Who We Are
On a blustery, cold winter night in Blackpool we got back to the car after walking the illuminations. A bit shattered and glad of the warm, by chance I happened across a radio show by a brilliant woman that led to this website, this conference and the creation of this brilliant group of academics, students and thinkers of all kinds.
The woman on the radio was Rachael Gibbons and she talked of her experiences in academia as a working-class person; of imposter syndrome, of a Jonah Complex and of the often traumatic, emotional turmoil that ‘getting an
education’ meant. I felt every word, it resonated, and we listened attentively, not a word was spoken in the car as Rachel’s reflections stung, burned and then warmed the soul.
This chance encounter over the airwaves triggered a punctum, a drawing back from the now as I whizzed through the decades of learning and struggle and realised how much class defined almost everything – and still does. Yet it remains undiscussed all too often.
Most of my life as a troubled and troublesome student, boy, adolescent, youth and adult has shaped my direction now as an educator. Having been marginalised, outside and dismissed often enough, I know education offered me both a way ‘back in’ – but was also the place that made me deeply aware that I did not fit. Listening to Rachel that evening, I realised I had let all of this slip away, allowed the domination of philosophies and theories of others cloud my own experiences and those of the people I work with.
Everything seemed clear, we needed a conference – or at least a different type of conference that did not begin with the conventions of exclusion, the practices of an academia that see working class as a condition to be cured, but only for the few. This is that conference. Once spoken aloud, it was clear so many others have felt the same, laboured under the expectations of a diminishing of where we come from and toward ‘the light of a middle-class salvation’.
The conference began with the recognition that we are continually stripping the brilliance of the working-class communities, relocating the poets, writers, thinkers, academics, researchers, artists, educators, designers, sociologists, scientists, mathematicians and other professions considered the domain of others, of another class.
This conference is different, and I am looking forward to working with all of you as a collective, to find different voices that recognise working class spaces not as places of deprivation, of poverty and unending misery. Nor are they places of utopian idealism and beauty. They, like everywhere else, are complex, rich and contested places and it is here we can reveal what that means for those of that have moved into academia.
I am Peter Shukie, I am now a doctor and focus my work on exploring what ‘education’ is, the complexity it brings and the ways that my working-class background have been at odds with it most of my life. My work now is brilliant when I work with students as we look at how education can be made vital and real in their communities. Still looking at the thinkers that shape the academic discourse, but testing them by applying them for real, in active projects that seek to make a difference. I created a digital platform to take learning outside institutions, COOCs (Community Open Online Courses) provides a place that recognises everyone can teach, and everyone can learn. It focuses on doing this for free and by empowering everyone to have the responsibilities and the rights to be an educator.
The conference follows a similar principle in being a collective, where we all as speakers and delegates create the conference.
The fire and the drive to make this happen comes from knowing that working class means much more than my academic self is allowed to express. I am interested in being part of a conversation in which we all get to speak our experiences and revitalise the concept of class not as deficit but as inspiration. I look forward to hearing you, supporting you and being empowered by you as a working class academic – something we do not correct, but that we celebrate.
I have recently completed a master’s degree in Education and Education Leadership and Management at Liverpool Hope University. In this conference I share my story of being a working-class lone parent. I feel between the working class and the middle class and this leads to interesting observations about how women of colour are faced with boundaries of culture and labelling whilst aware of their realities. My story is one that explores how class has
been a salient feature in my journey to maintain a sense of identity, self-content and dignity.
I am the Coordinator for the conference and will be actively involved in being the link between us all. If you require further information or have any questions, I am the one you will come to. Together we will make this a brilliant conference and I look forward to hearing from, and meeting, you all.
Working class academics aren’t visible enough in the University sector– not to each other and certainly not to students. This conference is vital, therefore, in bringing together a community of those people who would consider themselves working class. The fact that we choose to find each other, to talk together and to share our experiences with pride and brazenness has a vital knock on effect. The very existence of such a conference means something. It speaks volumes to those very people we wish to serve, to develop, to mentor.
For our working-class students, those who might feel alienated from University staff, who don’t hear people like them on campus, who don’t feel part of the University community in the same way that their more privileged peers might, it’s imperative to see that there are working class academics and role models who wish to come together. Let us do so to celebrate ourselves and each other, paving the way for others and to encourage each other in a spirit of mutual respect, support and belonging.
I am Amina and I am currently the Student Union President at Blackburn College and University Centre in East Lancashire. Last year I completed my degree in Education Studies and I am currently studying for an MA in Education and Leadership with Liverpool Hope University. My work as an academic focuses on the often difficult and uncertain cultural barriers faced by Muslim women in education.
It is crucial that this conference includes the voices of working class students, and I will be actively engaged in making opportunities available so that this happens. Being involved in conferences, as speaker and even as delegate, can be intimidating and my role is one of making students welcome, supported and aware of how vital they are to this event. If you are a student contact me with any questions and I will do all I can to help you.
