Puritan cold spots

As my weekend walking down the length of the country approached the Edge Hill battleground, I did a little light research on the English Civil War. This included reading The World Turned Upside Down by Christopher Hill, where I found an intriguing mention of plans for an expansion of higher education: ‘During the Revolution a new university was started in Durham, and others were proposed for London, York, Bristol, Exeter, Norwich, Manchester, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Man…’

This brought to mind the consideration being given by DiUS to setting up new ‘higher education centres’, ‘to bring the benefits of local higher education provision to bear across the country’, in so-called ‘cold spots‘. Most to the places on the Puritan list are well universitied up already, but there are a few exceptions. The list of modern cold spots includes Shropshire, suggesting that the University mooted by the Puritans is still needed.

Edge Hill has around 500 students on programmes taught in Shrewsbury, so perhaps we are belatedly realising the Puritan vision – like some New Model Army of HE…

Apparently it was also proposed that ‘Undergraduates should work their way through the university, earning their living in some useful calling part of the day or every other day’ (p300, referring to Several Sermons and Discourses by Wiliam Dell). This bit at least has come true, in that most students do paid work while studying. Hopefully this practice achieves Dell’s objectives, that ‘Youth be delivered from that Ease and Idleness, which fills the hearts of University-Students with many Corruptions, and noisome Lusts, whilst they fill their Heads only with empty Knowledge and foolish Notions’ (p646).

Customise your chest

A lot is written about the way online/social media enable people to create identities for themselves. However some of the oldest, most analog and physical media also offer possibilities for individuals to tailor the ways they present themselves to the world.

Promotional clothing such as t-shirts and hoodies is an example. Digital printing and embroidering techniques mean personalised kit is easy to come by. One effect of this is to make apparently official gear, eg with university logos, accessible to anyone who wants it, and therefore effectively outside the control of the logo police. (In other words don’t complain to me – they could have come from anywhere!)

Customised clothes have become the norm, eg gear with crests and logos on the chest, and things like teams, dorm names, and nicknames on the back. At Edge Hill there is a fashion for adding a name directly underneath an embroidered logo. This area was planned to be where, say, a Faculty or campus would be mentioned – for instance I have one with ‘Corporate Marketing’ embroidered beneath the logo. So far, so corporate. However I’ve seen all kinds of things: ‘Foxy Chick‘ has a certain postfeminist panache, but wasn’t what we had in mind when we wrote the visual identity handbook…

Hockey Slags’ – as a team name proudly emblazoned on the back of some hoodies – seems to be of a different order. ‘Cool – it reclaims an offensive term and thereby robs it of its power!’ cries my inner media boffin, enthused by the layers of irony. Nevertheless I doubt that Miss Hale (the first Principal, whose stern picture adorns Sages Restaurant) would have approved. Maybe I shouldn’t either.