal in part sapped the energy and slowed the momentum of the campaign. As it was the restrictions on social existence imposed in the name of COVID brought things almost to a standstill. Thus on Friday, October 7 the Steering Group agreed to bring IDYW’s life to a close. Below is the Steering Group’s statement, first published on the IDYW website. More thoughts to follow.

The original IDYW logo

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK CLOSES ITS BOOKS IN SADNESS BUT WITH MUCH PRIDE

At our very first national conference in 2009, Janet Batsleer welcomed us to an ‘unauthorised space’. Her eloquent words ring down through the years.

In Defence of Youth Work as a campaign and critical forum is no more. At an Open Steering Group meeting held in Manchester on Friday, October 7th, amidst smiles, frowns and tears, it was agreed that IDYW had run its course, having lost its impetus and energy. In exploring why this was so and where we were up to, it became plain we had much of which to be proud. The evidence for this assertion is to be found on this website with its 1500+ posts recording our collective activity since our appearance in early 2009. We are committed to preserving the website as a historical archive and as a testament to the impact of our small ‘unauthorised’ and independent group, ‘punching above its weight’, upon the national and indeed international youth work scene.

One of Jethro Bryce’s striking illustrations from our book, ”This is Youth Work’

Whilst IDYW will cease to be an organised presence in the youth work arena, it is vital to recognise that its existence was always of its time. It was no more and no less than a particular expression over the last thirteen years of a centuries-old struggle for a truly democratic and ‘popular’ education. Without questioning, democratically inclined citizens, young and old, there can be no democracy. In this context, the humanist philosophy and practice of a secular and religious disposition that inspired IDYW’s resistance to the behavioural and instrumental neoliberal agenda remain a universal treasury of hope. The ideas live on. In the face of an increasingly technocratic and authoritarian capitalism, we hope that our endeavour will be taken up afresh and reimagined by a new wave of workers and activists. We hope too that the archive of our efforts will provide a moment or two of inspiration.

Gathering our collective thoughts

For now, we will take a deep breath, tinged with sadness, bursting with pride. In the coming months, from time to time, we will highlight anew memories worth remembering. Tony Taylor at tonymtaylor@gmail.com has agreed to be a Keeper of the Records, to use an old-fashioned title, and will welcome approaches from students, academics, researchers and practitioners seeking to explore our ‘books’.

Hopefully concentrating on a speaker’s provocative insights!

A Pragmatic Postscript

Over the years our Facebook page has taken on a life of its own. At this moment it boasts 6,800 members. It has become the go-to place for sharing information and ideas about youth work in general. In many ways, the page has lost touch with its original purpose of encouraging debate focused on IDYW’s cornerstones. Nevertheless, it is clearly an important resource and a marketplace for youth workers and projects. Respecting this our moderators will continue to keep watch on its contents and are considering ways of perhaps filtering the daily waterfall of varied material.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES LA LUTTA CONTINUA Ο Αγώνας Συνεχίζεται

Joint Enterprise Bill passes first reading

In solidarity with the JENGbA campaign, we bring the positive news that the “Joint Enterprise Bill has passed its first reading.

JENGbA – Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association
Common Law used against common people that makes no common sense. We are a grassroots campaign, run by volunteers. As with all grassroots campaigns, the work behind opposing the might of the legal establishment has been an uphill battle. It was a role taken on mainly by women (mothers, sisters, aunties and cousins but also heartbroken dads and uncles) who will not rest while their loved ones are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed by others. JENGbA was created by the legal establishment, it was not a campaign that came out of nowhere; it was precisely because the use of joint Enterprise was unjust, unfair and discriminatory towards working class and BAME communities that we were forced to form JENGbA. From our kitchens and meeting rooms, we have focused tirelessly on this campaign

Credit to Charlotte Henry

On 6 September a Private Members’ Bill calling for fairer appeal processes passed its first reading in the House of Commons. The Criminal Appeal (Amendment) Bill or ‘Joint Enterprise’ Bill, calls for a fairer appeals process for those who remain detained on remand and convicted by joint enterprise will now progress to a second reading later this year. The landmark Bill will help those detained by joint enterprise invoke their right to a fair trial, enshrined in the Human Rights Act (HRA).

‘Joint enterprise’ is a common law doctrine according to which an individual can be jointly convicted of the crime of another. It is a feature of the law that has been misinterpreted for over 30 years.