Craig Hammond is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). Prior to moving to LJMU, Craig taught across further education and college based higher education (CBHE) for 18 years. Between 2015 and 2017, Craig was the Research and Scholarship Leader at University Centre Blackburn College. Gaining is PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University in 2012, he obtained recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) in 2015, in recognition of his CBHE research and scholarship work. His recent publications Hope, Utopia and
Creativity in Higher Education: Pedagogical Tactics for Alternative Futures (Bloomsbury, 2018), and ‘Folds, Fractals and Bricolages for Hope: Some Conceptual and Pedagogical Tactics for a Creative Higher Education’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), address and develop concepts and practices associated with democratic learning and radical creativity. In addition to being one of the co-convenors of the BERA ‘Higher Education’ Special Interest Group, he is Deputy Editor for the education journal PRISM, and Vice-Chair of LJMUs Centre for Educational Research (CERES).
Saleem Seedat, along with his seminary training and teaching, has studied at Cambridge Muslim College. Saleem read Politics, Philosophy and Religion for his Masters at Lancaster University and is currently the Blackburn College Chaplain. Saleem independently advises local and national government departments and statutory organisations, in particular Scotland Yard on Counter Terrorism. Saleem specialises in contemporary Islam, engaging with diverse communities across the country and continues to engage with the media in this regard.
Kick Down The Barriers
Kick Down the Barriers is a project led by Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery exploring four Blackburn communities that have been publicly labelled (and shamed) as segregated and divided. Using engaged arts practice alongside written enquiry, artists, writers and local residents will challenge these stigmas.
Dialogue and enquiry are at the heart of this project, and so Kick Down the Barriers is built around meaningful discussion at all levels. Five Artists and eight writers have been commissioned across a nine month period, with a exhibition and publication launching in June 2020 to mark the culmination of this work.
- William Titley (Artist)
- Craig Easton (Artist)
- Saima Hussain (Artist)
- Paul Nataraj (Artist)
- Karen Mathison (Artist)
- Sana Mauluvi & Jamie Holman (Artists & Writers)
- Laura Brown (Writer)
- Mark Ward (Writer)
- Rebecca Grant (Writer)
- Aziz Hafiz (Writer)
- Emma Sumner (Writer)
- Marcus Raymond (Writer)
Kick Down the Barriers is being co-produced by Sophie Skellern, Caroline Eccles and Lydia McCaig.
Early works were predominantly in video, audio and performance, before developing into a broader, multi-disciplinary practice that now includes photography, print, sculpture and text. Holman was a founding member of the music/artist/writers collective tompaulin, who released three LP’s, seven singles and recorded two John Peel sessions between 2000 and 2007. In 2008 Holman began writing for The Saatchi Gallery Magazine Art and Music, and was a contributing editor until 2018. Art and Music is a quarterly magazine that is distributed internationally, while remaining the in house publication of The Saatchi Gallery London.
In January 2017, Holman became a commissioned artist for ‘Art In Manufacturing’, as part of the first ever National Festival of Making. Holman was one of nine specially commissioned artists researching industrial production techniques and 160 years of making heritage. The resulting artworks and performances were revealed as part of the festival with a solo exhibition, a digital moving image commission and two choral performances in Blackburn Cathedral. Now in it’s fourth year, Holman is a non executive director of the festival and director of Prism Contemporary gallery in Blackburn.
In 2019 Holman was commissioned as artist in residence for The British Textile Biennial, presenting a solo exhibition and a public art work that closed the month long programme of events, commemorating the activities of film makers Mitchell and Kenyon and the discovery of the worlds first western in Blackburn Lancashire.
I am an artist whose research is collaborative, and is located in a community of practice that extends from my studio to the college where I teach, and into the town itself . This community of practice often reveals shared histories, values and experiences that when viewed through the lens of class make visible the strength of our cultures, but also the barriers that we face as academics, artists and citizens. Perhaps now more than ever before, it is class that defines us, and class that we use to define ourselves. It is also class that has the potential to restrict us, particularly when we rarely gather and discuss, celebrate and challenge what we, and others actually mean when we talk about class.
Every piece of work I make is concerned with class, how could it not be ? This is the world in which I live.
Alex Dunedin has been a part of developing the Ragged University project over the last ten years which has been using available infrastructure and common technology to pursue educational processes in the community.
The working class conference is important to me because the diffuse intellectual lives of people in general are under represented in cultural terms. Education and learning are a part of our social fabric performing critical functions of human development which should be celebrated as such.
There are long traditions which have come from the instinctual behaviour to collaborate and share knowledge. Experimentally open forms of educational practice like this conference are exciting opportunities to understand our living landscape as containing the means of constructing an educational process.
Research focuses include how Education performs critical functions of human development and the effects of stress and trauma on cognition.
I am a Senior Lecturer in Engineering Mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). Prior to moving to SHU two years ago, I taught across further education and college based higher education for 10 years.
My working class background perhaps provided me with the proximity to engineering; to fixing things, to working with my dad, that I might not have got elsewhere. I appreciate that class and gender have been issues in the work that I do. I am interested in what other people have experienced. As a STEM Ambassador for women in my areas of expertise I know that these barriers are real and can take a lot to overcome.
In more immediate terms, I built this website and will continue to offer a range of support to the conference and hope to help make it a successful event. There are voices that are less heard especially in higher education and it is important that we come together to make a difference.