The Coup that Overthrew Democracy: The Black History Month Screening of ‘Wilmington on Fire’

Dr Jenny Barrett

If Black History Month seems like a recent American phenomenon, it may surprise you to know that Black History Month has its roots in a public history event in the US in February 1926 called “Negro History Week” which sought to endorse equality and celebrate Black achievement. Fifty years later it was given Presidential recognition and became a national month of celebration.

Thanks to the trailblazing efforts of activists and politicians in Britain over several decades, Black History Month was first recognised here in 1987, allegedly moved from February to October to coincide with the start of the academic year for universities. Whilst clearly inspired by the US BHM, it was also important for us to appreciate the distinct context of Britain as a nation with a long history of both racism and anti-racism.

Through recognising the efforts of those who have gone before us we can find the motivation to find ever more creative and effective ways to stand against racism here in the UK.

There is much, however, that we can continue to learn about Black achievement and persecution in US history.

Only in recent years has the story of the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, become public knowledge. In 1898, the black businesses, officials and families of Wilmington were massacred and exiled by a white militia. Their attack was the only completely successful coup of its kind, eventually filling all positions of power across the city with white people and claiming homes and land for themselves. It has been described as the event that began the consolidation of the White Supremacy movement and the establishment of Jim Crow segregation in the state, but for over a century it was kept out of the history books.

African American filmmaker Christopher Everett’s documentary, Wilmington on Fire, allows descendants of the Wilmington riots to tell the story along with local historians and scholars. In their own words we hear of the politically-sanctioned corruption, greed and violence which led to an event as shocking as the events in Washington, D.C. in January of this year.

On Thursday 21st October, Edge Hill University’s International Centre on Racism will be hosting the first UK screening of Christopher Everett’s film, followed by a live Q&A with the director via video link. Chris will also tell us about his follow-up to the film, Wilmington on Fire II, filmed in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Please book early to avoid missing this astounding, important film by clicking here.

This event is generously supported by the Institute for Social Responsibility.

Black History at Edge Hill University will be considered across several discussions, debates, and performances from international, national, and local experts. Please use this link to find out more.

Dr Jenny Barrett is a film scholar at Edge Hill University, and is the Co-Director and founder of the International Centre on Racism.

The Sustainability Festival is coming… be prepared to connect, engage and be inspired.

Prof Christopher Dent

The University’s Sustainability Festival – taking place Monday 1 to Friday 5 November – is a chance for everyone at Edge Hill and beyond to come together to feel part of a collective of people that want to make our world a better, more sustainable place.

It coincides with the first week of the COP26 Climate Summit the UK is hosting in Glasgow, and the Sustainability Festival is organised over five Day Themes, such as ‘Move it Monday’ (special focus on transport and mobility).

Across all five Festival days there are six ‘Activity Themes’:

  • Community – local organisations showcasing their sustainability focused work, mainly in The Hub building
  • Tours – various tours organised around Edge Hill’s beautiful green campus. Bike rides, get to know our campus’ wildlife and eco-buildings and systems, and an opportunity to plant flowers and shrubs in Edge Hill’s wonderful garden spots!
  • Performances – artistic inspiration on sustainability. We have various performance events planned – films, poetry, dance, drama and an art exhibition
  • Talks– something for everyone, covering different everyday sustainability issues such as recycling and energy. We also have fast rising media personality and former EHU student Joshua Styles giving a talk on plants on ‘Footprint Friday’ (5 Nov)
  • Food-Drink-Shopping – we have a number of food, drink and other sustainable product organisations coming onto campus to show how we can become more sustainable consumers
  • Competitions– these will be running all week on sustainability-related themes. Look out for updates on the Festival website. There are prizes to be won!

SustainNET has been the main driving force behind the Festival. Established in February 2020 under the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) umbrella, it is a network community of Edge Hill University staff seeking to advance the sustainability agenda on four main fronts: research, teaching and learning, student engagement and our local community with 30 local organisation partners.

As part of the Festival organisation, I was asked how I would define sustainability… I responded “Very carefully, as there are dozens of definitions out there”! The definition I prefer is the capacity for human civilisation and planet Earth’s biosphere to co-exist into the foreseeable future.

While this definition has an explicit environmental dimension, it also concerns how humans get on with each other, inferring a societal dimension. If there is peace, harmony and justice within human society, human civilisation is more likely to attain environmental peace, harmony and justice. Developing healthier and more sustainable food systems for example, will help us mitigate climate change and address local environmental issues.

We hope the Festival will help people see and understand various kinds of inter-connections that exist regarding sustainability, as well as connecting with each other. Come along to the Festival – engage and be inspired to look at our world and society in different ways. It will be great to see you there.

Christopher Dent is a Professor of International Business and Economics in the Business School and Director: SustainNET. Please get in contact with him if you wish to be part of the Festival or become a SustainNET Member – details on becoming a Member this can be found here.

Is there Value in Television?

Dr Elke Weissmann

On the 27 September, we celebrated the Critical Awards in Television for the first time. The awards are part of larger attempts by researchers and scholars in television to question what we accept as ‘good’ when we talk about television.

The awards – which are a collaboration between the EHU Television Studies Research Group of the Department of Creative Arts, the Institute for Social Responsibility, Critical Studies in Television, the Production Guild and Love Wavertree – aim to take the debate about ‘quality’ beyond the scholarly community and make the wider audience aware of questions of ‘value’.

What do we value when it comes to television?

We know we should all watch the newest iteration of expensive British or American drama, but we would rather curl up in front of the familiarity of our favourite soap.

We know that the news are good for us because they help us in our political decision making, but when it’s all bad news, some of us would rather turn to the comfort of home and garden making and other ‘lifestyle’ programming.

In the year of Covid, the Awards focused on TV that is often overlooked.

The award for comfort TV was voted on by the public. The winner, was Swan Film and Grayson’s Art Club (Channel 4, since 2020).

Similarly, we felt we should celebrate writing and production designing that cleverly used the restrictions of Covid to enhance its drama. There were only two contenders in the end: Keeping Faith (S4C, BBC, 2017-2021) which used the social distancing measures to really emphasise the emotional distances between the characters and Staged (BBC, 2020-2021) which was all about the pandemic and how it affected the two characters, Michael Sheen and David Tennant, who played themselves.  Here, Infinity Hill won with Staged.

