Discussion points: at the intersection

Our article was intended to provoke debate, so thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

Putting aside access issues for the time being, I really feel the need to bring discussion to the article. Mainly also because some of the contributions are going into areas which I feel are not quite ‘getting it’, as Alison put it. It was also something that cropped up in the lifeinlincs debate a few months back, so I am going to take this opportunity to clarify, as briefly as I can, what we are trying to get at.

I’m also sure people will recognise that the issues we address in the article are as relevant to other fiends of work too.

First, our article isn’t intended as a contribution to the practicalities about how Deaf and hearing academics can work together, although there is a strong overlap. Nicola Nunn is currently doing her work in this field and will have far more to contribute than we do. Do please keep an eye for the presentations and work she’s doing in this field.

Second, as has become apparent, it’s a *reaction* piece. As Alison, Sarah, and others have pointed out, reading the original gives our article its crucial context. It reacts to an article by two authors.

Thirdly, while we do elaborate on how and why hearing academics are able to advance their careers in relation to Deaf academics, our key concern is the fact that this situation risks remaining unchanged in spite of a growing number of Deaf academics. [It greatly concerns us when some have written that they didn’t feel as supported as they could have been. I also know several had to withdraw academic studies through lack of support.]

To us, the original article can best be visualised as follows. Imagine a newly born dog, yapping and yelping and learning to live its life: the article was the equivalent of kicking the poor mite cos it is constantly barking at them. Of course, the authors in no way intended that, but that’s how it came across when we read it (the barking dog in question? ‘Deaf academic power’). Where do hearing academics stand in this new power development, they stated? We think there are problems with the questions, but you really have to read their article to form an opinion, I will not be doing those authors any justice by trying to sum it up here.

Two things: one we do recognise there is a growing Deaf academic elite in the UK, but, like we say, it’s a yapping little dog right now. Nevertheless, we do have to think about how that might develop into a confident, assertive, self-reflective, transparent, forward-thinking, truly diverse, intersectional breed. We want to encourage Deaf academics to think about their relationship to academia and the community: these academics (yes, Dai and I included) get prestige and advantages from our positions and publications [more on that later].

Secondly, without in any way meaning to discredit or alienate people who are working hard in unity with Deaf and hearing academics, it’s painfully hard to ignore the fact that this discussion is taking place against a background where privileged hearing academics are able to gain prestige, experience and status through hard-to-fund research projects. When we see yet another project that either excludes Deaf academics, or sees them situated in a lesser status in relation to it, we feel it.

A more appropriate question is: what tools can be created to enable Deaf academics to lead Deaf-related research projects, departments, and funding? The balance of hearing-Deaf academic power is hopelessly outweighed in favour of the former; nobody will deny that, but the question is: are you willing to find ways of relinquishing power to enable us all to redress that imbalance?

Now, of course, we have been very careful to qualify that when we say ‘Deaf Power’ we don’t mean some oppressive ruling structure that simply replicates the one that already exists, to replace one with another. We also certainly don’t mean it excludes hearing people as we have been at pains to say. And Deaf academics have a huge responsibility too, because looking around at us, the majority are white, middle-class, and our research is barely accessible to those who are not English literate; men outnumber women, and there is a glaring lack of black women and men, disabled deaf people, and many others.

Crucially, also, what is the nature of most of the research, another question altogether, but an important one.

These brief but key points are the thrust of our article. Within these thrusts we can find space to address ‘on the ground’ issues such as hearing/deaf relationships in academia. Owning up to privilege is key for us all: not to push people into some guilt trip, but to seek ways in which we can all drive research into the direction which recognises and encourages Deaf community self-determination, at the intersection.

Social science and humanities academics – dawning of a new era*?

The week before I took a much needed holiday I received a Deaf studies related doctorate and news of a new publication.  I’m eager to take time out to sign (yes, not sing!) the praises of the latest research work, but also to throw forward a suggestion that we are living through the potential ‘dawning of a new era’ in academic-related research work in the Deaf studies field.

Here I’ll explain my thinking a bit further.

It’s hard to see this sometimes when engrossed in my genetic related research (Teresa Blankmeyer-Burkes work being an exception),  but I was thinking through all the academics, Deaf and hearing, who have most recently achieved PhD ‘stardom’ and basking in the fact that so much of it is social science related, as opposed to, for example, linguistics or psychology.