Under joint enterprise, an individual can be jointly convicted of the crime of another if the court decides they ‘foresaw that the other party was likely to commit that crime’. This means that individuals can be prosecuted for a crime as if they were a ‘main offender’, even if they were not present at the time.

In recent years, it has resulted in people involved in much lesser criminal offences, or even bystanders, being convicted of serious crimes, including murder or manslaughter. Under the Human Rights Act, everyone has the right to a fair trial (Article 6) and not to be discriminated against (Article 14).

READ MORE at https://eachother.org.uk/

Elizabeth, the acceptable, reassuring yet hypocritical face of unacceptable hereditary privilege

I grew up with a proud and handsome father, a miner, who was a staunch patriot and monarchist. Indeed in the front garden of our council house in Leigh, my dad, Alf had erected a flag pole in our well-tended garden, from which he flew a union jack on every appropriate public occasion. I think at times I was a bit embarrassed but not overly so. And I can still visualise the chaotic excitement in our street when Elizabeth was crowned Queen on June 2nd, 1953 – the day before my sixth birthday. I can’t remember much in the way of an organised party. I can remember there was only one ‘telly’ located in a corner house at the top of our avenue, the garden of which was overrun with sweaty bodies, large and small. Was it sweltering? Being a toddler I never got even a glimpse of the BBC’s black and white evidently reverential coverage.

From thence on, through to my early teens. Queen Elizabeth was a taken-for-granted part of daily life – in our house, where coronation memorabilia stood on the mantelpiece; at primary and then grammar school in morning assembly; at church in our prayers; and socially through my father’s leading participation in a number of post-war naval associations, where a toast to the Crown was obligatory.

I’m not sure when my acceptance of this intrusion into my existence began to wane. I wonder if I was getting pissed off with having to wait till after the Queen’s speech before settling down to Xmas dinner. Her measured, patronising voice, symbolising class superiority was proving evermore thin. More than ever I reckon my rejection of her insidious presence was intimately intertwined with my refusal of God’s proferred helping hand.

At some point, when I was about thirteen, the whole edifice of my unthinking obedience to imposed authority began to crumble. Abandoning Christianity and its comforting sense of purpose, its vision of eternal life took some doing. Kicking into touch the absurdity of worshipping a family, who’d landed in the right place, at the right time on the back of theft and murder was pretty easy. In our sixth form Debating Society, I argued passionately for the abolition of the Monarchy…..and in the process perhaps God himself! In retrospect, this was more though than mere youthful rebelliousness. Indeed my burgeoning republican atheism was the hint that I might later become a radical political activist. It meant that I sat grimly, teeth gritted, through the opening National Anthem played ritually at the Halle Orchestra’s concerts, conscious of the burning contempt of Manchester’s petit-bourgeoisie. I took comfort in that most conductors, along with the orchestra, went through the motions. It means even now that I can’t remember [or don’t care to remember] if the anthem was played on the two occasions I represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland against West Germany in the 20 kilometres walk. Did I stand to attention? I’ve no idea. At the time I rationalised that my pride in this achievement had little to do with love of country, much more to do with finding myself part of a team of athletes I respected enormously. Self-delusion, you might well say.

Across the ensuing decades, I spent time in the Marxist-Leninist church with its Holy Texts, prophets, priests and disciples. I learnt a lot but never came to terms with its unrelenting righteousness and deep-seated authoritarianism. Gradually I moved, for the sake of a label, to the Libertarian Left, where anarchism was the dominant voice. The tale of this tortuous journey is for another day. For now, the important thing is that my republican atheism remained constant throughout. Faced with the passing away of the monarch and the passing on of unwarranted and unaccountable privilege to her son I felt angry and frustrated. I asked myself naively, ‘how could such a farce of convenience continue?’ The mass media and a chunk of the population retorted, ‘it continues because we say so’. In a futile gesture, I posted the following on Facebook.

FACEBOOK

As the sycophancy spews forth from all corners and comers, I call to mind from 1911 the words of James Connolly, the great Irish republican and socialist.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury — every crime known to man has been committed by someone or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George [and his offspring – my addition] are proud to trace his [their] descent.

I gain no satisfaction from her death. It is what it is. Another parasite will succeed her. Thousands of people, who have contributed much more to society shuffle off this mortal coil every day, loved and respected by those, who knew them but not adulated by those, who did not.