However, this year, we placed the biggest importance on the work of keeping staff and crew safe which is part of the job of the production manager. Production managers are highly skilled and highly creative (as we saw in particular this year), but its not a job that a student dreams of when they think of the glamour of television. This is why we decided to celebrate it twice: by giving an award to those professionals who kept television productions going when everything else stopped, and by celebrating the students who managed to produce work despite restrictions.

The winners for this category were Lime Pictures and Hollyoaks (Channel 4, since 1995) who not only performed regular Covid tests on staff, but also trained actors up to do their own make-up, developed strict non-contact protocols in prop and costume and reduced scenes to as minimal a crew as possible. But we also gave the award to Gardeners’ World (BBC, since 1968) which was similarly creative by involving presenters in filming, getting remote-controlled cameras and asking the public to participate in the creation of the programme.

But it was the students that blew us away with their creativity – making use of the Covid restrictions to come up with compelling television in the form of quiz shows, television drama, documentaries and avant-garde think pieces.

From our shortlist of eleven productions, it was Middlesex University, and Joseph Ferris and Isaac Pimm’s quiz show Percentage that took the winning price. As Lyndsay Duthie, the CEO of the Production Guild and judge of the student production award, put it, this was a highly professional and creative idea, extremely well executed.

Congratulations to all winners – and we will be back next year.

View videos of the awards and winners here.

Dr Elke Weissmann is Reader in Television and Film at Edge Hill University and lead curator of the Critical Television Awards.

Photos: Middlesex University students celebrating. EHU Vice-Chancellor John Cater. Prof Lyndsay Duthie, the Production Guild. Host and Edge Hill alumnus, Philip McGuiness.

As Black History Month Begins, what is the Reality of ‘Blackness’?

Dr Joy Gana-Inatimi

Today marks the launch of Black History Month 2021.

As a black woman in 21st century, BHM is a bittersweet period of time of year.  Yes, it is great to be able to celebrate Black culture and history; but what happens before and after October each year?  Does Britain celebrate my “Blackness”? 

Sometimes, yes, I can recognise it in the warmth I feel from my diverse family, friends and colleagues who accept me for me – just Joy, chatty, tall, black, from the Wirral. I see it in the smiles from the myriad of faces I come across in my walk across campus, I hear it in the cheeky banter that is unique to our region, and sense it in the open friendliness of a Northern town.

However, at other times I am forced to face the less pleasant underbelly of racist Britain. At one level there is institutional racism illustrated by the stubborn attainment gap in higher education.

There is cultural, conscious racism shown by three young men being ripped apart on social media by a minority of ignorant bigots over a football game and the non-stop negative narrative about the Duchess of Sussex.

Then there is the personal racism; driving through Walton in Liverpool and praying that my sons have not spotted the mature couple in the car next to us shouting and making monkey gestures at us; my husband being stopped by the police to prove that his car belongs to him, and the awful moment when I received a phone call to inform me that my husband had been stabbed by a patient in a racially motivated attack in the hospital where he works. 

This is Britain in 2021, and sadly I am not unique. 

So, when I had the opportunity to represent the Medical School and Health Research Institute, two communities within EHU that have welcomed me with open arms, to work on BHM, I can only do by being myself – Joy. 

Working in collaboration with the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) and Professor Jo Crotty who is chairing the BHM working group this year, a programme of events, workshops and exhibitions have been developed to celebrate Black culture and Black history while we also acknowledge the reality of the world we live in. 

Here at Edge Hill we will be celebrating Black culture and history in October, but we will also do this all year round as we celebrate humanity with other groups that make up this unique community where we live, learn and work. 

We will not shy away from the challenges and realities of the lives we live though and so we will also share our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – so we can learn from each other and grow together as a community.

If you are black or BAME, please join us to share your experiences at two BHM workshops on October 6th and 27th in a safe and supported space. Click below to confirm your place – lunch is provided.

06 Oct: Speaking Up and Speaking Out Our Truths

27 Oct: Learning, Living and Working Better Together

For the full programme of events, please click here.

Dr Joy Gana-Inatimi  is senior lecturer at the Edge Hill University Medical School, Health Research Institute and Respiratory Research Centre.

Blow the Whistle: Referee Shortages in Grassroots Football

Dr Jimmy O’Gorman

As my 17-year-old son prepares to referee a local Under 15s football fixture his phone begins to incessantly ping. There is a shortage of referees to fulfil all local junior football fixtures again this weekend.

This has not come without warning, nor is it a surprise. An open letter by the referee development officer from Kent County FA cites a 25% loss of referees over the last two years. They explain: “if each of those 400 referees lost were to referee approximately 20 games a season, it results in approximately 8,000 matches being played without a referee”.

The pandemic has exposed the dark, ugly underbelly of problematic behaviour in grassroots football. Despite virtual training and development opportunities, and mental health and well-being support provided by  County FA’s, it is clear many referees have declined a return to officiating because of verbal and physical abuse they received before the game was locked down.

Upon the resumption of fixtures, the Kent referee development officer reported that referees have immediately quit due to verbal abuse, physical intimidation, social media threats, and alarmingly, an adult and adolescent referee being physically assaulted, in the latter case, by an adult.

If replicated across all County FA areas in England, these losses threaten to undermine the recovery from the pandemic, given referees are facilitators of regular, structured organised physical activity for approximately 2 million children and adults every week.

Research highlights that referees perceive a lack of effective support networks and a lack of trust in the disciplinary process, resulting in abusive incidents not being reported. More worryingly is that of the approximate 28,000 registered referees, approximately 26% are aged 14-18 – a key target group in the FA’s referee strategy – are exposed to these types of abuses. These young people often officiate alone, without parental supervision or adequate support mechanisms.

Research has yet to account for the unique circumstances adolescent referees find themselves in. Here, there appears to be a ‘policy gap’. At best, adolescent referees come under the FA’s policies designed to protect junior players from abuse and safeguard their welfare. But such policies do not reflect or account for the unique safeguarding issues adolescent referees may experience or be exposed to.