Now I’m not at all knocking academics from those disciplines: I was pleased to receive information from a Deaf friend engaged in linguistics research that his thesis has been submitted, and that follows hot on the heels of another, and I know at least one more on the way.  That’s in addition to hearing friends who have also achieved their PhD in the last year or two.

My focus is on what seems a little boom in ground-breaking social science research in the corner of Europe in the last 2-3 years: I’m thinking of John Bosco-Conama’s challenges to the use of the term equality; Hilary Sutherland’s bilingualism through the eyes of a Deaf child; and Mike Gulliver’s research on French Deaf schools that provides us with new perspectives on Deaf Space. [While here I want to also cite Janie Gonclavez research on Deaf pedagogy in Brazil, achieved at the Centre for Deaf Studies and which deserves a mention as it outlines unique approaches that our Euro-centric education departments could learn from.]

Three other friends are either at the end of completing their PhDs or nearly there, one other I know is near completion – all within the social sciences, all Deaf people – and two others (one hearing) have just started theirs.

The numbers add up but the subject matter and their quality is equally as important.

However, I want to return to the two mentioned earlier, the first being Donna West, who has just had a book joint-published, entitled ‘Deafhearingfamilylife’ and kindly put up on Mike Gulliver’s blog, which can be seen here on Facebook. Donna tells the story of a narrative inquiry with three deaf-hearing families about deaf hearing family life – she was once a teacher of Deaf children and has reflected on her experiences, and developed some valuable insights based on her experience.

[She is giving a talk to launch the book at the Centre for Deaf studies, on April 25th. The event will take place from 5-7pm in room 410 of the Graduate School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1JA.  Discounted copies of “Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family Life” available.  BSL interpreters provided  🙂 ]

It is, however, the work of Annelies Kusters that I want to focus on.  Annelies achieved her PhD in January 2012 and in between doing so spent time commuting between four countries, getting married and having a child! (Mine was achieved in four cities within close promixity to each other and I thought that was tough!)

I have seen a presentation of a summary of her PhD and am now eager to read it. Here is an outline of what I understand of her work.  Annelies undertook anthropological research in the village of Adamarobe, Ghana, and brought back with her a breath of fresh air: a perspective on a community that was sociological, emic in nature (insider-research led), and groundbreaking in developing a theory that, on my initial understanding, straddles Deafhood with concepts of Deaf Space. Many research-led projects take place in these villages where there are a higher proportion of deaf people than is common, often due to a high rate of genetic incidence and emergence of sign language as a result (mexico, bali, nicragua, to name a few).  These projects are focused on the language used by native Deaf people but there is little depth to how Deaf people within these villages lead their lives in relation to their hearing peers or amongst themselves.

Annelies spent time in the village for several months in the early part of her research, where she conducted observer-type learning, asking questions of the villagers mainly to develop an understanding of their day to day lives.  Although she was learning the language during this time, it was only on returning to the village for a second, longer time, several months later, that she began to be more active in interviewing, exploring villagers cultural life, and carrying out inquiries in line with an anthropological approach.

She touches on the language in many respects but is more concerned with assessing transnational parallels with communities worldwide. The people living in these villages lead very different lives to those of us privileged to be able to conduct this type of research, and Annelies’ findings not only question the utopia and romance of Groce’s ‘everyone here uses sign language’, they inform our understanding of Deafhood and Deaf space, and challenge us consider broader aspects of what it means to be Deaf: socio-economic factors, ethics of research within such communities, Deaf-Deaf and Deaf-hearing relationships, and many more.

I would highly recommend a read of it; a thorough review would be even better!  Annelies work will, I hope, inspire others to carry out further social science based research: Annelies PhD can be found here through Mike Gullivers blog and I understand she will be producing video recordings of presentations summarising the research very shortly, hopefully toward the end of April or early May.

Finally, at the end of this excitable entry, I want to end with a more sober mention that the growth of Deaf academics is something that is in urgent need of examination.