She deserves no special attention but it is forthcoming in waves. In death, she provides a cloying, nauseous moment of distraction from a reality suffused with uncertainty for the many, within which her celebrity children are no more than pawns in the powerful’s propaganda game.

A number of people have criticised my Facebook post on the grounds that it is disrespectful to the grief-stricken and, even if correct, ill-timed. In one reply I commented:

I respect your opinion but there never is a right time to open up a serious debate about the continued existence of archaic privilege? Those, who are distressed and grieving are not short of support, having the full weight of the media behind them. Indeed to confirm the irrelevance of my tiny voice I’m told that the whole of the UK is in mourning, that the nation is grief-stricken. What to make of my insensitive aberration from the country’s collective compassion?

In a parallel piece, ‘The Queen and her legacy: 21st century Britain has never looked so medieval’, Jonathan Cook concludes.

If the monarch is the narrative glue holding society and empire together, Charles could represent the moment when that project starts to come unstuck.

Which is why the black suits, hushed tones and air of reverence are needed so desperately right now. The establishment are in frantic holding mode as they prepare to begin the difficult task of reinventing Charles and Camilla in the public imagination. Charles must now do the heavy lifting for the establishment that the Queen managed for so long, even as she grew increasingly frail physically.

The outlines of that plan have been visible for a while. Charles will be rechristened the King of the Green New Deal. He will symbolise Britain’s global leadership against the climate crisis.

If the Queen’s job was to rebrand empire as Commonwealth, transmuting the Mau Mau massacre into gold medals for Kenyan long-distance runners, Charles’ job will be to rebrand as a Green Renewal the death march led by transnational corporations.

Which is why now is no time for silence or obedience. Now is precisely the moment – as the mask slips, as the establishment needs time to refortify its claim to deference – to go on the attack.

In tune with this demand that we confront the sanitising legacy of Elizabeth’s reign, Nesrine Malik is eloquence itself in her Opinion piece, ‘Along with the Queen, Britain is laying to rest a sacred national image that never was.’ She ends.

But nothing is sacred. Not the Queen, and not her family, who have in recent years been roiled by accusations, firmly denied, of Prince Andrew’s involvement with an underage victim of sexual trafficking, and of estate investments in questionable funds. And not the country for which she provided not a bridge but an alibi for far too long. That was the job the Queen came to fulfil in her later years: that of a woman who showed up when our public health infrastructure was crumbling, and plugged the gap for an absent government. There is a thin line between boosting morale, and absolving acts of man by treating them as acts of God.

I feel some of you flinch, dear readers. I understand. Some might think it is too soon to speak of imperfection. But with the Queen’s passing, we are about to enter a new chapter where the only hope we have for a more confident, coherent country is to speak of our imperfections more. The Queen is gone, and with her should go our imagined nation. It is time for her to rest. And more than time for the country to wake up.

To return to the beginning, what would my gentle father think of this hereditary handover, cut down as he was in his prime back in 1969? I doubt very much whether he would have had time for the Buckingham Palace soap opera, the embarrassing melodramatics. I doubt though he would have cast aside his loyalty. He would have been chuffed to see me in a GB vest. For this much would have been forgiven. Having moved to a terraced house with no garden there would have been no flagpole to proclaim his allegiance. Inevitably we would have rowed occasionally. He might well have despaired at my politics. I’m not certain. I do feel though he might well have agreed that things can’t just carry on regardless. He might well have agreed, “isn’t it time to take a measured breath rather than mourn mindlessly?”

School Children Resist in 1911: A Historical Precedent?

On the 5th of September 1911, a UK-wide strike wave of schoolchildren was sparked when pupils in Llanelli, Wales walked out in sympathy with a boy who was disciplined by a deputy headmaster. From this one school, walkouts spread across the country to at least 62 towns and cities, with pupils demanding an end to corporal punishment and shorter hours. The schoolchildren’s strikes followed a summer of workers’ industrial disputes.

Schoolchildren on strike, Shoreditch 1911

In the present climate of growing unrest with the consequences of the authoritarian assault on children’s, young people’s, parents’ and workers’ rights, indeed upon society as a whole is inspiration to be found in this history.

