“A Permanent National Necessity” – A Manifesto for Lifelong Learning

This Manifesto will be launched on 1 July 2024 by the ‘Adult Education 100’ Campaign, the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, and the National Educational Opportunities Network.  Support for the Manifesto is sought from all organisations and individuals wishing to see our country recover and prosper.

Our country is in what feels like an unprecedented state of crisis.  The economy hasn’t recovered from the 2007-2009 international financial crisis and global recession – the first since the 1930s.  In Britain, the devastation was made worse by a decade of austerity, estimated to have caused thousands of deaths.  This exacerbated inequalities in wealth, income, geography, and power.  Unregulated new technologies could make matters worse.  Pandemics are forecast to become more common.  The climate crisis threatens human life on the planet.  We face a mental health and wellbeing crisis.  Democracy is under threat.

If there is a precedent, it would be the First World War, when a Ministry of Reconstruction was established to consider how society and the economy might recover from massive devastation.  Its most impactful legacy was the Final Report from its Adult Education Committee, which argued that lifelong learning for all was both central to reconstruction and a “permanent national necessity”.

Britain once again needs massive investment in education – including life-long and life-wide adult education.  For that is what it is – an investment for the future: in people, communities, the economy, and society.  This is needed for the changing world of work, individual wellbeing, societal resilience, community cohesion, and a rejuvenated democracy. 

What is needed from national, regional, city and local government; from business; and from universities and colleges?  First and foremost, we need the UK Government to commit to a National Strategy for Adult Education & Lifelong Learning, recognising the importance of devolved decision making.  Local delivery should be through partnership working by local and regional government, universities and colleges, trade unions and local employers, and a vibrant network of community, educational and voluntary organisations.  For these Adult Learning Partnerships to rejuvenate local communities and economies – playing a role in policy formation, not just delivery – local authorities and universities should be required to provide lifelong learning, with funding provided to enable this.

We need a properly funded Lifelong Learning Entitlement, with Individual Learning Accounts providing funding for education – not just the right to get into debt.  Community Learning Accounts could support informal, community-based learning initiatives led by local groups.  A trusted digital platform should be funded to support such education.  Learning at work should be encouraged – at the workplace, or with paid time off for courses off-site, and with provision for those in the ‘gig economy’.  The Union Learning Fund should be reinstated.  All this would promote social inclusion, across diverse ethnic communities, and for all those with protected characteristics within the Equality Act.  There should be a regular – ideally triennial – review of the state of the nation’s lifelong learning.  Investing in education helps the economy, as well as individuals and communities – in Rochdale Borough Council, for example, for every £1.00 spent on adult education and lifelong learning, £4.50 was saved on other service costs.  Our country cannot afford the continued massive waste being created by the lack of adult education and lifelong learning.

The conditions of possibility – and hope? A research circle building community, democracy and dialogue

In this new introductory blog, Sharon Clancy, Iain Jones, Jo Forster and Linden West collectively reflect on the origins, purpose and latest work of the research circle on community, democracy and dialogue.

The Research circle on Fostering and building community, democracy and dialogue first met in September 2020. Our work has built on the key chapter in the Centenary Commission on Adult Education’s 2019 report that focused on the importance of community-based and ‘popular’ adult education.

In the last three years, the circle has engaged with diverse ideas, as well as identified and created resources of hope. It has sought to ask: how does adult education link with and foster our democracy? Why are our shared histories, memories, and instances of managing previous struggles all-important? The writers of the 1919 Adult Education Committee’s Final Report faced these questions head on – they recognised that our democracy and spaces for dialogue, debate and dissent need to be defended and constantly fought for. This has, arguably, never been truer than at the current juncture in the UK, in countering a sense of despair and impotence, particularly in the communities hardest hit by the exigencies of the past four decades and the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Research Circle is made up of around 10 people, drawn from diverse backgrounds in adult, further and higher education, the voluntary and community sector and trade union education. Building on the work of Harnsten (1994) the circle has: identified problems that receive no or limited attention, including, specifically, who and what shapes the world of education; how it is controlled and whose voices are heard; and how we might liberate conventional structures of lifelong learning. The Circle has offered space to reflect on such issues and begun to examine how to develop new forms of knowledge in dialogue with the needs and interests of diverse communities. A theme emerging out of our dialogues is ‘what do we mean by democracy and can we still reason with each other?’ We concluded that what lies at the heart of a living democracy are safe protected spaces with clear ground-rules where we can listen respectfully in dialogue with the other – sometimes another radically opposed to our own perspectives – in the knowledge that others might learn to listen respectfully in dialogue if and when we take the lead. In hearing ideas different from our own we enter the mindset and imaginations of others and, in turn, make visible our own ideas and insights for critically questioning the taken-for-granted at all levels.

