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Last Post

After I write this the comments will be closed and the password changed by Karl so I don’t know what it is. This is my last post on this blog.

Most of those I know read it are also FB friends and I look forward to keeping in touch with you via that method.

A confession and an explanation (and possibly a salutary warning to others)

This week a community I used to be part of were scared and hurting, I tweeted the news story it related to and said a silent prayer but I didn’t get in touch with the people there….I didn’t even repost the news story on here. Instead I blogged about….well see the last few posts.

I sent an email to someone with some links to the blog in on Thursday but not an email to my hurting friends.

Over the years blogging has become a bit of an addiction for me. It has also become a major tool of procrastination. It has gotten in the way of me maintaining and deepening existing friendships.

Something good and useful in its own right which has had benefits has become something which has to some extent come to control me rather than the other way round. As I go to a gallery I make notes to blog later, as I watch a film or read a news story it becomes potential blog material.

I have enjoyed being part of this community and will still read others – something I also confess I haven’t done enough of. I’ve found time to write about me more than I have read about others.

I am in another time of endings and new beginnings. It is time for this blog to end.

Thank you for reading and being part of this bit of the journey with me.

Sally

Engaging with the Headline Data

Today the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a news release showing that the proportion of single parents in England and Wales had tripled over 40 years, as well as giving other headline demographic change data. The numbers the news release was talking about had come from the 2011 National Lifestyle survey overview report which has been published by the ONS. I am going to unpack the statistics and question why the headline was chosen before moving on to look at what challenges that headline data poses for those of us who are Christians within congregations.

What the news release suggests is that the proportion of single parents in this country has steadily risen over that time. This is not the case though, if one turns to the data which the release is based upon there is a slightly different story to be shown. The greatest rise in single parents was actually over the first 25 years of this comparison period, in 1971 the proportion of single parents was 8 percent and in 1998 it had risen to 25%. The proportion of lone parent families hit its peak in 2002 – when the figure rose to 27%. Since the early naughties figures have levelled off and the proportion of lone parents has actually fallen slightly to 22%, the lowest figure since 1995. The proportion of lone mothers has been stable at 20% since 2008, a fall of 4% from 2005 when they peaked at 24% same level as 2002.

The statistics then tell us that there has been a levelling off and a stabilisation in family life over the last 10 years. Over the last decade we have not seen significantly more single mothers who have never been part of a two parent household, neither have we seen a huge increase in divorce and separation leading to single parents. Those significant changes in the shape of family life happened around the turn of the century rather than over the last ten years.

So why is it that this has been chosen as the headline for this news release?

It could be because it is amongst the most significant of the figures for change when doing a forty year comparison. If this is the case I can see the rational but would argue it then unintentionally gives a false impression of how that rise has been achieved over the forty years. It was headline news when doing twenty or thirty year comparisons but should now probably not be the key headline data.

The second possible explanation is more disturbing and relates to the way in which myths grow up around welfare spending. The Joint Public Issues Team report ‘Truth and Lies about Poverty’ talks about the myth making which has occurred around issues of poverty.

A recent Gingerbread report highlighted that amongst the many who are going to be the forthcoming changes to the benefits and welfare system single parents are particularly likely to be hit. They said, in their press briefing, Single Parents and Universal Credit, Singled Out, “Single parent families are already almost twice as likely to live in poverty. A lack of flexible working and affordable childcare means many are struggling to find stable work that pays. The charities are concerned the changes to welfare support will only make these barriers harder to overcome.”

We do need to be careful before drawing the most negative conclusions as the evidence is not clear as to why this headline was used.

The key point I want to make in relation to the headline is when looking at the reporting which might follow based upon this release we need to keep a focus on the facts rather than the possible inference.

Looking at the statistics and news release from a different angle I want us to think about what questions they ask of those of us who are Christians interested in ecclesiology and missiology. The basis for this interpretation will come from my research into the experience of single parents in evangelical churches.

Before launching in I want to give a health warning. We have to be careful of the data used in relation to the number of single parents in our churches – because they are a category which we don’t have clear information on. However, from the data which has been available and from anecdotal evidence it is widely acknowledged that single parents are an under-represented group within white majority churches particularly.

 1: What era is our church culture rooted in?

Is it the culture of the 21st century where family shapes have now stabilised to include lone parent as a “norm” and where statistics for never married, divorced and separated single parents have stabilised to their current level?

