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Keynotes & Speakers 2020

Keynotes & Speakers

At last, somewhere working class academics can voice their concerns, compare notes and find support.  It’s a brilliant extension of the conversations happening in the theatre, literature, publishing and film, can’t wait to see how it unfolds. 

– Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father.  She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, for Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service.  She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction.  MY NAME IS LEON, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. THE TRICK TO TIME, her second novel, was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. BECOMING DINAH, her first YA novel, was published in 2019.

Photograph of Kit De Waal
Keynotes & Speakers 2020

Craig Hammond

Craig is a Senior Lecturer in Education, Liverpool John Moores University Craig’s research interests include creativity, alternative pedagogies and tactics for transformative learning. In addition to being one of the co-convenors of BERAs ‘Higher Education’ Special Interest Group, Craig is Deputy Editor for the education journal PRISM, a member of the editorial board for the International Journal of Philosophy, and Vice-Chair of LJMUs Centre for Educational Research Centre (CERES).

Lou Mycroft

Lou is a nomadic writer, educator and thinker who tries to channel rage into affirmative practice. She uses Thinking Environment practices to create spaces where people can think, feel, plan and dream…safely.

She would like you to know that, as an adopted, working-class woman with a heritage conjured up out of other peoples’ agendas, she has rarely felt ‘at home’. No wonder the liminality of posthuman thinking appeals.

Lou is a friend, a mam and a slow but determined runner.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Robert Hesketh

Robert is presently based at the School of Justice Studies, Liverpool John Moores University with the Criminal Justice involved in both teaching and research.

Previously he was a member of the teaching staff in the Department of Social and Political Science, University of Chester carrying out research into street gang culture as well as acting as Visiting lecturer in Criminology teaching on the BSc Criminology and BA Criminology & Psychology degree courses.

In addition, Robert has also been an associate tutor in Psychology with Edge Hill University focusing on Forensic Psychology (teaching Offender profiling and developing a career as a forensic psychologist). His research has focused on involvement and abstention from street gang membership in socially excluded areas of Merseyside. This was funded by Merseyside Police and the University of Chester. Robert has also contributed to writing bids for third sector charities who focus on providing provision for young offenders and adult recidivists. Outside of the university, Robert presently chair of  a third sector charity in Prescot Merseyside. Robert has also carried out independent research for Mersey care NHS involving an evaluation of  a risk assessment policy focusing on sex and violent offenders (HRAAM).

Degrees: BA Combined (Hons) Sociology/Psychology, MA Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, MSc Applied Psychology, PhD Criminology.

Postgrad cert Clinical and forensic psychology, Postgraduate Diploma Advanced Behavioural Profiling. I am the first in my family to have gone to university and still live on a former council estate in Liverpool.


Mani Pillai

After some 17 years of working in industry, I started as a doctoral researcher at Brunel University of London to explore the careers of different employee groups in financial services. I come from a working class background and while my industry career has been in white-collar jobs, I still consider myself working class. The UK, like many Asian countries, is steeped in class. This was particularly instructive while I was in industry where it was extremely difficult to meet other working-class people. The few from working class background whose careers had benefited from some degree of mobility often went their way out to avoid stigma by passing. Switching to academia, I have observed the lack of working class voices in the inequalities field and am, particularly, disappointed by academics who say that every other identity trumps class.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Kay Sidebottom

Kay Sidebottom is a Lecturer in Education and Childhood at Leeds Beckett University. Her current research explores how teachers can work with posthuman ideas to facilitate meaningful and disruptive education spaces for our complex times. With a background in community and adult education, her pedagogical specialisms include radical and anarchist education, arts-based practice and community philosophy.