As we emerge from the pandemic, if long-term retention of grassroots football referees is to be realised, future research and practical endeavours are required to more effectively safeguard adolescent referees and provide supportive mechanisms for them to develop free from abuse.

Dr Jimmy O’Gorman is Senior Lecturer in Sport Development, Management and Coaching at Edge Hill University.

The Show Still Went on – Despite the Risk Assessments!

Perelandra Beedles

The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) had a profound impact on many industries, and the broadcast sector was no exception. As governments around the world imposed various restrictions to try to limit the further spread of the virus, the impact on film and TV production was immediate.

I followed the progress of the UK broadcast industry closely, as they attempted to meet the requirement for covid health and safety measures. Having worked for decades as a Producer and Production Manager I already knew how inventive and hardworking productions teams can be, but it was still impressive to see just how pioneering television crews became; from filming presenters in their homes, to creating storylines which allowed covid bubbles of crew and cast to be formed; it was an exercise in rapid innovation.

The film and TV Restart Scheme (DCMS/Gov) may have helped productions mitigate against issues in terms of insurance, but it was the clear guidelines created by organisations such as the  British Film Commission (BFC) and PACT which offered vital signposting in the early days of getting production back on track.

It was also the moment for production managers to shine. Already used to delivering a centrally orchestrated approach to behaviours, they quickly ​adapted to new Covid protocols, developing ground-breaking methodologies to do so.​ This work was not only impressive in terms of production craft, but also played a vital role in helping the nation survive the challenges of lockdown. Ensuring the public were still able to access engaging, wonderful shows, even on the darkest of days.

Prior to Covid, the Television Research group at Edge Hill University, had already decided to create the Critical Awards in Television. As we all spent longer amounts of times indoors, the need to celebrate television and all it offered us became ever more important; and so it felt entirely right to create a Covid Health and Safety award.

We have invited production companies to nominate the productions they feel were particularly successful in negotiating health and safety for their productions. Voting is still open and the response to this acknowledgement to the demands created by the new H & S protocols has been truly humbling. Production Managers have spoken of the varied and holistic approaches they had to create, as the boundaries between homelife and the production office were blurred.​

From having to teach presenters and their families to self-shoot from home, to reinventing workflows to allow everything to be shot and edited fully remotely, what is abundantly clear is that the UK television industry is open to learn, able to adapt and will always find a way to keep the nation entertained.

The Critical Awards in Television will be held on 27th September at Wavertree Town Hall. We invite you to join us virtually by registering here.

Perelandra Beedles is a Senior lecturer in Television production Management in the Department of Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. Her research is focused on the impact of production schedules on those with caring responsibilities and sustainable television production.

Image: Screenshot from Staged

It’s Official: It’s Not Television That Makes You Stupid

Dr Elke Weissmann

On Monday, 13 September, The Guardian ran a story with the subtitle ‘TV really does rot your brain’. It was based on research by different American health scientists who looked into the relationship between (self-reported) television consumption and decline in grey matter in later life. The great aspect was that these were long-term studies, often starting as far back as the 1980s. The not so great element was that they focused on self-reported television consumption (seldom, sometimes, often) and very little else. When you read the statement of one of the research leads, Kelley Pettee Gabriel, what becomes evident is that it’s not about watching television but sedentary behaviour which television consumption is assumed to be.

So it’s not television, it’s lack of movement which is the actual problem. You could as well say ‘driving everywhere makes you stupid’. But obviously that is not a headline people would trust. However, a headline works that confirms society’s believes about television, a hugely important medium, but one where the technology is based in the home and has become a ‘home appliance’, which we consume in the private sphere and which women consume more. So why does television remain the bad object?

In my own research from 2012 I highlighted that television in the UK only became ‘good’ in the eyes of critics when it could be masculinised, either by the recourse to an imagined ‘creative genius’ of a showrunner or by connecting it to technology such as the internet and streaming services. What that research also implied is that in the UK (and also in the US) television overall remains connected to the feminine (and the working-class).

The value systems that are applied in order to judge television remain those highly established in our society. Valuable is that which is connected to the masculine, the upper or upper middle-classes and often that which is white (unless it is working class and white). Everything else is just labelled ‘trash’, at best perceived as popular culture, at worst as ‘rotting your brain’.

But television is a medium of incredible innovation and of huge importance in our daily lives. Be honest: how often did you turn to television for information, comfort or both during the pandemic? And what role does television play for you in your daily life? Should we not, because we use it daily, celebrate it more?

Well, that was our thinking when we developed the Critical Awards in Television, an award that aims to celebrate that which is often forgotten or overlooked and which we set up in order to challenge the hierarchies described above. Considering the impact of the pandemic on us all, we decided to focus this year on everything to do with the pandemic.

This meant celebrating writing and production design that managed to use the constraints of the pandemic for creative purposes, celebrating those production managers who are in charge of health and safety who have managed to come up with clever ideas to continue producing the programmes we love, and giving an award to the television programme that gave us most comfort.

The last category (the television programme that gave us most comfort) is decided by you, the public, and you can still vote by putting the number 195-874-377 into the Vevox app (voting closes Monday 20 September 2021).

Dr Elke Weissmann is Reader in Television and Film in the Department of Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. Her research is focused on television, transnational relations, and gender and the media.

From Disaster Comes (Environmental) Opportunity

Professor Paul Aplin

COVID wasn’t born in a Chinese lab. That’s my view, probably yours too, whatever the latest conspiracy-theorists say. The genetic makeup of COVID-19 is 96% identical to one found in bats, and the COVID outbreak has been pinned down to a wet food market in Wuhan. Wet food markets trade wild animals, often illegally, and increasing contact between wild animals and humans creates the opportunity for a disease to jump species.

This has happened before, and it will happen again. In a recent radio documentary called ‘The Jump’, Chris van Tulleken describes how the HIV virus jumped from primate to human patient zero, when a starving WWI soldier butchered a chimpanzee in Congo, and then traces this event forward to the 1980s global AIDS crisis.