In looking to answer the key question and the sub-questions which follow on from it we need to think about a range of factors many of which go beyond being focused exclusively around single parents.

We need to think about our attitudes to women working and when meetings and events are scheduled for. We need to think about attitudes towards divorce, separation and those who have had sex outside of marriage.

2. What spaces do we provide for people to reflect upon and discuss their experiences of contemporary life?

My research showed that whilst the diversity of contemporary household shape is evident in our congregations, and in the relationships of those close to us it is rarely mentioned in public worship. However, small groups can be a place where that reflection and discussion can occur. Where a holistic approach is taken which sees the potential for transformation in the whole person small groups can be very important spaces.

If small groups take a wider focus than being bible studies primarily based on achieving ‘conversion’ and increasing theological literacy then they can provide the opportunity for people to explore their experience. They can work through the reality of what it means to be a single parent, (for example), today and how they can contribute to the wider body of the church. If this model is used small groups can also become important spaces for sharing potential opportunities as well as needs. The passing on of job opportunities, for example, can happen if people are able to share in this way.

3. Have our congregations gone through a process of transformation and change?

If the congregation itself has gone through a process of transformation and change it is more likely, I would argue, to have questioned some of its traditional understandings and to be able deal with some of the feelings of dissonance which may arise between the model of family they feel that they should be advocating and the reality which they are called to engage with.

4a. Are our congregations focused on friendship evangelism courses or wider engagement in the local community?

If congregations are under-represented by single parents and have a culture where evangelism is done through like seeking to attract like (through existing networks of friends and contacts) it is less likely to be engaging with the changed shape of society this report has highlighted. The type of ‘targeted’ evangelism which Rick Warren and others have sometimes advocated has tended not to look to single parents as a group to attract.

However, if congregations are engaging with the wider society and community around them then it is going to involve more contact with the contemporary shapes of family and household.

4b.Do we see church as something we just do on a Sunday or as something wider which includes a range of activities during the week?

This contact with the wider community I referred to in 4a will not necessarily be on a Sunday morning and I would be very interested to find out the figures for single parent family participation in messy church activities if they are know. I suspect they may be disproportionately higher than other forms of church.

5. How do we choose our bible readings? Do we include stories such as that of Hagar and Ishmael?

There are bible passages which are highly relevant to our changed society, but they are not included in the lectionary and don’t come from the letters of Paul. For many churches engaging with the relevant biblical material will mean moving away from the passages normally used.

6. Do we have leaders (lay or ordained) with experience of or a good understanding of single parent issues?

If a church/ congregational leader is a single parent or has a close relationship with somebody who is or has been a single parent they will have a greater understanding and empathy. If not they may be holding on to inaccurate stereotypes based upon perception rather than reality. In the latter situation we need to question where their views of single parents are coming from.

Issues around leadership and gender can play a part here. If lay leaders (such as deacons and elders are able to be female there is a higher likelihood these bodies will include somebody who is or has been a single parent with full time care of their child). Similarly, if leaders who have been divorced are accepted then there is obviously going to be a greater probability that they will have an experience of single parenthood.

These six questions are ones which relate to a much wider debate and set of issues but I think are important to be engaged with, particularly in light of the statistics and headline comparative data.

Faithful Voices Speaking Out

I have alot of time for the Joint Public Issues Team and the information they publish is generally very good. This group which is comprised of representatives from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church, URC and in this case the Church of Scotland have produced an excellent report looking at the truth and lies about poverty in Britain.

The full title of the report is “The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty”. It begins with a quote from John Wesley given in 1753 but incredibly relevant for today, “So wickedly devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor only because they are idle’. The authors of the report make the point that the myth that poverty is caused primarily by idleness is something many inside and outside of our churches still believe.

Now before I go any further I know that there are some people who do fit the myths and stereotypes but these are a very small minority of all cases. Most of us would accept that the person who said during a call in on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio Two yesterday that he hated gay people and was a Christian – seemingly linking the two was not representative of most Christians. So the tiny number of those who fit the stereotype are no more representative of the poor.

A danger of believing the myths which the report highlights is the way in which they are used to form and push forward dangerous social policy without all the consequences of such policies being fully examined.

The report does not and cannot go through every argument but chooses some main ones to focus upon.