Jenny Thatcher

Dr Jenny Thatcher is a sociologist by training, graduating with a First-Class Honours in BSc Sociology from London Metropolitan University, MA in Sociological Research from the University of Essex and a PhD from the University of East London funded by the School of Humanities and Social Science PhD Scholarship. Her PhD focused on Polish parents’ educational aspirations for their children and contextualised educational choices within a Bourdieusian framework to explore the reciprocal influences of migrants’ home and host societal structures in shaping Polish parents’ understandings of the education market. She has been employed as a lecturer at the University of East London and at Lancaster University. In 2012 she co-founded the British Sociological Association’s Bourdieu Study Group where she was a co-convenor for six years. In 2015, Jenny was the lead editor of a Routledge collection on ‘Bourdieu: The Next Generation: The Development of Bourdieu’s Intellectual Heritage in Contemporary UK Sociology’. She has been an editorial board member for the Sociological Review and now on the board of MAI, a new non-hierarchical journal on feminist visual culture. For the last 4 years Jenny was the events manager for the Sociological Review Foundation (SRF). More recently, Jenny’s research interests have focused on ‘taste’, aesthetic labour and gender in the service section and the use of participant observation within these workplaces to examine these issues. In 2019 she published her paper ‘Keeping it Classy: Wedding Dresses and Distinction’ in Kay, J., Kennedy, M., Wood, H (eds) The Wedding Spectacle across Contemporary Media and Culture: Something Old, Something New, Routledge, which was based on the working experience of a bridal shop sales assistant. She is now conducting in-depth participant observation of a pub including during the period of pub closures within the UK Coronavirus lockdown, their survival and their navigation of the government’s support systems for small businesses. These research interests have been inspired by her previous experience as a beauty therapist before she went on to study sociology.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Emma Louise Hammond

I’m a nearly 50 year old who has parented since the age of 18. I’ve been a probation officer, a cleaner, ran a homeless project, studied counselling, taken in ironing. I’m a wife. A mum (to 4 now adults). A grandma (kinship caring for 2 grandsons). And am now studying a MSc in psychology. I’m married to an academic ( who wasn’t when we met!). My life has been punctuated with no you cants, there’s no help, childcare issues and comprising to accommodate others. I’m realising now that maybe I didn’t need to give in so easily. Or maybe obstacles might have been placed (or thrown) in my way, by others. Either way I’m determined to have my say!


Charlotte Wetton

Charlotte Wetton is based in West Yorkshire. Her first pamphlet, I Refuse to Turn into a Hat-Stand won the Michael Marks Awards 2017, following a spoken word album, Body Politic. She won a New Writing North award in 2019. She has been published in Poetry Wales, Staple, and Stand; and has performed at Aldeburgh, Ledbury, and took second place at the StAnza Slam. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester and will soon be starting a PhD on working-class female poets of the eighteenth century.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Jamie Holman

Jamie Holman is an artist, director of Prism Contemporary in Blackburn, a non-executive director of the National Festival of Making and is currently associate artist for The British Textile Biennial 2021.

Holman leads Fine Art at Blackburn College, and lives in Lancaster, working from a studio in Blackburn. Holman’s practice is often collaborative and challenges existing notions of heritage, craft and contemporary fine art practice, interrogating these propositions through the lens of class. Holman’s research proposes the emergence of cultures through the exploration of topics and movements including youth subcultures, trade unions, folklore, activism, mill workers, football, magick, labour and poetry. His work explores the impact of ‘Uncultured Creativity’ on the mainstream heritage of this country, and locates these shared identities as ‘Future Folklore.’ 

Holman was artist in residence for the British Textile Biennial 2019 and has exhibited and published research internationally.

Jamie will chair Conference theme 3 – ‘Art, activism and class’ on Tuesday July 14th  


Christian Bell

I am currently in the final year of my BA Fine Art degree at Blackburn University in which I am developing a multi-disciplinary practice through the interrogation of socially engaged, place-based research and the application of interventionist artwork. I am interested in the methodological process of Action Research within creative practices, which is informing the professional development of my own practice and my critical ability among other socially engaged practices.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Kirsty Fife

I’m a PhD student at UCL researching methods for documenting and archiving UK DIY music communities. I’m also a cultural organiser, musician and zine maker.