We Deaf academics, along with the wider Deaf middle-class, and the Deaf intelligentsia, oppressed and downgraded by oralism,  are increasingly in a position of greater social mobility compared to millions of hearing people : while it would be a mistake to suggest we are entirely free of the chains of oppression, it has been long overdue that our privileged positions require discussion of how funding for research work can be genuinely based upon what these communities want to see.  How do academics ‘give back’ to the communities upon whom they owe their careers, and in what ways?  I do not refer to finding funding to undertake more research (and hence also prolong our own careers).  But, what constitutes ‘giving back’, and who decides what should be further researched and how? What would it require for it to happen?

That requires open and honest socio-political analysis and exploration: it’s something that I am addressing with Dai O’Brien, and we hope to have available a thought-provoking article shortly, so watch this space!

(*with thanks to the Specials)

Signstation Plus newsletter update

In an earlier post I wrote about the signstation, which was launched in 2005 by University of Bristol Centre for Deaf Studies to provide quality learning resources for people who work alongside Deaf people.

I wrote, back on March 1st,  that CDS has developed Signstation Plus, a new development from University of Bristol Centre for Deaf Studies to provide fee-paying online sign language e-learning courses.

Below is the latest newsletter update, that I reproduce here in full: to keep up to date, you can subscribe to the newsletter.



Taking a look at the Signstation

Plus Learning Management System

This month we’ll be introducing you to the Signstation Plus Learning Management System (LMS)

What is an LMS?

From a starting point of simplicity an LMS appears essentially like a regular website with online learning materials, not unlike the free sign language e-learning course The Company which is available on our Sister website Signstation (

But unlike in the case of The Company, courses hosted on the Signstation LMS will track in detail how you interact with the content and compare this against learning targets to provide you statistics of how you are performing. As you progress through the course the LMS provides you with the tools to build your own course portfolio and to engage with other learners should you wish to.

The LMS also includes all the software tools needed to support online signed assignments as part of the course meaning you can develop your sign language production skills alongside your receptive skills.

All Signstation Plus learners will receive a unique username and password and the LMS can be accessed online 24 hours a day.

Interested in Signstation Plus courses but wish to use your own LMS?

If you are a business interested in Signstation Plus courses but wish to use your own LMS or Learning Centre, Signstation Plus courses adhere to the SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) 1.2 and 2004 (4th edition) specifications and can be transferred to any SCORM conformant system.


After birth abortions, my first half marathon and more!

Amidst the hectic life am trying to make some regular inputs into the blog on happenings in the ivory towers and outside of it – particularly Bristol life and all else. If you want to avoid the work and politics just go to the end headed ‘fun stuff’!

Genetics Work

On the work front life continues to be hectic, with all our interview data collected for our genetics and Deafhood project, we are now at the stage where we’re able to analyse data and the website, in BSL by Clive Mason, is up and running – hope people will contribute to the discussion forums to help with data collection on genetics issues 🙂

There’s only just over 6 months of the project left! Sociological research on genetics and Deafhood were put into perspective by the news that two geneticists who specialise in genetics and deafness won a prestigious ‘brainprize’ award of one million euros. [Thanks to Alison for this information.] Eh?? They will receive their award from none other than our Liz, the monarch. Their work includes the use of mice to carry out research experiments. It would be interesting to see what the one million will be spend on and a video has been released of the details of the award – a sign language version of this should be available soon.

I attended an interesting conference on the development of attempts to protect the use of genetic information via the use of anti-discrimination legislation at the European Level, which was held in Brussels. The key lead has been taken from the USA where they have already a law in place called the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). There was a lot of overlapping with Disability Human Rights legislation and I found it striking that the lawyers and academics were looking to laws that have been developed thanks to the disabled people’s civil rights movement, and this includes Deaf activists.The law is chiefly to prevent discrimination against people in employment and insurance.

However, I am still trying to get over the concept of ‘after-birth abortion’: a euphemism for killing a newborn baby that was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal and received a strong reaction in defence of the original article. As the journal editors explain, this is not a new concept, but has been addressed by philosophers such as Peter Singer. This issue is a hard one to stomach coming as it does from self-confessed liberals.

Bristol Deaf Centre Issues

It’s good to be able to write positively (for now) following a meeting at Bristol Deaf Centre by Bristol City Council’s Health and Social Care department, last Wednesday 7th March. It was a cordial and frank exchange of views on the future of the departments services to the local Deaf people.