In regards to the myth that ‘They’ are lazy and don’t want to work it makes the point that there is no evidence for there being families where three generations have never worked. Reading this I was reminded of a passage in Mike and Trevor Phillips book Windrush about how the myths around black people were spread by the Enoch Powell and others in Wolverhampton and elsewhere. One was based on a letter which Powell eventually admited to a friend, who was black, there was no evidence to support.

The second myth they look at refers to the idea that many benefit claimants are addicts of one kind of another. Looking at the figures, without getting into the deeper debate around this, it makes the point that fewer than 4% of all claimants have reported an addiction of any kind.

With regards to the comments about it being poor money management the report shows that statistics show “the poorest spend their money carefully limiting their spending to essentials”.

In terms of the myths relating to benefit fraud the report states that “less than 0.9% of the welfare budget is lost through fraud. It goes on “if everybody claimed, and was paid correctly, the welfare system would cost around £18 billion more.”

The next myth which they deal with is the one which claims those on welfare have an easy life and it is a lifestyle choice. The evidence shows that in relation to average incomes  benefits have halved over the last 30 years and that this is not a lifestyle choice for most.

In regards to it being the poor and the welfare bill which caused the deficit “the proportion of our tax bill spent on welfare has remained stable for the last 20 years.”

The report seeks to challenge these myths through case studies and analysis of data and statistics.

Sunday Evening Reflection

This was the reflection I wrote for the service I took yesterday evening. Where appropriate I’ve linked to some stuff which might help readers, particularly any international readers understand some specific content, and I’ve also put some additional links at the end which fit in to the basic theme.

Readings: Psalm 12 & John 1:35-51

If the writer of Psalm 12 had been living in the UK and writing today he would have been likely to express many of the same feelings as he did then. Whilst being put somewhat more poetically than I’m about to he might have been saying the following sorts of thing:

It’s not like it used to be, hardly anybody goes to church anymore.

If it carries on like this they’ll be no Christians , we’ll have died out.

If you look at people these days it’s awful, you can’t trust anybody .

I just wish God would come and deal with the whole lot of them, shut them up once and for all because they think they can say what they like without caring about the impact of their words.

Because the poor are being exploited and those in need have to go to the Foodbank when they should have enough to eat I will rise up says the Lord.

I will provide them with the safe spaces where they can go without fear of abuse and getting into more poverty, the spaces that they long for.

The promises which come from God say what they mean.

The promises of God are ones which are precious and  have been thought through and tested out time after time.

You O Lord will protect us and guard us from the fundamentalist secularists, the people seeking to rip us off and those who want to abuse us because we happen to be poor for ever.

Wherever we turn there is wickedness, as materialism, deceit and things like that are put first.

Some bits of Psalm 12 are easy to for us to identify with but if we’re honest some bits are probably a bit harder. Often we can see the awful stuff going on around us and can grumble away about anything and everything. But as for seeing how God’s precious promises are true, those promises the Psalmist tells us were “silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times”, that’s a bit harder.

We look at our churches and we see that both Christian belief and church membership are going down. We look at the financial situation in the churches nationally and locally and see that things are not what they once were and that it does seem like nobody cares anymore.

We open our newspapers and turn on our tv sets and see our politicians lying to us and to each other. We get to the point where we don’t know who to trust anymore.

Those things are easy to identify with.

But what of the promises towards the poor? How do they work? And how can a God of love take vengeance on others?

These are big questions and I can’t even begin to answer them properly this evening. In fact I think with the complexity of the world we’ve seen through history they are questions which we have to hold in tension realising there is much about God and our faith we won’t ever understand but essentially God is a God of love and that was demonstrated through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I don’t know if you saw the tv movie Mary and Martha on BBC One on Friday evening. It told the story of two mothers, one English and one American whose children died of Malaria whilst out in Africa. They meet in their grief and share their stories.

Whilst visiting the orphanage where Martha’s son had worked they see a young boy rushed into hospital with Malaria. Mary notes how the hospital this boy is taken to is so different to the westernised one which she was able to take her son to.

The two women identify the scale of deaths from Malaria and that it is a preventable disease. However, each year vast numbers of children in the poor areas of the world still die.

This prompts me to ask If God’s promises are true where is he? Why are these children still dying? These questions are ones which I think we can answer a little this evening.

In the film Mary and Martha go before a senate committee looking at the subject of Malaria and the aid budget..