Deirdre O’Neill

Deirdre O’ Neill is a working class lecturer and filmmaker.  Her recent book Film as a Radical Pedagogic Tool explores the way in which a radical pedagogy of film grounded in the experiences, class location and everyday realities of the working class can provide a starting point for a critical engagement with and a materialist understanding of how society is organised. 
She is the coordinator of the Inside Film Project  She has co- directed (with Mike Wayne) three films Listen to Venezuela and Condition of the Working Class Their most recent film is The Acting Class about the lack of working class actors’
Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Photo: Simon Beckmann
Photo: Simon Beckmann


Melanie King

Melanie King is an artist and curator from Manchester, with a specific focus on astronomy. Melanie King’s studio is based in Ramsgate, Kent. She is co-Director of super/collider, Lumen Studios and founder of the London Alternative Photography Collective. She is a lecturer on the MA programme at the Royal College of Art, and on the BA Photography course at University of West London. She is represented by the Land Art Agency. Melanie is a PhD Candidate at the Royal College of Art. She is a graduate of the MA in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, and the BA Fine Art at Leeds Art University.

Melanie’s solo exhibitions include Argentea Gallery (2020), Leeds Art University (2017, 2020), Bloomsbury Festival (2019), the Blyth Gallery, Imperial College London (2018). Melanie has exhibited in a wide range of international galleries, such as The Photographers’ Gallery, UK, the Hasselblad Foundation, Sweden, BOZAR Brussels, Unseen Amsterdam, the Williamson Gallery in Los Angeles and CAS Gallery in Japan. Melanie has attended residencies organised by Lay of the Land Ireland, Joya Arte and Ecologica, Spain, Bow Arts, Grizedale Forest, BioArtSociety, Finland and SIM Reykjavik, Iceland.

Melanie has been involved in a number of large scale commissions, including the European Commission, Museum of Freemasonry, Bow Arts, Green Man Festival, Vivid Projects, Bompas and Parr X Citizen M Hotel, Mayes Creative, Design Miami x COS Stores, Chelsea Flower Fringe and the Wellcome Trust. In 2020, Melanie was awarded funding from Arts Council England and South East Creatives. She has received an Education and Development Bursary from the Rebecca Vassie Memorial Trust, and was awarded the Grantham Art Prize from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art in 2019. In 2018, Melanie won the Threshold Award from Metro Imaging and a Research Funding Award from London College of Communication.

Melanie regularly presents her work at conferences, universities and galleries. Notable venues include the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Photographers’ Gallery, Tate Modern, Science Museum, Art Center Pasadena (USA), University of the Arts Helsinki, The European Geosciences Conference: Vienna, The National Maritime Museum,  Kosmica: Mexico, Kosmica: Paris, Helsinki Photomedia and Second Home. Melanie has provided guest lectures to students at Newcastle University, Leeds University, Canterbury Christ Church University, Bath Spa University, Leeds Art University, London South Bank University, London College of Communication, Central Saint Martins and the International Space University: Space Studies Programme.


Paul Grace

I teach art and design history and theory in the School of Art and Society at University Centre Blackburn. My research into the representation of social trauma formed the basis of doctoral scholarship research at Teesside University. This work – The Counter-Archive – investigates the strategies used, by artists, writers, and curators, to amplify the potency of images of social trauma and conflict. A chapter exploring the uses of atrocity images by the artist Thomas Hirschhorn will appear in the anthology War and Art: The Portrayal and Destruction of Mass Violence (publisher Ferdinand Schöningh) in August 2020

My involvement in the Working-Class Academics conference comes from an interest in class itself as structural social coercion – a systemic trauma.  My hope is that the conference will make this aspect of class more visible from the perspective of those whose thought is a product of working-class experience.

My research brings together aesthetic, political and ethical concerns which have underpinned my teaching of critical aspects of Fine Art, Photography and Media, at various UK institutions including Norwich University of the Arts and London College of Communication.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Eileen Fitzgerald

Failed my 11 plus and couldn’t wait to escape secondary modern. Like many other girls, I only learned to know what I didn’t want. Later I discovered real education, and that nuts just like me populated Arts departments in Universities. Haven’t looked back except to guide other nuts here.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Andrew Preater

I am a library director at a modern university. My work and practice is informed by critical theories of librarianship (or ‘critical librarianship’) and critical sociology of education; and professionally I am interested in the role of academic libraries in supporting equity and widening participation.