School children in Hull on strike in 1911 “for shorter hours and no stick”


There is a wonderful pamphlet about the walkouts, written by Dave Marston, a docker and Ruskin student in 1973.

https://libcom.org/history/childrens-strikes-1911

Editorial Note

The children’s strikes of 1911, as Dave Marson shows in this pamphlet, were part of the huge upheaval of labour in the long, hot summer of 1911. The industrial unrest has often been written about: the school strikes are Dave Marson’s own discovery. He came upon them by accident when researching the history of his own people, the Hull dockers. He has followed the strike movement all over the country and has set them in both a school and a community context. The school situation which he describes has by no means disappeared: nor have the difficulties of organising resistance. The writer is a working docker, who was a student at Ruskin in 1970-2.

He begins his marvellous piece.

I came upon the children’s strikes of 1911 by accident. I was researching into the Hull Dock Strike of 1911, and reading through the Hull newspapers of that year when I noticed a small paragraph relating to a strike of Hull school children which took place in September 1911. It seemed no more than a curiosity, an illustration of the extent of the industrial unrest taking place at that time. What struck me first was the story about a policeman having to mount his bicycle and charging at the youthful strikers who had formed a picket line outside their school. The mere sight of a blue uniform was enough to frighten me and my school friends.

What set me looking further into things was one line in the report which said that the Hull boys were following the example of children in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Then looking through another Hull newspaper I discovered a front page splash – with photographs and a story about the strike. The newspaper listed all the different classes of workers who had been out on strike in Hull during that hot summer – cement workers – factory girls – seamen and dockers, and connected the children’s strike to them. It was a photograph that really affected me – it was a picture of the children picketting the gates of Courtney Street Primary School, the same school I had been to myself. I identified myself with those strikers – some of them might have been the parents of the children I went to school with.

When I looked at the Times I found that children’s strikes were taking place not only in Yorkshire but all over the country. At first I couldn’t believe it – how could it have taken place so quickly and all over the country – I’d always believed that strikes were something which had to be organised. I felt that these children were trying to say something. I did not realise how many places were affected until I started reading through the local newspapers at Colindale. These showed that there were many more than the Times had reported.

Dave ends after cataloguing an amazing variety of children’s responses across the country.

Away from their classrooms the jubilant children began to express themselves in various ways. To some it would be a ‘street theatre’ and to others the sheer feeling of freedom would exhilarate them enough to address the crowds of boys in the manner of the factory-gate or street-corner agitator. To the newspaper columnists they were ‘Dunces’; ‘The Truant Class’; ‘Children from the Poorer Areas’. This attitude shows how the respectable classes regarded them. Throughout the country children began to show originality and independence.

The strikes were not all violent. In Hartlepool the boys walked along the sands and picnicked, taking advantage of the splendid late Summer weather. In other places they went swimming or simply sat around discussing general topics; they played at being soldiers and paraded; some sang patriotic songs.

In Northampton strikers went blackberrying. But more important they entertained themselves with their own music making up the words to songs. These children, despite their stifling schooling showed their minds had not been overwhelmed by the gray monotonies of the class-room. They still retained imagination with ideas like the colours in a paint-box.

Malcolm Ball – Celebrating his life

Back in the middle of July, I was ready to attend an event in Lewisham celebrating my dear friend and comrade Malcolm Ball’s life. Flights and hotel were booked. However, the happening was thwarted by a supposedly unprecedented heatwave or by the ruling class’s desire to impose upon us an eternal state of anxiety, come what may. Whatever, the reconvened date was yesterday and sadly I couldn’t make it.

Thanks to Tania for the photo of the occasion

The celebration staged in the Council rooms was streamed live and included moving testaments to Malcolm’s remarkable impact upon life in what he always called ‘God’s own country’. namely Lewisham. Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video in the body of this post and it seems unavailable now on YouTube.

To give you a flavour of the thoughts shared, here is the speech that Steven West would have made if he’d had the chance.

I wanted to make a small speech about Malcolm, on behalf of myself and of a very dear family friend, Susan Atkins, a lifelong youth worker herself, who wanted to express her gratitude and share in the celebration of Malcolm’s achievements.

Their connection started when Malcolm attended a youth club she set up in Deptford. Later they met through various union organisations and worked together in In Defence of Youth Work. Susan compared youth work to building an organic garden, where plants are allowed to grow at different rates and to be different shapes, sizes and colours. She said Malcolm allowed young people to find their space and to grow into themselves.