Three sets of online events have taken place in successive years. In 2021, we examined ‘Resources for Hope’ during the Covid pandemic. This series of events provided an opportunity to learn about existing practices, meet and think about different forms of democratic adult education and imagine new forms of critical engagement. 50 adult educators, from across the UK, Italy, Bulgaria and Canada, joined together to listen to presentations and discuss key questions and emerging themes in small and large groups. During, and after, this first event series participants highlighted the power of learning about existing practices and ways of re-shaping new forms of adult lifelong education with an explicit social purpose.

The 2021 presentations

The possibilities of an education for social change were woven through each presentation in our first series during 2021. (The 2021 presentations can be viewed on the Raymond Williams Foundation (RWF) YouTube site: see the links below.)

Rose Farrar, from WEA West Yorkshire, began by showcasing an innovative collaboration with Rich Wiles, an artist and photographer. The power of the video-photo stories of the lives of refugees, near Hull, was a starting point for dispelling stereotypes, myths and misconceptions. You can see this discussion here. What was especially important in this work was the idea that everyone has things to teach as well as learn; and how conviviality can be created in sharing food and storytelling.

Rob Peutrell and Mel Cooke then discussed the voices of students and lecturers and asked how the politics of ESOL relates to different forms of citizenship. They highlighted struggles between dis-citizenship, and having capacities stripped away, and acts of citizenship and contesting exclusions and claiming new rights. You can watch the discussion here. (Rob and Mel have also edited a book, Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens: Exploring ESOL issues and principles). Nalita James then asked how diverse forms of ESOL, in Leicester, related to different communities of place and multiple senses of belonging. You can see Nalita’s contribution here.

Further presentations extended the discussions about the scope and range of practice – and why these matter for practice – and policy. Richard Hazledine reported on young adults, in Nottingham, who are furthest from work. Their mistrust and lack of confidence, because of what has been done ‘to them’, embodied the danger of scarring. This was a starting point for his work and re-thinking practices. You can see what he said here.

Elaine J. Laberge joined us from the west coast of Canada and argued why the Shoestring Initiative was formed. Communities of mentorship, advocacy, intercultural connectedness, and belonging are being created for students with lived experiences of persistent poverty at Canadian universities.

The final presentation, by Jeremy Goss and Jayne Ireland, related the work of Raymond Williams on social purpose in adult education to contemporary practices – and to each of the other presentations. Williams’ 1961 Open Letter to WEA tutors defined his own purpose as a teacher ‘as the creation of an educated and participatory democracy’. Jeremy and Jayne argued that the foundations for a democratic curriculum could be developed by learning democratically, learning for democracy and learning about democracy. Watch them here.

2022: Dialogues for Democracy: Cultures and Ecologies in Crisis

The second series of events (2022) sought to develop and broaden our focus to examine and counter the current crises and hollowing out of representative and participatory democracy with three events focusing on ‘Dialogues for Democracy: Cultures and Ecologies in Crisis’. 

This link takes you to the RWF website and four films from 2022 events, including:

  • Keynote presentation for Adult Education Research Circle – ‘Dialogues for Democracy: Cultures and Ecologies in Crisis’ – Health Inequalities in Communities: What is the role of Community Adult Education? chaired by Professor Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor in Community Development at Goldsmiths, University of London. The event, on 17 May 2022, featured this keynote from Professor Sir Michael G. Marmot, FRCP, Director of the University College London, Institute of Health Equity entitled ‘Build Back Fairer’.
  • Video presentation by Professor Helen Chatterjee, Professor of Biology, in University College London Biosciences and UCL Arts and Sciences: The role of cultural, community and natural assets in addressing societal and structural health inequalities in the UK. At Dialogues for Democracy: Cultures and Ecologies in Crisis Health Inequalities in Communities: What is the role of Community Adult Education?
  • Dr Ana Cruz’s presentation, Professor of Education at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, who won the 2022 Paulo Freire Democratic Project Award of Social Justice: Paulo Freire’s Political-Pedagogical Approach to Education: Questioning Inequalities Through Dialogue.