The chair of the committee gives a Tony Blair quote making the point that the cake is only so big and hard decisions have to be made when dividing it.

In reply Mary makes the point that more is spent on baldness in the US than on tackling Malaria.

The debate which follows makes the point that the statistics are actually people, Martha produces a huge array of photographs of children who have died from Malaria.

The film ends with Martha, Mary and her husband delivering mosquito nets and medicine donated by people who have seen their senate appearance on the news.

In this situation the Lord can be seen to have risen up and challenged the voices of the double hearted politicians through these two housewives who have gone through such tragedy.

So God’s way of rising up through history has tended to be by taking ordinary people and using them to do extraordinary things. By using them to challenge the lies and double speak rather than giving in to resigned cynicism. By using them to ensure that there are initiatives like Foodbank which are providing for the poorest.

He also sees the big picture, and the global picture. We may see the church as a dying institution because we are living in a time of secularisation but worldwide the church is growing. In Africa and China we have seen a huge growth in faith.

So perhaps we need to start believing as various groups have said over time that another world is possible. A world where we can start to get a glimpse of the bigger picture and the power that ordinary people can have, particularly when they are ready to connect with Christ and his teachings.

I don’t know if any of you have read the story of Steve Jobs one of the co-founders and former CEO of the Apple Corporation and the man behind the Apple Mac and i-pod or read Robin Sharma’s book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? In both books there is a story of a highly gifted man who goes searching for enlightenment  by travelling to Asia.  This going travelling as part of a spiritual search is something we have become increasingly familiar with since the 1960’s.

Others don’t go travelling but are engaged in a search for spiritual fulfilment. If any of you have been to Glastonbury for example you will know there is quite an industry grown up around this.

But is this searching around for the person or people with the answers really so new?

In the first century there were a range of spiritual and philosophical paths on offer in one form another. If any of you have seen Monty Python’s The Life of Brian you’ll be aware there is a scene where a market place of ideas is shown.

John the Baptist had disciples following him, spiritual seekers. In our gospel reading he signposts them to Jesus. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother was one of these first century spiritual seekers looking for the answer to lifes big questions.

Andrew hit the jackpot when he encountered Jesus and asked him where he was staying. Andrew recognised Jesus as messiah and the answer to his questions almost immediately according to the passage and shared the news with his brother who was another spiritual seeker. Philip another of those Jesus attracts shared the news with Nathanael.

Now Nathanael it  appears was a bit more wary and when he heard Jesus was from Nazareth asked, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”.

Philip doesn’t get into a big debate and argument with Nathanael but rather invites him to come and see for himself.

Jesus recognises that Nathanael needs evidence and encouragement to follow him. He recognised that Nathanael was a straight forward person who didn’t play games. So Jesus tells him he saw him under the fig tree. This is something personal and direct which relates specifically to Nathanael.

Nathanael who then recognises that he has been wrong and Philip is telling him the truth about Jesus follows him. Jesus makes the point that he will see things beyond those he has thought about.

So Jesus takes a group of spiritual seekers and turns them into disciples, ordinary people who will change the world. Ordinary people who will be used to found the church, a church which whilst not always getting it right has had a major role in helping to alleviate the suffering of many different people in different situations.

If we too have turned from spiritual seekers to followers who are becoming disciples that lays a challenge to us today because the God of the Psalmist, the God of Nathanael and the God we encounter are one in the same.

In this time and place we are those called to be used to be part of the change we and God wants to see. We are called to follow him and be involved in giving the poor the place of safety they long for, in being used to help fulfil the promises of the Lord and in helping other seekers find him.

Whilst I could have put in loads I’ve just put in a couple of useful links if you want to be part of the change, in addition to the  Trussell Trust (Foodbank) link earlier:

Enough Food If Campaign

British Red Cross

Knowing Where to Turn

I’ve talked before on this blog about places to turn for support if you are LGBandT and Christian and safe spaces, most recently though this resource list.

One of the groups I think is particularly exciting and vibrant on there is the Two23 Network. There last meeting was on Saturday on the subject of “families”.

There were a few people sharing their experiences of being family members of LGBandT people before Dr. Micah Jazz spoke eloquently and insightfully about our need to widen our view and not fall into focusing on a narrow view of nuclear family when the Christian faith offers such a vibrant alternative. Of those who spoke before one couple were involved in FFLAG and that’s a group I know does alot of good work but I haven’t signposted in the past – so putting that right now. They’re a secular rather than explicitly faith based group but do alot of good work.