I like so many here was one of those young people. Malcolm taught me more than anything that I could have a voice too, that what I had to say mattered, and that I never had to do anything, say anything or accept anything just because someone told me so. In short that I could go my own way and that I was good enough…as just me.

Susan says,” Malcolm didn’t do tokenism, he did authenticity”.

Malcolm taught me a lot without telling me directly, by letting me make mistakes but with support and with someone there when it all went wrong.

Standing here today I can see how many lives he touched, he gave his time and was never once unavailable. He gave us all opportunities to better our lives and worked to empower us all.

That’s how I will remember Malcolm, in actions not just words.

In addition, I include the transcript of my contribution to proceedings, which was recited by another dear friend and comrade, Tim Price.

REMEMBERING MALCOLM

Our paths crossed almost forty years ago. I was giving a talk on ‘Working with Young Men – the dilemmas, the contradictions – at the Leicester College where Malcolm was a student, Afterwards, he approached me eager to discuss, not so much the content, more his delight that I ended by saying, ‘these thoughts are the best I’ve got for now’. We hit it off from that moment. We shared a sense that our opinions could never be settled for good. We should pursue them with conviction but always retain a measure of doubt, be open to challenge. Malcolm’s way of capturing this ambivalence was to preface his remarks with the turn of phrase, ‘it seems to me’. When a group was struggling with differences, with disagreements, he would ask us to go away and let the issues ‘marinate’ in our minds before returning.

Our friendship deepened during the 1984/85 Great Strike, side by side on the picket line, and from then on, one way or another, we were in collectives, believing that authentic change can only happen through coming together in solidarity and struggle – the Socialist Caucus, the Critically Chatting Collective and In Defence of Youth Work, to name a few.

At the heart of our way of seeing things is a commitment to democracy, a much abused and misused notion, For us the seeds of democracy are sown in our personal relationships with one another, in what we might call ‘intimate democracy’. It is based on a commitment to listen, easy to say but not so easy to do, and on a willingness to ‘give and take’ as we converse with one another. This is why we coined the phrase, ‘critically chatting’ to describe what we saw as essential to the democratic process be it in the family, the community, the youth centre, the council or wherever. I believe all the young people involved in the Mayor’s Project will know what I mean. Malx, as I used to call him for many years until he changed to Mal [I never knew why] didn’t instruct; he didn’t write scripts; he trusted young people; he wanted them to be who they wanted to be. Hating the idea that he was subject to the control of others, he tried his damnedest not to be a tool of control himself.

I loved him deeply as a friend and comrade. Towards the end, Malcolm unbelievably came to visit Marilyn and me on Crete. He wanted to tell us in person about his situation. We walked, we drank, we laughed and we wept. And, as ever, we put the world to rights. As we bade farewell, Malcolm urged me to be optimistic. He urged me to keep writing. I was wondering whether it was worth it. I have tried to heed his words. Doing so has meant that he is never far from my thoughts. As I ponder what to type he often whispers in my ear, in that soft Deptford accent, ‘Tony, it seems to me’.

Malcolm, Tim and I first met up in 1984, whilst supporting the Leicestershire Coalfield’s ‘Dirty Thirty’ during the Miners’Strike. For quite some years we worked together in the Socialist Caucus of the Community and Youth Workers Union [CYWU] and later the National Association of Local Government Officers {NALGO]. During this time our militant minuscule group adopted the Leon Rosselson tribute to the Diggers as our signature tune. By chance, we”ve found an attempted rendition I made a few years ago in a local taverna – the opening words, ‘In 1649’ are missing.

The struggle continues, my dear Malcolm but what to make of it? It would be good to chat. Critically, of course. You are sorely missed.

Are youth workers chatting critically about their compliance with or resistance to the closing down of young people’s lives?

Back in January, I published a post, What about Children and Young People? Are they no more than collateral damage? The opening sentence declared, ‘from the very beginning, March 2020, of the utterly undemocratic imposition of COVID-inspired sweeping restrictions on social existence I feared for children and young people.’

I was perplexed from the outset at what seemed to be the absence of debate and the utter lack of opposition to the demanded closures of children’s and young people’s provision – from playgrounds through schools and youth facilities to universities. I am being diplomatic. I was pissed off and angry. It was plain that such draconian, disproportionate action would be deeply damaging. The belated acknowledgement in the summer of 2021 that the lockdown was creating serious mental health issues for the younger generation, crocodile tears, merely confirmed my angst. Then, a humble breath taken, I recognised it was easy for me to be so moved. If I was still a practising youth worker. teacher or lecturer what would I have done during the last two years?