The term ‘illegal wildlife trade’ likely conjures up certain images in your mind, perhaps with elephants, rhinos and tigers looming large, though pangolins are the most illegally traded animal (around 100,000 annually), and more than one billion orchids are traded each year, a large proportion of which is illegal. A recent UN survey estimated the illegal wildlife trade to be worth $23B per year.

No wonder there is increasing contact between humans and wild animals. We don’t need a lab to propagate disease; the environment is doing it for us. And we’re doing it to the environment. Yes, wet food markets pave the way for viruses to jump, but far more significant here is habitat destruction for human development – logging, palm oil production, urbanisation, mining.

By reducing available habitat, wild animals are being pushed into human environments. How did bats come to be in a wet food market in Wuhan? Interestingly, Hollywood may have the answer! Have a look at the YouTube explainer for Matt Damon and Kate Winslet’s ‘Contagion’ blockbuster: . While bulldozers raze the forest, resident bats fly off to find a warm pig-barn to roost in, and when pork dishes are later served up in a Hong Kong restaurant…

COVID is a human disaster, born from human-environment interaction, but what are its effects on the environment? Well, some good news in respect of the illegal wildlife trade, at least initially. In South Africa, rhino poaching fell by a third from 2019 to 2020, largely because of lockdown restrictions and reduction of human mobility. Separately, you might have seen satellite images of vastly reduced air pollution soon after the first severe lockdown, because of massive cuts in road traffic. Clearly there are opportunities here.

This year, the UK hosts COP26, the UN’s major Climate Change event. In the US, major political change means sights are being re-set on the environment, but now in a good way. Globally, the youth climate movement is showing a genuine will to make change. And, COVID is giving us cause to reflect fundamentally on, well, everything: how we do things, can we change, can we make some things better? There exists, right now, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence the global environmental agenda – reset societal priorities, rethink individual actions and renew environmental relationships. Any individual can get involved in COP26. Remember the old adage, ‘think global, act local’. But do act.

Paul Aplin is Professor of Geography at Edge Hill University.

He recently gave a lecture on this topic at the Edge Hill Festival of Ideas. This can be viewed here.

How do we Respond to Terror?

Travis D. Frain

Its been nearly five years since I joined Edge Hill University, studying for a BA in History with Politics. My time as a student was far from orthodox, as in March 2017 I was part of a group of politics students involved in the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge whilst on a university trip down to London.

A lot has changed since then; wanting to learn more about the events that had led to my involvement, I decided to enrol with Lancaster University on a Military History. The experience broadened my understand of  many issues, principally the need for better understanding of extremism, and for us to better support those affected by acts of terror.

Survivors of terrorism can require support across an array of areas. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Immediate medical, and ongoing physical and mental health treatment
  • Expert, legal and financial issues
  • Assistance with the media
  • Enquiries, inquests, and concurrent court action
  • Threats from conspiracy theorists or intimidation from extremists

Our pressure group Survivors Against Terror interviewed nearly 300 British victims of terrorism in 2018 with revelatory results.

76% identified mental health services as inadequate, 52% identified a lack of financial support, and 38% highlighted insufficient legal support.

Perhaps unsurprisingly 84% of interviewees identified family or friends, and 56% identified survivors of other terror attacks as their primary provider of support; only 5% identified the State.

I’m proud that Edge Hill University has taken the initiative on this by organising last week’s ‘Victims of Terrorism and State Responses’ Conference at which I was privileged to present. This is an example of how we can all begin to better understand these issues.

The requirement to better understand and respond to these needs is incumbent on us all, because as terror attacks, whilst rare, show little sign of diminishing; and so there will always be victims of terrorism.

By proactively investing in support before an attack occurs we can foster resilience within our communities against terrorism, and seek to prevent future attacks from occurring in the first place.

We can succeed in making the necessary changes and improving things for future victims.

Travis D. Frain, Survivors Against Terror Support Group.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The Renewal of Medical Education in the Era of the COVID 19 Pandemic

Professor John Sandars

The COVID 19 pandemic has seen unprecedented disruption in how we all live, learn and work; medical education has been no exception. 

The global impact has fallen mainly on clinical training, especially for medical students and junior doctors.  Traditional opportunities for clinical training, including general practice and hospital, initially became impossible due to the high workload of teachers since they were responding to the enormous demands created by a surging wave of seriously ill patients. Training via the ‘laying on of hands’ also became problematic.

Despite these initial challenges however, new and innovative approaches have been developed and implemented.  Medical students are now actively engaged in patient consultations through phone and video-links. Operations can be live-streamed to medical students and junior doctors and followed up by an associated online discussion with the surgeons.  Consultations and practical clinical skills can be practiced using the latest virtual reality techniques using personal headsets and mobile device apps.  

Medical students have also provided a vital contribution to healthcare, especially for raising awareness about the prevention of COVID-19 infection in the community and supporting the increasing number of testing and vaccination schemes. Through these activities, medical students have gained wide variety of skills that will be of great value for both their future personal and professional lives.

There are also increasing concerns about a global divide in medical education during the present uncertain times, particularly as many medical schools with low resources are also in some of the poorest countries of the world with the highest number of COVID-19 infections and other health challenges.

It is therefore essential that the initial creativity and innovation to medical education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Moreover, medical schools will need to continue sharing their expertise and innovations, particularly between schools with higher and lower resources.  Without practical help to implement some of the innovations, such as consultations by video or clinical training using virtual reality, future graduating medical students may not have the clinical knowledge and skills to ensure that they are adequately trained to work as junior doctors.

Rapidly conducting research and evaluation of the implementation of innovations, along with rapid dissemination, will also be essential to ensure that the important lessons learned can inform transfer and further refinement in other contexts, without a major time delay.  This is a challenge for current publishing opportunities, such as peer-reviewed journals. New free open access opportunities for widely disseminating research and evaluation related to medical education innovations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be developed.

Renewal of medical education has, and will continue to be a global challenge, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to act to ensure that we have a skilled future global workforce of doctors.

Prof John Sandars is Professor of Medical Education at Edge Hill University.