Rachael Gibbons

Rachael is tenacious in addressing social inequality, with five years experience in the voluntary sector since graduating, particularly with a focus on the marginalisation of working class people and the intersecting inequalities they face. Having worked with young people for three years, Rachael has since worked in campaigning and as an organiser for a Tenants Union based in Greater Manchester, equipping tenants and renters with the tools necessary to fight for housing justice. Alongside her work in housing, Rachael has begun the early stages of delivering her own project of campaign training for women on council estates across Manchester.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Andy Mycock

Dr. Andrew Mycock is a Reader in Politics at the University of Huddersfield. His key research and teaching interests focus on post-imperial identity politics in the UK, including devolution politics, the British ‘history wars’, war commemoration, and the Anglosphere. He is currently co-leading a Leverhulme Trust project on Lowering the Voting Age in the UK. 


Sarah Ward

Sarah is a PhD candidate at the University of Huddersfield with a background in the discipline of Sociology. My key research interests are focused around societal inequalities, specifically those based on social class and how these are manifested through the Higher Education environment.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


James Coe

James is senior policy advisor at the University of Liverpool where he advises the senior leadership team on issues of higher education and public policy. He work looks at how civic institutions can make a difference to the people in the places they are based.


Jo Fletcher-Saxon

Jo Fletcher-Saxon has been in further and college higher education since 1996. She is an Assistant Principal and is the college’s Practitioner Research Lead. Jo’s remit includes leadership of adult and higher education, teacher training and a large vocational area for 16-19 year olds. Jo is an advocate of practitioner research.  She is a convenor for the Learning and Skills Research Network, she works with colleagues across the sector supporting and running #FEresearchmeets, she runs an annual #BrewEdFE un-conference and co-hosts #FEresearchpodcast – these are all platforms and spaces with a mission to bring college academics, teachers, lecturers and support roles together in non-hierarchical, non-institutional spaces around practitioner enquiry, research and scholarship. Her interests are in grassroots movements that effect change in further education. Mum, dog lover and shepherdess!

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Ian Duckett

Ian is an award-winning teacher (albeit a long, long time ago) and an education and training consultant with comprehensive experience in curriculum planning and  partnership development across the 14-19 sector. His recent teaching has been on intervention and engagement programmes.

A former development advisor with the Learning and Skills Development Agency and 14-19 advisor for three London local authorities, Ian is currently LSRN convenor for East Anglia, Norfolk NEU post-16 officer, Norwich Trades Council education officer, quality improvement partner for Norwich schools and a member of the Socialist Educational Association’s national executive as well as a governor of two schools in Norwich.


Kevan Thompson

Born during the last century, son of a miner. Worked within Special Education as a Teacher, Senior Manager and Headteacher. Co-authored national publications and delivered training on Special Needs and Assessment. Retired, now a Professional Artist. Married for 40 years, we have three beautiful independent daughters and a new grandson.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Hina Suliman

Hina Suleman has recently graduated with a master’s degree in Education and Education Leadership and Management at Liverpool Hope University and wishes to pursue a Ph.D. in Education at Liverpool John Moore’s University. As a student, Hina is consistently engaged with the complexity of education, critical theory and its impact on her working class background. Hina always had an interest in projects that challenge politics of shame in relation to single motherhood and engaging diverse communities to foster a broad dialogue on boundaries of culture, sexism and hope informed by trajectories of success.

It is a privilege to participate in this conference alongside the immensely distinguished academics.


Lisa McKenzie

Lisa Mckenzie is a working class academic  currently working in the Department of Sociology at Durham University, her work focuses upon on issues of social and class inequality. Her work builds upon the narratives of working class communities collected through political ethnographic research. Lisa brings an unusual and innovative approach to research as an activist and by means of her extensive experience of bringing the academic world and local community together. Her most recent book is Getting By: Estates Class and Culture in Austerity Britain (2015) and her new book Class Cleansing: Grieving for London will be published in 2019.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Sahil Nisha

Sahil Nisha is a writer, artist, and dog walker from the Carolinas. Their Bachelor’s is in Post/Colonial Media Studies from Emerson College. Their research explores Asian-Diasporic identity, class struggle, and post/colonialism. Find them on twitter @sahelpme and their website Sahil is currently self-isolating with loved ones 🐶.


Elaine J Laberge

Elaine uses playwriting, creative non-fiction and poetry to make visible systemic inequality and inequity in Canada. She focuses on the structural reasons for poverty discrimination in Canada and Canadian universities. Elaine’s PhD research explores how hope and imagination can create taxpayer-funded universities that focus on education for public good.


Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Alex Dunedin

Alex Dunedin is an independent reader who is interested in the development of methods and means of education which are resilient to appropriation by financial compulsions and cults of status.


Stephanie Alexander

I work and live in beautiful, rural, southeastern Ohio, and hold a BS in Education (elementary), BA in History, MEd in Classroom Teaching/Humanities and PhD in Cultural Studies in Education. As a first-generation college graduate, I strive everyday to make higher education more accessible to others, like myself, who are ready to make that leap.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Mollie Louise Baker

Mollie is a PhD Education student at Newnham College, Cambridge. She grew up on a council estate in Colchester, Essex and spent her teenage years watching a family member fade due to addiction. She has mixed feelings about her current student status. She is proud on some days and mortified on others. Mollie’s PhD explores the classed and affective(ing) dimensions of resistance amongst academics. Her research is motivated by a hatred for the New Labour lies about social mobility and meritocracy –  bastards, she says, utter bastards.


Jacqulyn Gabriel

Jackie Gabriel is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Western Colorado University. She is a first-generation, working-class college graduate and scholar. She earned her doctorate in Sociology at Colorado State University, where her research focused on corporate restructuring and labor relations in manufacturing industries in the Midwest, including meatpacking and grain processing. Her more recent scholarship examines working-class culture and social class in higher education.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Lee Crookes

Lee Crookes is a University Teacher in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield where he teaches on urban planning, community development and public health.  Committed to the notion of the civic university and the mobilisation of university resources in support of local people, he is a Co-Director of the University’s Engaged Learning Network, which works to support staff and students who work on collaborative projects with local organisations and communities.   He is committed to advancing working class epistemologies, cultures and ways of being in his institution and beyond and, wherever possible,  he strives to disrupt the pompousness and elitism of certain academic practices, language and behaviours.  Lee continues to suffer from episodic feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’ and frequently struggles to pronounce the surnames of a wide range of French social philosophers, whilst also experiencing difficulties with advanced cutlery settings (despite his Sheffield heritage) and he looks forward to a HE sector where he works alongside more people who share his outlook, accent and sense of humour and who aren’t averse to straight-talking and taking the piss, where necessary.


Chloe Maclean

Chloe Maclean is a lecturer in sociology at the University of the West of Scotland. She is a ‘first generation student’, and received her undergraduate degree and PhD both in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.  Her research has primarily explored gendered embodiment, specifically in the context of the martial art-come-sport of karate. However, she is more broadly interested in the embodiment of power relations. Her experience as a working class student at the University of Edinburgh have partially shaped this interest. Chloe is also the director of women and girls’ interests for the Scottish Karate Governing Body.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020
Keynotes & Speakers 2020


Teresa Crew

Teresa is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Bangor University. She’s not the typical academic as she still lives on a council estate and her family biography includes poverty, the ‘dole’, low paid employment and various social problems. She has just finished writing her book on working class academics, written because she wanted her students to know that not every academic is posh.


Professor Budd Hall

I am an older white male settler Canadian living on Lekwungen-speaking First Nations Territory on what colonial Canada calls Vancouver Island. I have been interested in the interaction between learning, knowledge accumulation and forms of action since 1964 when as a university student at the University of Nigeria, I first encountered the concept of Afro-centric scholarship.  My learning has been influenced by the ideas of Paulo Freire, Julius K Nyerere founding President of Tanzania, Dame Nita Barrow of Barbados, Professor Wanots’a Lorna Williams, a Lil’Wat First Nations Elder, Dr. Darlene Clover, a feminist scholar-activist, Nduwala Wangoola Wangoola, founder of the Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity, Dr. Rajesh Tandon, Founder of Participatory Research in Asia, John Gaventa originally with Highlander Folk School in the USA, Murray Thomson, Canada’s leading peace educator and so many others. I have earned a living working with and NGO,  the International Council for Adult Education then as an academic at the Universities of Toronto and Victoria. I currently work with my friend and colleague Rajesh Tandon under the umbrella of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education which we co-chair. I am the father of two sons, grandfather of three grandsons. I am also a poet.

Keynotes & Speakers 2020