My summary of the meeting is that the Council recognise their actions could lead to the closure of the Deaf Centre that would leave Bristol Deaf people in a crisis situation (by the sudden withdrawal of funding that should have happened last November, plus the departure of staff who are under Avon Pension fund). So there will be the appointment of a Development Worker (over a period of 9 months) that represents, to me, a ‘stay of execution’.

Hopefully the local Bristol Deaf community will combine and communicate to spend that time with the new Development worker, developing a vision and future for the Bristol Deaf community – whether it means retaining the Deaf Centre or a different vision.

A lot of people have been working really hard to bring about this situation, including those who work at the Deaf centre as well as the Interim Working Group, legal advisors, and many unnamed individuals. There remains a lot to do, but there is a bit of time to sort things out. The Board of Directors, in particular, needs urgent support, which may become apparent in the next few weeks and months.

This news follows on from the news that hard campaigning has helped to save Elmfield Deaf School – so campaigning does work and massive waves of hands for those who worked hard to save the school!

Lighter stuff! running, football and rodolfo

I completed my first half marathon in Bath in the time of 1.59.21!! I’m well pleased. It was, unexpectedly, hot! Making for a tougher challenge, but fun and enjoyable, especially taking part with friends Pascale, Alison and John (cheered on by Naomi!), and taking in the Bath scenery.

£145 was raised for Bristol Deaf Football club, who are doing extremely well and have decided to enter a hearing league from September 2012! Then BDFC can show the world what they are really made of!

Rodolfo, from Mexico, had been on a visit to the Centre for Deaf Studies for two months and we had a leaving do for him last Friday – first a meal at Browns and then a drink-up at Woods. It’s been super having him with us and hope to make a visit to Mexico one day!

I’m back in the swimming pool, continuing my efforts to learn to swim – trying to get to grips with the breaststroke at the mo.

Future events upcoming

BSL debates at Bristol Deaf Centre are all set for this Thursday 15th March, and the BSL Symposium on Monday 19th March that I’m attending – there’s a banquet too on 18th March but cannot make that one.


The brand new blog the limping chicken is looking good so far! Would be good to see more entries in BSL…which reminds me…!


gruelling year ends soon

There’s no denying it – the Chinese year of the Tiger (my sign btw 😉 hasn’t been easy, forever plugging away workwise, one thing after another popping up on top of the usuals. Some grim, others exciting, most in-between.

Can never complain: but has meant the blog’s got sidelined, so apologies for that as some significant stuff’s been going on.

Write ups hope to become regular in 2011 after the hols, but here’s a sum-up:

1. Completed the Group Rights project, one dissemination meet held, another meeting in London due on 20th; have a video recording that I hope to put up after that. I feel very indebted to the people who took part in the project, who have played a crucial part in enabling the development of a positive theory of Deaf people’s minority group rights – more to follow soon.

2. New Genetics and Deafhood project to start asap (that one will run until Octo 2012). This one was announced on Bristol Uni website; it is led by Paddy Ladd 🙂 So I am back into the genetics frying pan !

3. My DVD in BSL already has a publisher (Ishara Press), has been produced, and will be launched in the New Year. Book in English also published. It has taken time, but watch this space! (In the meantime you can watch clips from it on the BSL Uptake project website.)

4. European Parliament visit last month, November: I was pleased to be able to attend this (big thanks Annika and Mark) and saw Adam Kosa MEP for the first time, and this could be the start of a big moment at European level Deaf politics, and especially for EUD. I hope to write on this soon with my observations, praises, and constructive critiques 😉


Some not so good developments have also rocked a lot of people’s lives, and I will write in more detail about those here:

First, the teaching out of the BSc at the Centre for Deaf Studies. All the detail about this is on the savedeafstudies campaign website. The Centre itself is not subject to closure (although the fears linger), but with the loss of the BSc there are bound to be major effects. I understand the initial campaign, that received the most superb support from around the world, has lost momentum since the summer, but internal work is ongoing to ensure the Centre puts itself on a stronger base in the coming months.

Secondly, the totally disasterous ‘Browne Report’, that got through Parliament last week through the coalition government. As it passes through the various phrases to become official, the changes are going to be structurally massive and effect staff and students alike.  It is likely that students in humanities and social sciences will be forced to find 100% of funding of their studies, for example.

