Monthly Archives: April 2020

Research Bulletin, April 2020


Well, one month on from the previous Bulletin and the world has changed completely. But at the end of it, we will still need radical research to guide better policy and practice.

I suppose the first point to make is that research itself (at least that based at universities) is suddenly in a place of massive uncertainty. The commercialised business model of higher education in the UK, underpinned by fees from overseas students, has collapsed, and even if there is a bail-out financially I don’t think anyone yet knows what the sustainable future of research within higher education will look like. Only today (10 April) the Universities UK umbrella body was asking the government for a two-billion pounds bailout.

Now, on to the usual practicalities.

1. 1960s. The 50th anniversary events by Manchester Histories of Alf Morris (MP and then Lord) and his landmark Act of Parliament, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, have been put back from June, pencilled in currently for September. As part of this theme, my research into the campaigns by disabled people and allies in the 1960s moved on a step in March when I visited the British Library in London and found a copy of the letter in the New Statesman political journal in 1966 by Marsh Dickson which got Pamela La Fane first involved in the National Campaign for the Young Chronic Sick, which fed into Alf Morris’ law.

2. 1920s. The 100th anniversary of the National League of the Blind (“and Disabled” was added later) of their march to London for employments rights was on Sunday 5 April. A replica banner has been made (credit: Jenny Gradwell) and the plan was to congregate in Stevenson Square in Manchester and then in Leeds. Of course, that plan was abandoned, and social media posts were used to celebrate the anniversary instead.

3. 1980s onwards. Some elements of this are still confidential, but the GMCDP Archive work is moving forward slowly despite the current crisis. A recent independent professional assessment of its contents noted that, if all the boxes of papers and such were put on one shelf it would have to be 130 metres long. That’s longer than a double tram. I think this alone gives a sense of its significance and potential for learning by activists and by policy makers and influencers.

For me a key recommendation in the assessment report is that this archive is actually an important series of collections. I’ve started an (incomplete) list of these collections here. Please note that some are still works in progress.

* British Council of Organisations of Disabled People BCODP
* Disabled People’s Direct Action Network DAN
* Disabled Women in London
* Greater London Action on Disability GLAD
* Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People GMCDP
* Manchester Disabled Athletes Collection
* Muscle Power
* National Centre for Independent Living NCIL
* National Organisation of Disabled Lesbians and Gay Men
* Research Publications Section
* Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation UPIAS

. Colin Barnes
. Dorothy Mallon
. Ian Stanton
. Jane Campbell
. John Evans
. Ken Lumb
. Kevin Hyett
. Lorraine Gradwell
. Lucy Wilkinson
. Maggie Davis and Ken Davis
. Paul Darke
. Philip Mason

4. 1990s. In late February I joined an informal lunch-meeting in London with some DAN alumni and a TV production company which is looking to make a docu-drama programme on DAN in the early 1990s and the campaign for civil rights. Of course, since then the production is on hold for the moment along with many other non-essential tasks in a time of covid.

5. 1970s onwards. One of the poignant effects of lockdown is that I plan to spend more time at home cataloguing the Lorraine Gradwell Collection, which is currently eight boxes and likely to grow. I’m hoping the catalogue (spreadsheet) will conform with the national standards, and will be checking out drafts with colleagues.

Finally, the other items from the February and March Bulletins are ticking over in the background.

Thank you all, and keep well and safe.


Previous Bulletins:
February 2020 – March 2020 –

What might be next for jobs?

The UN has estimated that 195 million jobs will be lost by the covid pandemic. A recent survey by the UK’s Creative Industries Federation (interest declared) has shown that 42% of creative businesses have already lost 100% of their income.

In thinking about what next, there are the immediate responses by various governments to protect incomes, housing and food. Often flawed and with big gaps, but also temporary. What might come afterwards? To use the phrase, what will be the new-normal?

Some suggestions

1. Re-booting

All the talk of business scale-up and growth will now feel very dated. I think we’ll be dusting down our start-up resources, not least because even when the same people in the same company try to continue with the same work with the same clients … the reality will be that it will be start-up tools and methods that will be needed, but maybe called re-booting to acknowledge the natural human desire for continuity.

2. Cooperation

It tells you just how much of a crisis the world is facing when a UK Conservative government gives press conferences with phrases such as “working with our friends in the trade unions”. Of course they are right to do so, but just check how far we have already changed. The common cause and grassroots volunteering will not just fade away, and I guess I want to believe that at least some of this new co-operation will endure. Consider, for example, a so-called blockbuster movie. Traditionally the investors would work with producers for a return on investment (profit, or sometimes loss) and the staff would be hired and fired as needed. In the make-up department they are called ‘dailies’. But imagine everyone works with co-op contracts, a living wage at the time plus a % of future income. And investors get a fair return, not super-profits. Of course, many creative projects do struggle to get funding as a rule, and to cover costs, but that doesn’t mean that a fairer, cooperative model isn’t possible.

3. Innovation

I worry that the public sector – the world of local authorities, LEPs, DCMS, etc etc – and its orbiting moons such as BFI, Arts Council, National Lottery – will find it hardest to adapt to the new world we find ourselves in.

The public sector staff culture might be something like saying, “well, we’ve done a lot of working from home, and put some new apps on our phones, but now it is back to the office, the 7.27 train, and making more spreadsheets on the server for clients to fill in”.

Whereas creatives in the private and independent sectors will probably be saying, basically, “You know what, that office was mostly a waste of money anyway, let’s spend the rent instead on a summer camp and bring the kids and elders along” or whatever.

In short, I think there is a risk that the next innovations will act as a cultural wedge where the public sector risks being stuck in the past. But possibly some public sector leaders will start to look beyond the old model of command and control, centralisation, outsourcing essential services, and unsustainable pay differentials.

And if innovation means we’ll never have to hear again about KPI seminars, well friends, wouldn’t that be something!