On June 10th 2022 we focused on ecological/climate emergency and environmental action. This session aimed to debate and plan possibilities for adult lifelong education, tackling ecological climate emergency and taking environmental action. Short presentations were given by Professor Steve Martin, University of Nottingham; Mel Lenehan, Principal and CEO, Fircroft College, Birmingham, and Ross Weddle, Chair, WEA Green Branch. This was followed by opportunities to join discussion groups and plan action.

On September 15th, 2022, we looked at universities and their relationship to participatory action and social movements, asking ‘What should the University’s social and cognitive responsibilities be in the face of rising inequality and injustice and how should research engage more directly with “real life” problems and politics? What is the role and function of the “public academic” and the critical activist?’ The event featured 10-minute presentations from Shirley Walters, Professor Emerita from the University of Western Cape, South Africa, who talked about universities and their relationship to participatory action and social movements, and Dr Michael Hrebeniak, Convenor of the New School of the Anthropocene, who outlined the role of NSOTA, configured as a new kind of school which ‘is born out of a need. Linden West also dialogued with Professor Laura Formenti of the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, about universities and social responsibility in Italy and the UK. An important link was made around the theme of dialogue and democracy in the classroom, and how this could build communities in diverse locations. The dialogue linked back to the tutorial class movement in the UK and family learning in Italy.  Their argument was clear: we must practise what we preach. The mainstream university has proven unable and unwilling to engage with the condition of social crisis and the prospect of democratic and ecological ruin that characterise the 21st Century.

2023: Dialogues for Democracy: Learning neighbourhoods, cities and societies – building a dialogical learning democracy

Our latest event series builds on our earlier work by combining global with local learning dimensions. Our emphasis is on challenging issues of power and control over education and democratic engagement.  We recognise democracy is in crisis. There is a widespread unease pervading communities, politics, economics, and education which is connected to the sustainability of the entire planet.

Many years ago, Raymond Williams described Westminster as an ‘elected court’ – even more true in recent times. Over-centralised states, which may be both authoritarian and paternalistic, tend to problematise communities more than identify them as sources of democratic hope. There is a growing recognition that we must learn our way – collaboratively and democratically – to a better, more hopeful, inclusive and sustainable future. How we do this as part of a shared project is a massive challenge. Ideals, ends and means are all important – we must learn how to nurture real dialogue as part of the process of changing communities. Our 2023 virtual seminar series is designed to addresses these issues.

Our April seminar, Learning neighbourhoods, cities and societies: learning for participation and democracy, examined ‘learning cities’ which can be found across the globe. They aim to revitalise and embed learning in families, the workplace, communities and educational institutions in order to nurture a culture of learning throughout life. They also aspire to support sustainable social, economic and environmental development.

We focused on the UNESCO award-winning Learning City of Cork: based on partnerships between local government, diverse organisations, universities and local people who see adult learning as crucial to any community. Fergal Finnegan (University of Maynooth, Ireland) also dialogued with Professor Linden West (Canterbury Christ Church University): a theme arose of the ambiguous role of faith and religion in popular education. In Maynooth some of the origin of community initiatives came from young priests inspired by liberation theology. This had to be set against the hard, controlling influence of some established and hierarchical churches. These ideas were returned to in our engagement with the liberation theology of Paulo Freire.

Our May event, Pedagogy, Dialogue and Democracy (watch the films here) focused on the need for Latin American educator Paulo Freire’s critical as well as deeply relational and spiritual pedagogy: Freire would have emphasised keeping whole human beings at the heart of the process. In the language of theologian Martin Buber, who so inspired Freire, where I might meet Thou. We examined pedagogy in social and public spaces to enable young people and adults to become informed and critically engaged citizens to keep justice, equity and social democracy alive – a need which has perhaps never been greater. Linden West and Colin Kirkwood examined how the work of Freire has inspired initiatives, including in inner-city Edinburgh and Staveley in Derbyshire. (The direct link to the film is here.) They have written about the dialogue in a blog shortly to be available on the Centenary Commission website.