Secondly, these cuts have been pushed through by a new right-wing Coalition Government of Tories and the Lib-Dems (often referred to as he Con-Dem government). It’s unfortunate that it had to come to seeing Lib Dems getting some form of power to realise that they were not and never have been ‘left’ or ‘alternative’ in any way or form.

It is very, very disappointed to see one of the greatest campaigners on Deaf issues in Parliament, Malcolm Bruce, vote in favour of the proposals.

Neither were Labour much better, of course; as they were the ones who introduced tuition fees and initiated the Browne Report.

The climate it has created will make it harder for Deaf people generally, as I wrote in my blog two years ago when the credit cruch started. It is the marginalised, vulnerable and poorer sections of society who bear the brunt of cuts in a disproportiate way. Women, especially, are going to be hard hit in numerous ways.

So now Bristol City Council finds an opportunity to push for the closure of Elmfield Deaf school into a resource-based unit (although I know there are some who predicted this is what would happen as a result of changes some 5 years previously). Also worrying, however, is the planned cuts in Deaf youth services.

I know they say things come in three’s but….

For me personally, there has been some inspiration and hope: students, lecturers and staff protested against the changes to CDS last May (incidentally right after UK election day) with a lively and vibrant campaign that attracted wide media coverage.

And students generally have refused to accept that a rise in tuition fees and massive cutbacks are ‘inevitable’, but have instead demonstrated through the streets of Bristol and elsewhere in the UK (notably London last week), and also occupied part of the university to set up ‘open spaces’.

These open spaces have widespread support: they have already held one ‘teach in’ on the purpose and value of higher education. In other occupations, subjects have included discussions as to what an alternative, non corporate education system might mean in practice.

That’s a very relevant subject for Deaf education and Deaf people generally, for as we know, the education system has failed Deaf people over the years, and the community is in a situation where it requires open and honest discussion and debate on what is the alternative to deaf kids being sent off, isolated, to mainstream schools.

I hope that 2011 sees people urgently discussing and pursuing alternatives before we see an autiobiography in our shops entitled: ‘my experiences in the last Deaf school standing’.




John Clifford Blackman – obituary

The entry I’m about to write is personal, and refers to the first boss I ever worked under, as a cleaner at a printing factory, aged 17.  The experience of my time with Carmichael & Co. Ltd (Brighton) was so profound that it shaped my life thereafter. The reason for this entry is that he passed away on June 14th, which I found out about only recently.

Blackman, as I always refer to him, was a staunch right-wing Conservative Party councillor in Brighton, an arch-Thatcherite.  He was the Mayor of Brighton from 1984-85 and if you ever see a clip of documentaries of Thatcher dancing the night before the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel, Blackman is the Mayor seen in a dance with her. (His son, also called John, and also working at Carmichael’s, was even worse, a supporter of the arch-right wing Monday Club.)

Blackman set up his own printing business and it was quite a successful one.  It was also one that refused to recognise the trade unions, which at the time operated the ‘closed shop’, whereby you needed to be a member of one of the trade unions to apply for a job in the print.  Usually those working at Carmichal’s were not members of a union.

As a 17 year old I had no clue who I was working for, let alone the situation of trade unions.  I’d struggled to find jobs anywhere after leaving school, and got this one having been for loads of interviews.  Ninety percent of the time those jobs fell through because employers wanted me to be able to use the telephone. I’d already been working as a cleaner part time, notably at Sussex University.  When the job centre asked me if I had any other ideas of jobs I would like to do other than computing or clerical, I told him that I had an uncle who worked in the printing and that might be something I’d consider.  He pulled out a card for a cleaner/print room assistant at Carmichel & Co.  I went along for a job interview. It was a small company employing around 20 people.

A director guy with the second name of Beebe interviewed me, along with Blackman’s son John.  Beebe wasn’t convinced I could do the job; actually neither of them were.  It involved lifting stacks of paper into printing presses, and other manual labour.  Sure, I was some skinny guy back then, but I wasn’t entirely limp.  I kept telling them I could do it, no problem at all.   They summoned in Blackman, and it’s fair to say that if it wasn’t for his involvement I wouldn’t have got that job.  He said I should be given a chance. My first impression of him was as a very grumpy old man, who told me he had no idea what the wages where, ‘it might be nothing’.  I think it was something like £17 or £24 a week; whatever, it was quite low, but I was grateful to take anything.  (There was no DLA at the time!)