What I really liked about the session was the way in which narrative was able to speak in a way which had a really holy feel to it.

Also realised that I have been very Christo centric in the past and in an attempt to put that right now I’m signposting you to Imaan which is a support group working with Muslim LGBandT people.

I know that it is getting into the world of work crossing into personal life with this post but I am become more and more aware of the importance of signposting and allowing people to access information and so don’t think a post like this every once in a while hurts.

Touch of Pink: Close Up

I could say lots of things about the Touch of Pink: Close Up exhibition which is currently in the Acorn House gallery. I could, but I won’t because it is quite sufficient to say that these excellent black and white photographic prints within this exhibition, which is a collaboration between MK Arts for Health and photographers Elizabeth Beston and Wendy Grant, together with the accompanying stories are simply very moving.

It was a priviledge to be able to see this exhibition and if you are local to MK I would highly recommend it. It is at Acorn House until the end of March and then moves on to other town centre venues.

Spirituality in the Cineplex

Beautiful Creatures is a 12A which I would have normally well and truly wussed out of. Fortunately when a group of us were going through the movie choices we had in the foyer of the cineplex I was unaware of the content of the film. Not saying I didn’t hide my eyes and wish I wasn’t there a few times, but it was ok and I loved overall story. The humour was great and the acting was fun – this is the nearest you get to Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons in Hammer Horror.

Whilst as the Guardian, (and others), have said of it there is more than a touch of the Twilight Saga about it there is a difference between this movie and your average Vampire/ Witch/ Zombie Gothic inspired teen chick flick. That difference is the way in which spirituality is discussed and the debate between rationality and faith is examined. It took the townspeople / supernatural folk interplay in a different and interesting direction as well as examining the way in which religion has and continues to be used and misused.

At one point the film explicitly explores “what is belief” and at another “what does the word sacrifice really mean?” and “what is the purpose of sacrifice?” is discussed.

There is a moment when Ethan, the main non-supernatural human, asks Amma, who is a seer and in many ways a bridge between the two communities/worlds how she can go to church when it thinks of as it does about the casters (witches). Amma answers him that God created all in his image, it is people who decide who was a mistake.

The film is in many ways a great morality tale showing there is good and bad within each of us and that we have choices, as well as illustrating as well as explaining the true nature of sacrifice.

I went surfing to see if I could find a link to a Christian film guide with content to support this film and couldn’t find one, having been on the Damaris site it appears they haven’t produced one. However, I did find this review which made me think “have I just watched a different movie?” I know I didn’t, it’s just I look at faith differently from my more conservative brothers and sisters. Where they saw a dangerous film I found a refreshing one which opened discussion.

My only real complaint with the content of the film was perhaps the way in which there seems to be an ongoing sexualisation of teenagers in films these days. Now, on one hand I know this is art reflecting reality rather than the other way round but on another I was left feeling a little uncomfortable about it in a way I can’t really explain.

However, even with that last bit in there if we were back in time about 5 years it is a film I would have been more than happy for Third Party to see and it would have been a really useful discussion tool. In addition to the spiritual themes already mentioned it would have been a good vehicle to look at the nature of prayer and when and how it is appropriate to pray, particularly if you find yourself threatened or believe you are in a situation of spiritual warfare – looking at what the bible said too.

There is a scene in the film which also discusses censorship and the way in which To Kill A Mockingbird was seen as a “banned” book because of subject content where two girls start praying against evil and refuse to read the book because of their beliefs. This would have been a really good discussion starter to ask what she thought and what she would have done in the situation and why. The content would have produced a vehicle for discussing some of the more difficult aspects of faith and its expression which I believe it is useful for parents to look at with their children. I think it would be useful for getting young people thinking through different strands of faith and may help prepare them for going to uni where they may encounter more conservative evangelical groups whose Christianity can be different to that which they have previously encountered. I believe aswell it would be good for discussing through and preparing them for dealing with secularism and humanism as ideologies.

In short I can’t recommend this film highly enough and if you are a Christian with a teenager, (who doesn’t get easily freaked), or even perhaps a youth leader working with 13+ age group I’d recommend this film as a great discussion starter opportunity.