He recently gave an Edge Talk on this topic at the Edge Hill Festival of Ideas. This can be viewed here.

Keir Relief?

Paula Keaveney

©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor


After a massive build up and an election night involving a partial re-count, we have a result. Can Keir Starmer breathe again?

The Labour victory in the Batley and Spen by-election (winning by 323), a close result after a tense and at time acrimonious contest, is qualified good news for Labour leader Keir Starmer.  Losing the Labour seat, after the loss in Hartlepool and the poor performance in Chesham and Amersham, would have exacerbated the attacks on his leadership.  But those disappointed by Starmer will still point to a loss in vote share in a seat which, in previous years, would have been in the “easy hold” category.

Politics is often a game of expectation management and perception.  A set of figures can be read several ways, and spinners and commentators know that it is often the “first take” which runs the story.  And there is a lot to choose from.  There is share of the vote – for Labour this time it was 35 per cent.  There is change in share from previous contests.  And there is performance against expectations.

While this result may pause some of the anti-Starmer briefing and speculation within the party, it is clear that some see the narrowness of the result as being akin to a loss.  Most of us are asleep at the time morning results are declared.  But you can tell who has an agenda by the speed as well as the contents of what is said.  “This is Labour’s lowest-ever share of the vote in Batley and Spen. In 2019 they won 43%” is how one left wing anti Starmer website put it minutes after the declaration.

Most early commentators describe the result as providing breathing space for Starmer.  If winning is what matters, he has won.  And he can now have a happy photo opportunity in Yorkshire with the victor, Kim Leadbeater.  It is also clear that the spoiler campaign run by former MP George Galloway has not achieved its stated aim of causing a Labour loss.

But it is simply too early to say that attacks on Starmer won’t continue (albeit in a more behind-the-scenes way).  Labour activists will be cheered by their ability to defend a seat under considerable attack.  But questions will be asked.  Good campaigning is essential when margins are close.  But should the margin have ever got that close? And Labour face potential difficulties in future.  There are two MPs, elected in 2019 for Labour, with trials coming up this year, either of which could end up leading to a by-election.

Starmer however does have some advantages.  The political calendar in the UK means the Parliamentary recess is not that far off.  Autumn sees party conferences which, whether online or in person, give party leaders a chance to re-set, re- launch and re-enthuse.

But while Sir Keir ponders what the result means, the Conservative party needs to pause for thought too.  It used to be rare for sitting Prime Ministers to campaign in by-elections.  Boris Johnson however made a point of paying visits to West Yorkshire for this one.  And the Conservatives failed to manage expectations properly.  The narrative of “another hole in the red wall” was allowed to take hold and run in most media. 

The question remains as to whether by-elections are significant and how we should decipher the results.  I have written about this elsewhere on this site, but real political junkies love by-elections – so bring them on.

Paula Keaveney is programme leader for Politics at Edge Hill University.

Does the Award for Best Television Programme go to What We Value Most?

Elke Weissmann

It’s award season: the BAFTAs have just been celebrated at the beginning of June, and in America, the Emmys will be handed out in September. Did your favourite programmes win? No? Some of them? You are not sure?

Your potential lack of knowledge is not all that surprising. This is the industry celebrating itself and letting us in via the ceremony. But what that means is that there might be a bit of a disconnect between what we as audiences value about television and what the industry celebrates for itself.

The BAFTAs, for example, largely celebrate television as if it were film: awards go to writing, best performance (in different genres), supporting actors, and then best programme in genre categories – as if they didn’t know what to do with all the rest of television. I don’t know about you, but it’s the rest of television plus drama that I love so much: it’s its variety, and the fact that there are some incredibly clever people who manage to bring them together so I can just watch one programme and see what’s on next.

But there are other things about television that we can and that we do value: for example, you might watch lifestyle programming so that you learn about interior design trends, or The Repair Shop (BBC, since 2017) for its heart-rendering stories of loved possessions and family loved and lost, or Love Island (ITV, since 2015) for how ordinary young adults connect with each other, but really care more about their families. Value, in other words, lies in many places in television, and often the things that we value have more to do with our everyday lives than the glamour and glitz that awards based around filmic categories suggest.

The problem with awarding television as if it were film is that it does what so much of television’s history has done: it undervalues television as a medium. Television scholarship has spent a lot of time and effort on trying to critique the basic value systems with which it has been judged. Television has been denigrated because it is a medium connected to the domestic sphere and is hence often perceived as feminine. It has been looked down upon as a mass medium because the ‘masses’ are usually conceptualised as working class. Thus, the value systems with which we judge television as a medium, but also much of its genres, are those of a middle-class patriarchy. At the same time, the people who make the biggest decisions in television are precisely white, middle-class and male, and have therefore often looked down on the medium itself. A particularly notorious figure in that regard was William Haley, director general of the BBC between 1944 and 1952, who made his preference for radio very clear.

While television scholarship has been brilliant at critiquing the implicit biases of much of the value judgements made about television, it hasn’t yet been able to really offer alternatives. The Television Studies Research Group at Edge Hill University, in collaboration with Critical Studies in Television, the Production Guild, the Institute for Social Responsibility and Love Wavertree now want to do something about this: they are introducing the CATs: the Critical Awards in Television which will celebrate television in the way that we think matters. And I don’t know about you, but this year, I really valued that it kept going. So this year, we are celebrating television that gave us comfort during Covid, that dealt well with the new health and safety guidelines, that came up with ingenious writing or production design so that it could be made, and that our students made despite the pandemic.

And we invite you – the public – to nominate your favourite programmes. To find out more, and to nominate the programme you think did best in those categories, please visit the CATs website.

Dr Elke Weissmann is Reader in Television and Film in the Department of Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. Her research is focused on television, transnational relations, and gender and the media.

4 years on from the Manchester Arena Attack

Figen Murray

On 22 May 2017, my life changed forever. My son, Martyn, was 29 years old at the time and looking forward to seeing Ariana Grande in concert at the Manchester Arena.

Soon after 10.30pm that night we heard the news that an explosion had taken place at the Manchester Arena.  Martyn was among the 22 lives that would never return home that night due to a terrorist attack.