Working for Blackman wasn’t a relaxing or pleasant experience.  When he took me round the factory to ‘train’ me on aspects of the print, he would be explaining the names of various tools or equipment and then he would suddenly say ‘what is it?’ to ensure I had understood him.  It came so suddenly and out of no-where, taking me by surprise, but most of the time I understood him.  But I was nervous of the guy in those early years, so much seemed to depend on working to his satisfaction.  Once he asked to polish his car and gave me something; I had no idea what it was and began to apply it to the main body of the car.  Blackman came storming out: it was chrome polish I’d been given and I was only meant to polish the chrome parts of the car.  Blimey.  I had no idea cos I never imagined I’d be asked to do a job like that.  Of course, I was apologetic; for six months there were occasions such as these, with Blackman having little outbursts whenever I didn’t do a task to his satisfaction.

After six months I was expected to undertake an apprenticeship.  That was the norm for all print room assistants who worked at Carmichaels.  But unbeknown to me, he’d called in a lawyer of some kind, and they were advised to prolong the trial while they considered whether it was safe for me to work the print machines.  They were worried that if I was involved in an accident, the company would be liable having not taken the fact I was deaf into account. It may, therefore, require extra insurance for the company. They had contacted my former teaching assistant, Ms Taylor.  She had been the sole support I had during my time at secondary school, coming in once a week to help me out with English, Maths and any other subject. She had given me a positive report.

I was annoyed that my trial was extended for an extra six months, but didn’t complain.  It was hard, however, to dislike Blackman, as he did have a certain charm.  After a while of knowing him, it was possible to laugh at some of the comments and things he said: like when at lunch time I would sit reading the Sun or the Mirror, and he asked me why I read ‘that rubbish’, and ‘why don’t you read The Times’, little things like that.  He would glare at me and I would laugh, and he would just shrug and walk away.  When I got into a panic with printing taskes he would put it into perspective: ‘have you ever seen a man dying,’ he would say.  ‘Err, no,’ I would respond.  ‘You wouldn’t want to,’  he said.  Blackman had seen action, while in the Navy, in the second world war. You had to respect that.

I did get some experience on the printing presses, usually when a worker was ill.  I shouldn’t have been, for health and safety reasons (untrained, etc.) but I got work done for them.  But Blackman did something else, he gave me a go on the typesetting machine at Carmichaels.  I was getting experience in all departments, and after a year they asked me if I’d be interested in working as a full-time typesetter.  ‘You wasn’t very good working on the machines,’ he told me, although I’d hardly had much of an opportunity.  Still, it was very true my skills were better used in that department. His son, John, tried to train me, but was always leaving it until 4.30pm in the afternoon or getting called away, so I had to learn most of it myself, and with help from other workers who knew how to use the typesetters.  Rather strangely, one other woman would come in about once a week to do typesetting, and she had the same surname as me, and was called Sandra, so two S. Emery’s working as a typesetter in such a small printing company was rather amazing!

I continued, however, to get rollickings.  I recall one incident, before I formally began as a typesetter, Blackman was unhappy with something, or with a job I did badly.  I got a severe dressing down and was ordered to sweep the floors of the print factory.  It was utterly humiliating, but I didn’t feel I had a choice.

But Blackman gained my respect in perhaps a bizzare way.  When I was made Typesetter, I’d made a hash of some jobs, particularly with my spelling.  I still remember spelling principle rather then principal, for example.  Beebe mocked me: ‘you can’t spell can you’ and that was irritating, it was a comment Blackman would never have made.  There was one occasion where there was a problem with a job, and for the first time ever I defending myself.  Blackman respected my defense and left it at that, but from that point on, I found Blackman changed.  We would disagree over many things, and I found myself challenging and responding in a way that was impossible when I was a print room assistant.  I would do the same with Beebe and John.

I used to mess around a lot with my fellow workers; we got caught out doing some blatant stuff but Blackman never said anything, instead grumbled and muttered.  Then, once, from the far end of the corridor, I gave a colleage a gentle poked in the tummy and Blackman came storming over, summonded us into the office, gave us a severe bollocking, I protested but it was hopeless.  I’ve still got the letter of an official warning from him, for ‘skylarking’.

