Me at the LSBU Induction Boat Trip in September 2017. I was very pleased with my ‘Staff’ Lanyard!
Today is one full year since I took up my new post as Lecturer in History at London South Bank University
This year has gone by very quickly!
It has been a year of hard work. Mentors had advised me that the first year of a lectureship was tough and I can now wholeheartedly agree with them!
I have had the added task of launching a new BA (Hons) History degree in my first year.
This means I have some achievements that I can feel quite positive about in my first year. I designed and delivered three brand new modules. I learned quickly about being a Course Director and the workings of a new institution by taking on such a big admin role from day one. I supervised dissertations and got involved in postgraduate provision. I am proud to see the progress many of the students have made this year and I can feel good about my role in that. I brought in money. I still managed to present a paper at a big conference in my field.
However, what has really made this a transformative year in my life is that it has also coincided with me becoming a carer. After nearly two years of unexplained symptoms, dozens of appointments at hospitals and doctors, and a raft of diagnostic tests, my partner has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) (the terminology is contested, choose your term). This precipitated a complicated and stressful house move while marking finals and dissertations. I think that being a carer and academic deserves a blog post of its own but I think it is fair to say that my life looks very different to the one I had just over a year ago ago!
I am here 365 days later at the dining table in my new house surrounded by boxes still to be unpacked, writing next year’s key dates into my new academic diary. I am looking ahead to a much-needed holiday and beyond that to the new semester and academic year. This post serves to say ‘I did it!’ And to mark the transition into what will hopefully be a year in which I can grow further into both of my new roles.
It is no coincidence that my blog has been rather neglected since I completed my PhD. I have been experiencing the early career precarity which, though it is becoming more visible, still affects many of us after we submit our theses. This post is not the time for an extended account of my years in the insecure early-career wilderness. Instead this is the time to celebrate the beginning of a new phase in my career.
I have just started as a Lecturer in History at London South Bank University where I will be teaching on a new history degree (and three associated joint degrees). In some ways it feels like a long, slow exhale after holding my breath for a long time. It also feels like the start of something exciting. While I have a lot of work to do preparing new modules and settling in to life at a new university, I also have lots of opportunities to shape a new programme. Whether this results in more regular blogging remains to be seen!
Early in my PhD I had a conversation with my supervisors about locating the relevant sources for my research. We knew it would be a challenge and it was a significant factor in how I chose my case studies. While the main youth associations in London and Liverpool had both deposited significant amounts of material in the London Metropolitan Archive and Liverpool Record Office respectively, until the bulk of the research began it was hard to know what individual club archives would be found, and indeed what state they would be in. Finding the stories of individual clubs, members and workers was one of the reasons I wanted to do this research and so I also chose to do oral history, but I hoped that some clubs would still have documents from the last few decades. Continue reading →
This post originally appeared on the VAHS Blog in March 2013
I’ve been watching the Channel 4 programme ‘Secret Millions’. The programme is a step on from the popular C4 format ‘Secret Millionaire’ where wealthy people give some of their money away to shocked recipients and the good causes they have been working with. The new show is about the distribution of Big Lottery Fund funding to voluntary organisations for ‘innovative and ground-breaking projects’. It uses a line-up of well-known C4 personalities looking to tackle some of Britain’s most pressing issues, working on pilot projects with voluntary organisations, with the prospect of the Lottery windfall hidden until the end.
The first episode featured C4 regular George Clarke tacking the issue of youth unemployment and empty homes. He worked with a local London youth club and the organisation London Youth getting young unemployed people involved in renovating a disused house with the help of retired mentors from the building trade. The programme followed the young people on trips, highlighted some of the social problems they face and showed them working on a house to get it renovated within two weeks. At the end the big announcement was made that they had been awarded funding by the Big Lottery Fund, £1.7 million over two years, aiming to help 1500 young people into work. I really enjoyed the show. It was an interesting way to look at the work of small voluntary organisations, raises several social issues and came with a big feel-good factor at the end.
However, the historian and critic in me was not quite sure how new, big and bold, the innovative idea being tested was. Surely this was just reality television gloss? Then today in the archives while researching London youth clubs I discovered the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs working with the Manpower Services Commission and the Job Creation Programme on a scheme where unemployed youth were trained up in the trades, in 1974. Admittedly these youngsters were renovating youth facilities and George Clarke has long campaigned about empty homes, but I was still struck by the similarities in the scheme: Both used youth clubs to target vulnerable youths, both looked at practical work experience, both projects took place during times of high youth unemployment where many young people lack opportunities to get into work and neither set of youngsters appear to have been paid for their work. Of course it is unlikely that C4 undertook extensive archival research prior to recording and I am sure all involved thought they were on to something new.
The innovation role of voluntary organisations has often been praised and it has been an important justification for their place in our contemporary welfare system. But how many other examples are out there of ‘innovations’ that have been forgotten and rediscovered? How new does an idea really have to be? And if it works, does it matter?