The news of his death shook our family to the core. He was such a pillar in our lives and his kindness and generosity had touched so many people. I can never fully process why the attackers would want to take away the precious life of my son along with those of all the other victims.

The inquiry into the bombing is now underway.

Last year I came face to face with the bomber’s brother as he was sentenced to 55 years in prison at the Old Bailey.

I am now in the final stages of completing my masters in counterterrorism, and the consultation for Martyn’s Law is moving ahead. This new proposed legislation I hope will keep even more people safe at public venues.

Martyn’s Law would apply to any place or space to which the public have access. For small venues this may require just minimal measures to be changed or added, e.g. a better back entrance lock or identifying a safe exit route for customers and staff in the event of an attack. Bigger venues with a greater footfall will require a more holistic approach. Martyn’s Law aims to be proportionate and would consists of 5 requirements for publicly accessible locations:

  • Staff to be given free online training
  • Vulnerability assessments should be conducted inside and outside the venue
  • Mitigation of the risks identified during vulnerability assessments should be undertaken
  • A counter-terrorism action plan should be put in place
  • Local authorities should be required to plan for the threat of terrorism

The consultation ends 2nd July 2021 when it will be evaluated by the government in terms of both qualitative and quantitative analysis.   This will take some time and hopefully will proceed to the next stage before becoming a reality to keep us all much safer in the future.

Of course we must always remember that the decision by an individual to engage in a terrorist act caused this atrocity – but we can always look for ways to make it more difficult for those who make the decision to act in this way.

Figen Murray is a peace campaigner and speaker at tomorrow’s Victims of Terrorism Conference, hosted by Edge Hill University. Click here for more information and to register.

Photo: bethlouisetwist

Who Compensates Victims of Terror? The Northern Ireland Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme

Professor Emeritus Clive Walker QC (Hon), Christiane Rabenstein

During the Troubles in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1998 over 3,000 people died.

It is also estimated that more than 40,000 people suffered both physical and psychological injuries, and many of those still live with permanent disablement.

Yet, relatively few instances of loss have been compensated by tort law, and so most victims of terrorism must have recourse to programmes of state aid and compensation.

While the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was relatively silent about ‘legacy victims’, in subsequent years, various remedies have been proposed and either discarded or applied. Some have been grand in conception, but the most workable have been adapted from a myriad of mundane pre-existing processes, including criminal process, inquiries, and inquests.

In that light, the latest attempt to afford justice to victims of terrorism is the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme introduced under the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020, which involves a new scheme, not of the ‘grand’ category but also not pre-existing, for the payment of pensions to persons severely injured in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The Regulations which came into force in January 2020 set out the entitlement to victims’ payments, the amount and determination of such payments and establish the Victims’ Payments Board which will be responsible for determining who is entitled to payments in respect of an injury caused by a Troubles-related incident. After a number of delays, the Scheme is expected to open for applications from 31st August 2021. 

Unlikely to reach the giddy heights of the billions of dollars paid to the 9/11 victims, it might at least provide those who are still living, with some recompense. We discuss this scheme and its potential outcomes at the upcoming Victims of Terrorism Conference, hosted by Edge Hill University on 2nd July 2021. Click here for more information and to register.

Professor Clive Walker is Emeritus Professor of Law at University of Leeds.

Christiane Rabenstein is a Legal Adviser at PNLD, the Police National Legal Database, and co-author of Blackstone’s Counter-Terrorism Handbook

Photo by Jordan on Unsplash

Appropriate Response: Who are the Victims in a Terrorist Attack?

Terry O’Hara

Three questions:

  1. Is it worse to be a victim of terrorism than any other violent crime?
  2. What is so different about being a victim or survivor of terrorism?
  3. Should the state response for victims of terrorism be different to that for other crime?

Founded by Colin and Wendy Parry, the parents of 12-year-old Tim, who was killed, along with 3-year-old Johnathan Ball, in IRA bomb attack on Warrington Town Centre in 1993, Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation, seeks answers to these questions.

Over the years, the Peace Foundation has become a leading international Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution organisation and has provided support for victims and survivors of terrorism. So what have we learned?

Is it worse to be a victim of terrorism than any other violent crime? From speaking to many people, I do not think anyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by terrorism would say that their experience was especially ‘worse’ than that of a victim of any other violent crime, but it is different in many ways. Each victim’s experience (and this is true any crime) is unique but victims of terrorism face additional challenges. For example, they may find themselves in the midst of a global conflict they had no previous part of. A media storm blows up around them that takes no heed of their wellbeing, privacy, or other needs. Their names may be brought up to further political causes they may not agree with and so on.

What is so different about being a victim or survivor of terrorism? When an act of terrorism is carried out, generally speaking, the victims were not the focus. Society at large, a way of life, all of ‘us’ – were the target. Individual victims become almost incidental, and emerge as footnotes in their own story. This adds to the feeling of being out of control of events and overwhelmed by the tragedy. Fortunately, despite the current threat levels, terrorism in GB is rare and the chances of any of us being affected by terrorism are vanishingly small, but this compounds the feeling of isolation and that nobody understands what they have been through.

Should the state response for victims of terrorism be different? One argument is that, as society at large, was the target, the state has an additional responsibility to the victims and survivors. This is a national, not a local issue. If someone visiting Sunderland from Somerset, Strabane, Stornoway, or Swansea, was injured in a terrorist attack, which local authority or Police and Crime Commissioner should be responsible for the aftercare? In short, the answer is a combination of local and national services. People need quality and timely support that meets their needs and is delivered locally but nationally coordinated and funded in a sustainable way that recognises the need for continuity and recognises the long-term needs of victims and survivors of terrorism.

We will discuss these and related issues at the Victims of Terrorism and State Responses online conference on Friday July 2nd where we will look at how the criminal justice system accommodates and assists the victims of terrorism. To join us and for more information about this event on Friday please visit the event webpage.

Terry O’Hara, manages the ‘Survivors Assistance Network’ (SAN) at the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation in Warrington.