I was confident enough, therefore, to challenge on a regular basis, my fears of Blackman having reduced.  I had also become more politically aware and asked to join the trade union the NGA.  ‘Blackman, that c***,’ they always said. They were delighted to have me as a member.  They wanted me to leave Carmichaels and join a unionised factory, but I wanted to stay on and fight for the unionisation of the company.  That couldn’t be done alone, of course, but had to involve other workers joining the union.  I managed to recruit a few others, sort out some problems that others had, and was really pushing on.  Whether Blackman was aware or not, I have no idea, but it did get bad.  I was always refusing to work overtime.  It got the extent that Blackman was training a young guy to take over from me, but Blackman couldn’t do very much because I worked hard and well.  The overtime issue came to a head one evening when Beebe and John sat down and told me that if I didn’t work overtime I’d be sacked. I relented and worked overtime in order to stay on, they let the poor young lad go, in tears; but it was obviously clear from that point on that my time was up there.

I handed in my notice soon after, having secured a job in Burgess Hill with the assistance of the NGA. My co worker told me there were tears in his eyes when he was talking to her about my going.  He wasn’t around on my last day so I never got to say goodbye to him; and when I visited the factory a few years later, he wasn’t in the office. I wrote to him for a reference a year or two after that, but, probably not surprisingly, received no reply.

That was some experience for a young lad who started there at 17 and left at 20.  But the trasformation I underwent when Blackman was my main boss was lifelong, changing me into something that was the exact opposite politically of what he was.  He was also the architect at giving me experience on Typesetting machines, which led to being experienced in a trade that was very well paid, and, providing you were a union member, very easy to find job a job in at a time when jobs were hard to come by.  I spent a further seven years working in the print.

I have a grudging respect for Blackman in that regard.  On starting at Carmichael’s he became a figure I respected but also detested and was angry with on a lot of occasions, but when I challenged, he returned respect.  His aggression towards me stopped and he treated me like any other worker.  All of that gave me a lot of confidence as a person and in myself.

It would be wrong to say I ever missed the guy, and hypocritical to write anything of a glowing tribute.  I am, however, extremely happy to have met him and had him as a boss, however hard going it was at the time.  What I will also say is that the guy will never be forgotten by me, even though he is gone.

Moving on and apologies

My many apologies for not keeping up to date with this blog 😦 So I am just writing a brief summary here for now.

But…a lot has been happening, I’ve not been away on holiday.

Firstly, I am moving to University of Bristol from the beginning of October.  To my delight I was awarded an early careers fellowship from Leverhulme Trust.  This is a two year fellowship and will enable me to continue working in an academic environment.   I’m particularly pleased given that I’ve spent the last two years on short term contracts; valuable as that experience has been it’s stressful working on contracts that last less than a year.  The piece of research I will be undertaking will be exploring the concept of group rights in education, with deaf children as the case study.  This follows on very nicely from my PhD in citizenship, where Deaf people expressed serious concerns for the education of deaf children, and this fellowship will enable me to investigate this further.

But first of all, there is work to complete and I have been keeping busy with analysis of research that has been undertaken on Deaf people’s attitudes and beliefs on genetics.  We have our workshop at Cardiff on 18th September to disseminate the findings.  I’m also giving a paper on the subject at a conference in Amsterdam on 25/26 September, and will be at the Centre for Deaf Studies 30 year celebrations in Bristol on 27th September.

My small-scale but important piece of research on mental health in the Glasgow Black Minority Ethnic Community has been complete; I’ve written up the report and that is due for launch and publication in November.

I’m particularly pleased that a 7,000 word peer-reviewed article I wrote on citizenship is due to be published in Citizenship Studies; it’s a good summary, I think, of what my PhD is all about.

On a lighter note, I managed to catch some of the Edinburgh Festival amidst all the work, seeing two signed comedies and watched three mime-comedies as well as some street theatre and a fab exhibition.   And I treated myself by buying a replica Brighton and Hove Albion away strip that arrived today, but my excitement was dampened cos they lost today for the first time this season 4-1 😦  Oh well, the players are probably all excited about facing Man City (and Robhino?) in the Carling cup…