You can watch the second dialogue in this May event, between Dr Jo Forster and renowned Freirean scholar Professor Antonia Darder, Loyola Marymount University, USA, here. Antonia is a Puerto Rican and American scholar. Her activism, teaching, and critical scholarship over the last five decades has consistently focused on racism, political economy, and questions of liberation. She has extended Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of love and contributed to furthering our understanding of inequalities in schools and society. Through her decolonizing scholarship on the body, ethics, racism, methodology, and the arts, she has contributed to rethinking questions of empowerment, pedagogy, and liberation from a worldview that centres on oppressed populations. She focuses on reclaiming the relationship between education and democracy, using critical pedagogy. A blog about the dialogue will be available shortly on the Centenary Commission website.

What next?

Following these blogs we will compile a list of materials, suggested reading and organisational links from all three series so far and will make this available on the Centenary Commission website.

Please look out for these additions, and for details of our next event on 6th October.

Rethinking Trade Union Education

Centenary Commission joint secretary John Holford has been working with the History & Policy network’s Trade Union & Employment Forum in planning a series of online seminars around the the theme Rethinking Trade Union Education. Other contributors include:

  • Tom Wilson, Director of Unionlearn at the TUC (2006-2016)
  • Steve Craig, National Development Officer, Unite
  • Sarah Jameson, education policy officer, Trade Union Advisory Group to the OECD
  • Sue Ferns, Prospect, Senior Deputy General Secretary, Prospect
  • Professor Mark Stuart, FAcSS, Leeds University Business School; expert on Union Learning Fund
  • Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison (and architect of the new Unison College)
  • Kevin Rowan, Head of Organising, Services and Learning, TUC
Each event will be held on Zoom at 6.00-7.30 p.m. on the dates listed below. Fuller details, including registration, are available by clicking on each link:

Rethinking Trade Union Education: History 27 Sept. 2023

Rethinking Trade Union Education: The Curriculum 25 Oct. 2023

Rethinking Trade Union Education: Delivery 22 Nov. 2023

Rethinking Trade Union Education: Policy 13 Dec. 2023

Conference: ‘Useful Knowledge: Historical & Contemporary Perspectives on Part-Time & Mature Higher Education’

Birkbeck, the University of London’s college for adult, part-time students, will be celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2023. In the lead-up to this, it will be hosting a Conference (22-24 February 2022) on “Useful Knowledge: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Part-Time and Mature Higher Education”.

The organisers have circulated a Call for Papers. They encourage speakers to reflect on part-time and mature higher education “broadly and even globally”, as well as on topics directly relating to the London Mechanics’ Institution and Birkbeck College. They welcome proposals “from diverse groups of researchers, scholars, and other interested publics”.

The deadline for proposals (300 words) is Friday 5 November 2021.

For further details, please contact Jonny Matfin (jmatfi01@mail.bbk.ac.uk) and Ciarán O’Donohue (codono03@mail.bbk.ac.uk)

New Report on Adult Lifelong Education & COVID-19

Adult Lifelong Education: Reimagining National & Regional Policies for the Covid Era reports research highlighting the innovative ways in which adult education has responded to the Covid-19 emergency. It makes important recommendations on how to build a stronger adult education system, and to give better support locally to individuals and communities in the challenging years ahead.

You can read or download the report here. It was written by Dr Iain Jones, Professor John Holford, Dr Sharon Clancy, and the late Nigel Todd, in association with the Centenary Commission on Adult Education.

The research was funded by the University of Nottingham, and conducted in early 2021.

England’s New Mayors: adult education is ‘mission-critical’: for jobs, for happy, healthy & fulfilling lives

Some of England’s most high-profile elected Mayors pledged their support for lifelong learning at an event organised by the Centenary Commission on Adult Education this week.

Chaired by the former House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, the webinar’s panel included Andy Burnham, Mayor of the Greater Manchester Region, Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire Region, Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills for London and Julie Nugent, West Midlands Combined Authority’s Director of Skills and Productivity.

Andy Burnham told the meeting that on taking office his officials had found the adult education budget being spent in a ‘haphazard’ way and had argued successfully with other authorities that it should take control of its £90 million spending on the area.

“It’s an issue much neglected by Westminster, and barely ever gets a mention in the House,” he said. “But when you come out of that world and sit where I do now, you immediately see how mission-critical it is for everything we want to achieve for our city regions.”

Jules Pipe said London’s £330 million adult education budget was being focused on rebuilding the economy: the pandemic had led to the loss of 300,000 jobs, leaving London with the highest unemployment rate of any region.

“As part of our approach, we are working very hard to ensure all Londoners are able to acquire the skills they need, leaving no-one behind, getting people back into work or enabling them to secure better paying jobs. It means supporting Londoners to retrain, to upskill and to enhance their employability.”

But he added there were two parts to this initiative:

“Gaining new skills is also a huge contributor to peoples’ wellbeing and social development. It’s going to provide people with the opportunity and confidence to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Tracy Brabin said that in addition to supporting skills training she was committed to ensuring towns and villages had access to a cultural life.

“Whether that is poetry in libraries, film clubs in ex mining towns, whatever that is, that will be supported.

“Lifelong learning has to be the norm. We’re going to use our budget to reshape and to rethink how we deliver adult education as a region.”

Julie Nugent said the West Midlands was unashamedly focused on using its adult education budget to create jobs:

“We are very much guided by learners as to what they want and they need. One of the things we have done is to actually talk to learners and to ask what they want. It surprises me how much is designed by people in Westminster who have never been near a job centre, who have never been out of work, who have got degrees. It’s really important to put learners at the heart of the system that we are trying to change for them.”

Summing up, the Centenary Commission’s vice-chair, Sir Alan Tuckett, said that despite the focus of local authorities on skills and jobs, the evening’s discussion had also moved around to a recognition of the wider benefits of lifelong learning. He argued for the concept of an 80-20 or 90-10 split between vital core spending and a more creative approach:

“Some space for the bottom-up seems to me important: to trust people to waste money in the name of being massively innovative and creative. I think you would find the 20 or 10 per cent you invest in that produces glories galore,” he said. “Adult learning is like ground elder – even if you set out to destroy it, it will pop up between the cracks somewhere else.”

You can watch a recording of the discussion here.

New Regional Mayors to speak at Centenary Commission online seminar

How can England’s New Mayors Rebuild Adult Education?
Webinar: Monday 21 June, 6.00-7.20p.m.

Manchester’s Andy Burnham, West Yorkshire’s Tracy Braybin, London Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe, and other regional leaders to discuss their plans and Centenary Commission ideas.

Power is being devolved to England’s regions. For the first time elected Mayors and combined authorities are setting policy and allocating spending on Adult Education. What should their main aims be? How can they make sure a rich educational offering is available to all adults – including those in excluded and “left behind” communities? What other problems do they face?

The Centenary Commission on Adult Education has made important recommendations on why adult education matters and on how it should be renewed. At this seminar, leading figures from regional combined authorities will discuss their ideas and plans with commission members and other experts.

The webinar, chaired by former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, will discuss the challenges and opportunities available. The panel will include:

  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester Region
  • Julie Nugent, Director of Skills and Productivity, West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London
  • Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire

Centenary Commission chair, Dame Helen Ghosh, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, Deputy Chair Sir Alan Tuckett, and Commissioner Dr Cilla Ross, Principal of the Co-operative College, will also contribute.

Book your place here.

“‘Learn as if you are going to live for ever.’ Lifelong learning for our nation is crucial.”

Centenary Commissioner Lord Bilimoria referred to the Commission’s report when he spoke in the House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech. He also quoted Mahatma Gandhi: “live as if you are going to die tomorrow and learn as if you are going to live for ever.”

“Enabling lifelong learning for our nation is crucial,” said Lord Bilimoria – who is now President of the CBI. The government’s proposed lifelong learning entitlement, “is very close to the recommendation of the CBI … for more people to develop higher-level skills throughout their working lives”, he said, adding: “It is also in line with the recommendations of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education.”

You can read Lord Bilimoria’s speech here, or watch it here.

“We have to be bold and exciting!” A German view of Centenary Commission webinars

The current issue of weiter bilden, the quarterly magazine of the German Institute for Adult Education, carries a full-page report of the Centenary Commission webinars held in March. They were chaired by former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow – his reputation is clearly international (“Oooooorder!”):

David Blunkett’s emphasis on the need to understand adult education as being about much more that work and jobs is singled out for mention, and the reporter was surprised at the concrete figure mentioned as necessary to meet future needs.