Towards the end of the piece I commented:

Certainly in the coming weeks, as the pandemic narrative unravels, it would be revealing to hear the thoughts of UK youth workers, teachers and lecturers about their sense of the impact upon children and young people, upon themselves of the two years lost.

I’m still waiting but prodded by an Opinion article in the Guardian, ‘Evidence grows of lockdown harm to the young. But we act as if nothing happened‘ by Martha Gill, I’ll return to the issue by way of a recent criticism of lockdown.

Written by Dr Zenobia Storah, Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist, it is entitled, ‘Reflections of a Child Psychologist on the Pandemic Response, 2 years on.’ It deserves to be read in full, particularly perhaps by professionals in the fields of welfare and education. At one point she muses.

Something unexpected happened in Spring and Summer of 2020. I found myself standing apart from my colleagues. I could understand that in the initial stages of the pandemic, due to the particular threat that Covid posed to the elderly, the government’s decision had been to focus on the protection of older members of the population. But as the weeks wore on and I imagined the harm being done to children across the country, informed both by my training and my professional experience, it was clear to me that too much weight was being focussed on the protection of adults at the enormous expense of the less obvious (but more long-term) damage to the future and well-being of children and young people. And yet those who I would expect to be my natural allies due to shared knowledge and experience remained silent. There was no national, grown-up discussion anywhere about how we might balance the need to protect the most vulnerable from Covid with the interests of the young, and how we could remain faithful to our national commitment to children’s best interests being paramount. Any attempt to introduce such discussion was met with derision and accusations of moral decrepitude. To my astonishment, this was also the case on professional online forums, where it became increasingly difficult to raise concerns. It seemed to me that psychologists, who describe themselves as ‘scientist-practitioners’, should be asking serious questions about society-wide decisions to impose restrictions and mandates that would inevitably harm children and young people (and other vulnerable groups). At the very least, they should all be calling for a broader discussion, which they would be uniquely placed to inform, and at best, an extremely high bar (in terms of cost-benefit analysis) for the introduction of such measures. Yet the general view amongst those working with children and young people – and the official view of most professional bodies including my own – was that the moral responsibility of child professionals was to support government policy (at whatever cost to society and whilst asking no questions – or so it seemed to me) and then to work to mitigate the impact on mental or physical health. The alternative view – that policies that kept children out of schools, cut them off from families and friends, kept them from participating in outdoor sports, normal play, activity and socialising and prevented them from accessing healthcare and other support services should not be in place at all – was anathema. This was disturbing and confusing. I could not understand how, given the values and knowledge we had all shared before March 2020, this had come about.

She concludes.

We always knew what circumstances and experiences children needed in order to thrive, to be physically well and to be mentally healthy, and we knew that the unprecedented social experiment that took place from March 2020 deprived them of many of these things and would put many at risk of serious harm. The collateral damage outlined in all these studies and reports could have been foreseen and warned against by many more child professionals than ever spoke out. In moving into the post-pandemic era, it is essential that we continue to speak of these harms, to measure and describe them and to share these findings with our colleagues and the general public. We need to welcome into the discussion the concerns of many people who, at the time, were persuaded that reduced transmission of Covid trumped everything else, including the safety and mental and physical health of children and young people. It would be good to reach a point where there is full acknowledgement of the harms caused and the catastrophic errors made that led to them. Perhaps the Covid Inquiry will lead society to ask itself how we ever got to a point where children and young people were routinely subjected to harmful and unevidenced interventions and restrictions. As we support recovery, all those working with children and those in government must re-commit to the principles of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child. And we must ensure that we never subject a generation of children to such experiences ever again.

Speaking purely of youth workers, managers and lecturers, fond of proclaiming themselves to be critical practitioners par excellence, to what extent at a local, regional and national level are they coming together to consider what has been going on over the pandemic years? To what extent are they encouraging young people to discuss the rights and wrongs of the authoritarian clampdown on their lives? Or is the profession pretending the last two years never happened? Such collective myopia bodes ill for a future, within which an emboldened ruling class is confident that its diktat will be fearfully obeyed and that amongst its messengers of anxiety will be indeed youth workers, managers and lecturers.