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

When Documentary Filmmaking Meets Academia – Screening ‘The Atom: A Love Affair’ at ISR

Vicki Lesley

As those who attended the recent ISR online screening of my film The Atom: A Love Affair heard in the lively discussion that followed, making this documentary has been an epic undertaking for me.

When I set out to investigate the renewed push for nuclear power back in the late 00’s, I had no idea that the social and political history of this contested energy source would end up consuming more than a decade of my professional life.

The journey was a long one partly for practical reasons – raising the finance for an independent film is notoriously difficult and I was still working my main job in TV, as well as having two babies along the way.

But there were unexpected benefits too, chief amongst them the freedom I had to follow whichever research paths interested me the most, without pressure from a broadcaster to produce a stereotypically combative film focusing on the same old ‘hot button’ issues (safety, waste, climate change etc). I wanted to do something different, exploring the deeper forces motivating all those involved in nuclear power, on whatever ‘side,’ from the geopolitical to the emotional.

I had little money, but I did have time. I was also fortunate to be invited to a series of meetings and workshops for an AHRC-funded project at Birkbeck College on ‘Material Cultures of Energy’ and a follow up project from the Science Museum where I met Edge Hill University’s Dr Phillipa Holloway, leading to the ISR screening.

The interaction with academia has been one of the real pleasures of making this film.  

Although the film is aimed at a general audience, I’ve been deeply gratified by the response from the academic community so far – the post-screening discussions after university screenings have without exception been extremely stimulating, as those attending have been able to draw out connections between the stories and characters in the film and their own work.

I also have a vast resource of unreleased interview footage – I interviewed about 50 different contributors for an average of 2 hours each so the material that made it into the final cut of The Atom: A Love Affair is really only the tip of the iceberg. I wonder if this material might be of use to any researchers out there – maybe even someone reading this blog? It would certainly be a wonderful coming full circle if at the end of the film’s long journey, and I might be able to make my own small contribution to the academic record in some way.

The Atom: A Love Affair, directed by Vicki Lesley, is available to stream at vimeo.com/ondemand/theatomaloveaffair You can contact Vicki directly at vicki@tennerfilms.com or find out more about the film via her website at https://theatomfilm.com

Not from Keith: What can Posthuman theory and an old Easter card do?

Opening up Conversations about Performativity, Playfulness and Creativity in the Early Years of Primary School.

Dr Jo Albin-Clark

I’ve inherited a bag filled with my primary school books and creations. One thing catches my attention, a faded card with an adult drawn chick shape decorated with scrunched up tissue paper. Inside, a young hand has written ‘from Keith’ that my younger self has scribbled out and, in its place, written my own name. I wonder about the missed events from the last year, and the gaps in the bags that go quietly into lofts.

Anyone with involvement in teaching young children in schools will have a memory of all the reasons why cards get mixed up.  Sometimes card marking can feel like a production line, set up from an adult made template, pre-prepared materials in a row, an alphabetical list being ticked off at speed as sticky creations are laid out to dry. It is easy to mix things up in the lively reality of a classroom.  

Yet the scribble tells stories of the discourses that swill around education. It talks of teachers under pressure in performative cultures where making cards and more playful pedagogies can get sidelined. It hints at the precarious nature of subjects that are not literacy and mathematics. It raises questions about how confident teachers feel in allowing children to lead their own learning with the related pressure to send home such things to families. Looking back at the scribbled-out name, I wonder if the card had been a more individual creation myself and Keith would not have got mixed up.

Recently my research enquiries consider the inter-relationships between children and the things they use in the classroom.  Although the reading can take time to make sense of, I have found the thinking a refreshing alternative to the educational policy climate of England that can privilege individual outcomes. I have found that post-human theorists like Barad open the door for viewing education within a more complex frame of interdependency between humans, matter and materials .

So going back to my ancient Easter card; through the lens of Karen Barad’s theories I can see the entanglements between the material and the discursive.  All those influences, questions, forms of analysis and enquiries begin to bubble up. I’m planning to use examples like the card mix-up and great scandal of scrunched-up tissue paper in my module teaching for our new Masters programme. In the Early Years pathway, I have a shiny new module called ‘The Power of Playful Pedagogies’. Using real artefacts like this can open lively debates and rich jumping off points for thinking, research and writing.

Reflecting on the last year, perhaps we can think about the ownership of children’s creations to save those moments when the dusty bag comes down from the loft. So now I bet you are wondering…does Keith’s mum have a card with my name scribbled out?

Dr Jo Albin-Clark is a senior lecturer in the Early Years Department, Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University.

Poll Position

Paula Keaveney

When I worked for the BBC in Lancashire I remember one local election night when control of the council rested on the result of just one ward in Skelmersdale.  It was an anxious wait for the party leaders and showed how knife-edge some elections can be.

We could see a lot more of the knife-edge after today’s vote – the largest electoral contest since the 2019 general election. Delays to last year’s scheduled elections means that we now have election for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, London Assembly, Mayoral, Police and Crime Commissioner, local council elections, and a Westminster by-election in Hartlepool.

The rapids of today –  polling day –  will be followed by a gentler stream however, as Covid-19 precautions means counts will take longer than usual. We all recall the days late night vamping on CNN as they counted the Presidential election votes in the USA last autumn.  So there will be no deluge of results for us to pore over tomorrow morning.

Despite this, most, if not all parties will be able to point to success somewhere.  This means spinners will be busy trying to frame their party’s success as the most meaningful.

So, where should we look, and what might these results mean?

In Hartlepool Labour is defending but polls show a significant Tory challenge.  While we might associate the town with Labour – Peter Mandelson having been one of its MPs – it is not rock solid. The Borough Council has seen losses to independents and others in recent years.  If the Tories win here it will be seen – by them at least – as vindication of their Covid-19 strategy and a welcome distraction from ‘apartment-gate’.

Scotland will be framed as a test of support for, or opposition to, independence. Can Alex Salmond’s new Alba party make a difference?

In the Welsh Senedd, the Labour administration retained control after the last election by forming a coalition with the lone Liberal Democrat.  The numbers in Wales are very tight and made more unpredictable with 16- and 17-year olds being able to vote for the first time. Labour losses would certainly open the door to different Coalition possibilities. If Labour were to be shut out of an arising coalition, this would be the first time since devolution that they were not in control of the Senedd.