200 issues on

Do lesbians still exist? It’s a question raised in the current issue of Diva, the 200th issue of the magazine which was first launched in 1994. The article outlines how identity has changed over the last eighteen years and how the lesbian community has widened out, now being much more welcoming to bi women for example.

The article is positive about the diversity which now exists, whilst acknowledging that it has taken some time to come about, and on one level that is fair. However, before we start celebrating it is worth noting the article itself finishes with a Stonewall advert saying  ‘Some people are bi. Get over it!’ And the OU Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity highlighted how “invisibility” is still a problem for bisexual people.

Similarly whilst the article goes on to talk about the way that transgender people are now much more accepted within the lesbian community, citing the Gingerbeer membership agreement as an example, the reality is there is still a way to go with the inclusion of trans women, as recent debates amongst feminists in the media and beyond have highlighted.

Additionally, it depends upon where you live in the UK as to how inclusive the wider community actually is of bi and trans people. Stonewall Scotland is highly inclusive whilst in England and Wales the charity excludes transgender people, for example.

All that said the reality is, as the article claims, that the whole situation is far different to where it was eighteen years ago and is continuing to evolve. We have moved from the days of clause 28 to the recent vote on the second reading of the equal marriage legislation. On Saturday the Guardian had Sophie Ward and her partner on the front page of the family section and the Terrance Higgins Trust has recently launched a new section on their website for trans men and women.

I began my coming out journey a few years after Diva launched but it was a part of that journey, particularly in the early naughties, when I used to buy it in the WH Smith in Canterbury.  I have seen it change over the last decade or so and for a while stopped buying it because it got so focused on sex it was little more than a lads mag for dykes but now it has emerged from that part of its history and is a decent magazine again. Part of the reason for that is the way it has had to become more inclusive but also there is now more content for them to include. Civil Partnerships gave a whole new set of articles to include from 2005 onwards. Parenting is now much more of an accepted part of LGBT experience in the way it wasn’t in the past, (although due to the number of people who had often been married at one point and so had children there have always been more LGBT parents than acknowledge). There is also now much less of a focus on youth than there was in the past too. Shows like the L Word and Lip Service have, I think, played an important part in this too. They have shown a variety of characters within them and given specific celebrities to be covered but beyond that I think the fact there are now more out public figures in than in the past has a key influence. This article on the DIVA 200th issue photo shoot has a range of people involved and Clare Balding was interviewed and featured on the cover of another recent issue.

But is it time to move on from specific lesbian media like Diva? My answer is no, to answer the original question whatever we may wish to call ourselves lesbians do still exist. Whilst the culture and experience between different people does differ and our media needs to reflect that the truth is that if we don’t have magazines like Diva and shows like Lip Service, (which has sadly not been commissioned for a third series), we will be people searching around for odd articles and characters who reflect that part of our experience and identity. What we need, as most other identity groups do, is a mix of media to choose from including but not exclusively lesbian media. So happy anniversary Diva, here’s to 200+ more.

Retelling Protest!

Protest has been in and out of fashion throughout history, in latter years it appears to have come into vogue again. It’s an continues to be a useful tool for sociologists and social historians to study.

Documentaries like We Are Many, which I blogged about in this post yesterday, are one way of preserving this social history – (as are blog posts themselves). Another way is the one being used by The Guardian at the moment, they have an essay writing competition going on where writers who were involved in protest during 2012 are invited to submit up to 5000 words on their experience. The winner will see their work published as part of the Guardian Shorts series of ebooks.

Then you can look back at the archives for flyers, papers and so one. One really useful resource for this type of thing is SchNEWS whose books give a history of the anarchist collectives work.

Then there are the books which retell the stories and sometimes seek to analyse what it all means. There is a small network of independent bookshops and presses which are particularly useful for this type of thing. One I can highly recommend is The People’s Bookshop in Durham, which I am glad is hanging on in there – all be it on reduced opening hours. They have a great collection and do online ordering if you go the website.

One thing I love about studying social movements, which I’ve done academically from time to time, is the accessibility of the research material. My undergrad dissertation on the opposition to the 1994 Criminal Justice Act involved following the NME for months, for example, (as well as collecting material at Glastonbury and elsewhere).

I hope that the material which the Guardian collects through this competition will be archived appropriately and that one day the whole set of stories they contain will be made available.