You can read our reports of the first webinar here, and of the second here.

Celebrating Resources of Hope: Community, democracy & dialogue through adult lifelong education

The first of the Centenary Commission Research Circle’s conferences on ‘Building community, democracy & dialogue through adult lifelong education‘ was held on 7 May, focussing on the theme of ‘Community, democracy and dialogue through adult lifelong education: Celebrating Resources of Hope’.

Organised by Sharon Clancy, Iain Jones, and other members of the research circle on fostering community, democracy and dialogue, it was the first in a series of three events which provide opportunities to learn about existing practices, and to meet and think about different forms of democratic adult education and imagine new forms of critical engagement.

Fifty adult educators, from across the UK, with others from Bulgaria, Canada, and Italy, joined together to listen to presentations and discuss key questions and emerging themes in small and large groups. During, and after, this first event participants highlighted the power of learning about existing practices and ways of re-shaping new forms of adult lifelong education.

“This is one of the first times I’ve actually spoken with people who share my visions – beyond books!!”
“To keep going we need events such as this. It raises the spirits, and that is so very important in what are very nasty times…”
“Thanks to everyone; this has been really uplifting!”

The possibilities of an education for social change were woven through each presentation. Rose Farrar, from WEA West Yorkshire, began by showcasing an innovative collaboration with Rich Wiles, an artist and photographer. The power of the video-photo stories of the lives of refugees, near Hull, was a starting point for dispelling stereotypes, myths and misconceptions. Rob Peutrell and Mel Cooke continued this emphasis on the voices of students and lecturers and asked how the politics of ESOL relates to different forms of citizenship. They highlighted struggles between dis-citizenship, and having capacities stripped away, and acts of citizenship and contesting exclusions and claiming new rights. Nalita James then asked how diverse forms of ESOL, in Leicester, related to different communities of place and multiple senses of belonging.

Further presentations extended the discussions about the scope and range of practice – and why these matter for practice – and policy. Richard Hazledine reported on young adults, in Nottingham, furthest from work. Their mistrust and lack of confidence, because of what has been done ‘to them’, embodied the danger of scarring. This was a starting point for re-thinking practices. Similarly, Elaine J. Laberge joined us from the west coast of Canada and argued why the Shoestring Initiative was formed. Communities of mentorship, advocacy, intercultural connectedness, and belonging are being created for students with lived experiences of persistent poverty at Canadian universities.

The final presentation, by Jeremy Goss and Jayne Ireland, related the work of Raymond Williams on social purpose in adult education to contemporary practices – and each of the other presentations. Williams’ letter to WEA tutors, in 1961, defined his own purpose as a teacher ‘as the creation of an educated and participatory democracy’. Jeremy and Jayne argued that the foundations for a democratic curriculum could be developed by learning democratically, learning for democracy and learning about democracy.

The power and richness of each presentation was highlighted by other participants:

“Today has sown some seeds and demonstrated a collective impetus, for which I’m grateful.”

This impetus can draw on Williams’ resources of hope and continually remind us that ‘to be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing’ (Williams, 1989).

As one speaker emphasised, through our collective action we can create a place for ‘remembering, not forgetting, past practices’, enabling us to store and share our memories of creative policy responses and practice.

One of the research circle summed this up after the event:

“I felt all the presenters, in their different ways, were saying something similar: [we need] spaces in which dialogue, cooperative learning, democracy and community can begin to thrive.”

We are increasingly having to do this work outside the state, as well as within it, after swathes of funding cuts to adult/community education infrastructure and a new neo-liberal onslaught within some universities on the humanities, targeting budgets for art, music, theatre, literature, sociology and music. We seek to keep alive the conversations which focus on making learning “part of the process of social change itself” (Williams, 1983) and continue to develop ourselves within this process as brokers, advocates and critical thinkers.

As Williams said, ‘There are ideas, and ways of thinking, with the seeds of life in them, and there are others, perhaps deep in our minds, with the seeds of a general death. Our measure of success in recognizing these kinds, and in naming them making possible their common recognition, may be literally the measure of our future’ (‘Towards 2000’, Williams, 1983).

The next Research Circle events are on Friday 2 July and Friday 17 September. Some places are left. Details and how to register are here.