When we come to Mayors, Sadiq Khan looks so far ahead in London that it must be a case of “nothing to see here”.  Elsewhere things become more interesting.  In the West Midlands, Conservative Andy Street is defending a narrow win last time. The Conservatives will be keen to hang on, but will face a tough challenge from Labour MP, Liam Byrne. 

And in Liverpool we will be able to see just how much a scandal affects an election.  Back in December the Labour Elected Mayor was arrested and, with others, was accused of bribery and witness intimidation. Since then there has been a damning report into the Council, with indications of corrupt practice.  Labour’s Mayoral Candidate this time is necessarily new, but long serving Councillors are also seeking re-election.  The opposition parties have gone into this contest with gusto. An independent candidate for the top job has also entered the list – and this might be the only chance for a Lib Dem victory with their candidate, veteran councillor Richard Kemp. 

And that Lancashire knife edge?  To win a majority, a party needs 43 seats.  The Conservatives currently hold 44, and so Lancashire could be worth watching again.

Let’s see what today, and the following day(s), bring.

Paula Keaveney is Programme Leader for Politics at Edge Hill University.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Covid-19 Anniversary Blog Wrap Up – Is there hope for the ‘roaring 20s’?

Covid Anniversary Blog

It is my sincere hope that this will be the only time that the ISR blog marks the anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. Certainly things do look positive – at least here at home.

The UK has been riding high in the vaccine charts since January and the anticipated full capacity crowd at the indoor world snooker championships this weekend, indicates that we may well be on course for a resumption of our ‘normal lives’.

Of course the big question now is ‘what is normal?’

The anniversary blog and the associated ‘Anniversary Edge Talks’ suggests that we can all expect at least some aspect of our lives to be permanently altered – in both good ways and bad.

Over the last two months, the blog has highlighted a number of things.

First, that lockdown, although intended to make us ‘safe’… it is also inherently unsafe.

The last year has exposed digital poverty and its cascading impact on educational attainment for those already in deprivation.

The impact on the economy, particularly the arts, hospitality and tourism is likely permanently to reshape these sectors.

The pandemic has also created a ‘gender gap’ and increased reported incidences of domestic abuse.

Our civil liberties have also been curtailed in a way that would have been unimaginable 50+ weeks ago. Fake news, and the lack of constructive opposition on the handling of the pandemic have also left many of us feeling frustrated.

Add in the sense of ‘history repeating’, and we have felt out of control; without a voice.

Yet the blog also illustrates that the altering of practices to adapt to lockdown has had some silver linings. Third sector groups, churches and businesses have all had to innovate to stay alive, in many cases with surprising and positive results. Many of us have learned to ‘switch off’ and take up new hobbies and interests, ‘discovered’ TV’s golden age and got active!

We have also seen that the world doesn’t stop because of a pandemic, as illustrated by the escalation of hostilities in the former Soviet Union and the grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal. Covid-19 clearly is no respecter of global events.

Thus as we move into the recovery phase, the blog will continue to reflect on the long-term impact of the pandemic, both positive and negative, economically and socially.

Alongside the blog will resume the showcasing of research and knowledge exchange outcomes from Edge Hill academics and partners, and comment on current events.

So for now, we are signing off what I hope will be the final Covid-19 ISR blog, with a big thanks to all our contributors and readers.

Here’s hoping for the belated start of the ‘roaring 20s’!

Prof Jo Crotty is Director of the Institute for Social Responsibility and a Professor of Management at Edge Hill University. This piece is written as a follow-up to a post originally published in the COVID-19 blog on 1st March 2021 by Jo which can be found here.

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay

The problem is often the solution: The future of video-based learning

Covid Anniversary Blog

A year ago, in March 2020, we saw a global adoption of an online video-based learning approach in the higher education sector as a strategy to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection and to prevent person-to-person transmission around university campuses.

Since then, we’ve found ourselves switching between online and blended learning to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on students’ higher education experience. However, most educators still retain the use of video-based learning to support in-person instruction and more importantly, to offer greater flexibility to students who are forced to stay at home on medical grounds.

Many have postulated that video-based learning is here to stay in this new era of learning. It is not easy to turn back to the traditional face-to-face teaching model when both educators and learners have been provided a glimpse of the future and experienced the convenience and the flexibility of video-based learning.

Video-based education supports the context of ubiquitous learning, allowing students to learn at anytime and anywhere. This means that students can take fuller control over their learning journey, with the options to review, rewind, and revisit any part of the video whenever needed. This is in fact, a tangible benefit to students who have additional childcare responsibilities or family duties.

Nevertheless, even with the flexibility that video-learning can offer, many are concerned about the lack of guidance and interaction between instructors and students in a virtual video-based learning environment. There is often an underlying assumption that a face-to-face lecture is more superior to online video-based learning due to the fact of having teacher-student direct interaction, which may be scarce or even not present with remote video-learning. Without the physical presence of an instructor, video-based learning requires much more self-discipline and self-motivation from students to stay away from distractions while learning and to seek support when needed.

But, the problem is often the solution. In the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed interest in video-based research with a strong emphasis to improve student engagement and learning experience. Pedagogical strategies that have been found effective in the past, such as peer coaching have been brought back and incorporated into video-based lessons to encourage knowledge exchange and to influence students’ motivation in learning. Different video styles and presentation platforms have been explored and compared to develop best practices in video-based learning that not only produced videos which motivate students to watch again, but also raise learning outcomes. The option to follow up a video with a brief online assessment may also provide educators more opportunities to gauge students’ level of performance and offer individualised feedback, which we know is a powerful key.

Video-based learning should not be seen as a quick-fix for COVID-19. While we observe an important transformation to remote learning at the dawn of a new learning era, perhaps listening to what students are saying about their experiences and documenting what is working and what is not will help us to find creative solutions in addressing and improving the learning experience in the future.

Angel Tan is a PhD Student in the Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University. This piece is written as a follow-up to a post originally published in the COVID-19 blog on 27th May 2020 by Angel which can be found here.

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay