Monday, 22 October 2012

Do go and participate in the Good Neighbour


The Good Neighbour is a new kind of history walk; a piece of street theatre starring the fire that destroyed Arding & Hobbs in 1909,  George Neighbour one of the 12 who died in it,  John Burns as political firebrand, MP, and firefighter, and the rioters and victims of last year’s riots at the Junction. All set within the context of the changes in Battersea from rural farming and marshland  to industrial and post industrial, and the multi-faceted functions of the old Town Hall now Battersea Arts Centre; and lots of music and singing. Adults went down to the Junction and back fortified with umbrellas against the rain and with hot chocolate and Indian nibbles.  Meanwhile back at the Arts Centre children and their parents experienced an indoor tour and activities. The event ended with group singing. A definite must to experience. I will say no more about the detail until after its final performance on 4 November, as there are plenty of imaginative surprises. It was nice to hear inn the script some of the information I provided the production team. It is so imaginative that the approach can be adapted anywhere. To find out more about times of performances etc go to Battersea Arts Centre:  

A Local Economic Strategy for Croydon and the Croydon North By-Election

Having moved into Norbury in July 2011 I find myself faced with having to decide how to vote in the forthcoming by-election. It’s a difficult choice. Should I vote Labour despite my continuing reservations about what it did under Blair and Brown and the as yet far off distancing from that legacy. Do I vote Labour because not to do so might help the Tory get in even though the Labour majority in 2010 is over 16,000? Do I vote based on who the Labour candidate is, her/his  track record and vision for the future? And if that record and vision is flawed should I protest vote instead for one of the progressive minority candidates?

The way Labour treats two policy areas may help me make up my mind. Firstly, the future of the Croydon (and Wandsworth) Libraries. The results of the joint tendering will be known in the next few weeks. The by-election provides an opportunity to put pressure on the Croydon Tories to think very carefully about whether to accept a bid and finalise a contract or to abandon  out-sourcing the service. It also provides an opportunity to obtain promises about safeguarding the funding for the heritage and archives service. This is vital  given the failure of the Tory controlled Council to value local cultural organisations and heritage.  Cultural activities have a particularly important role to play at a time of recession, growing depression among those adversely affected. Although also being a Tory controlled Borough Wandsworth sees heritage as an important part of its activities, as I know as a member of its Partnership group with local amenity and historical organisations.

The by –election also provides an opportunity for a detailed debate about the future of the local economy and Labour will need to put forward a set of robust proposals rather than generalised waffle. 

The statistic that one in four Croydon kids are in the poverty trap, alongside the collapsing economy in Croydon, the lack of action to support the business victims of last year’s riots, makes it increasingly urgent for the development of a local economic strategy for the Borough which will address the real needs of the local people and not the profits that developers think they may be able to make.  

Poverty takes many forms. Low income is just one factor. Other factors include long term health problems, as first identified by Professor Peter Townsend at the Child Poverty Action Group in the 1970s (‘the inequalities of health’), at a time that the late Malcolm Wicks and I were active members.  Croydon North needs a new MP who will continue to work on the economic and anti-poverty challenge, continuing the real legacy of Malcolm Wicks, not just paying lip service to it.  

Croydon’s Health and Wellbeing Board’s strategy for 2013-18 notes that people with long term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems are the most intensive users of local health services, and the numbers will grow. 

The electoral wards which experience the highest child poverty are Fieldway (46%), New Addington (40%), Broad Green and Selhurst (36%), Woodside and S. Norwood (33%), Waddon 31%, Thorton Heath and West Thornton (29%). Norbury is 24%. 

Should we be surprised? Back in 2004  I undertook a project for what became South London Law Centres assessing the incidence of social deprivation including Croydon. Although Croydon was not in the worst tranche of local authority areas marked by social deprivation, there were  a number of wards which resulted in the Borough being included in the 88 Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy Boroughs allocated special funding. The Government’s 2000 analysis of deprivation in measured every ward and local authority area in England. It combined a number of indicators relating to income, employment, health deprivation and disability, education skills and training, housing and geographical access to services into a single deprivation score for each area. Croydon had 8 wards in the most deprived deciles: worst 10% Fieldway; worst 20% New Addington and Broad Green; worst 30% Whitehorse Manor, West Thornton , Thornton Heath, Upper Norwood and Bensham Manor. Clearly it appears that significant improvements have not happened.  

The ConDem Government’s ruthless cuts are particularly being targeted at those living in poverty so the situation will deteriorate.   

The Council seems obsessed with the grotesque plans of developers to build yet more unaffordable high-rise apartment blocks, and replace perfectly adequate retail centres, concentrated in the Town Centre, none of which address the real needs of the Borough.  

A key issue is how can new jobs of the right kind  be created, rather than  low paid and insecure ones, or ones which suck in workers from a wide catchment area and which do not benefit those wanting work near where they live?  Retail does not have to consists of low quality/pay jobs. As John Lewis and Waitrose show it is not just being members of the partnership that is important, but also training,  so that pride in the service and the visual tidiness and cleanliness of the stores. The downside for many people however is that both stores are in the higher price bracket and therefore unaffordable.  The Co-op is more expensive than its main rivals. It may claim to be good with food but it does too much promotion of booze, crisps, sweets and chocolate. It clear that store management is muddled and unfocussed, and that staff lack motivation and training.    

Economic activity starts with small businesses. If small businesses can survive the first 18 months they have the potential to last and some develop into the next generation  of medium sized enterprises.  The ideas the creation of a digital hub and a ‘tech city’ cluster of IT buildings in the Town Centre could help stimulate new small businesses as well as provide a solution for empty or underused office blocks. But it is probably dependent on landlords being prepared to offer cheap rentals. The 3 year business rate relief scheme being offered by the Council and the Great London Authority may ease that element of business costs  but may stimulate landlords to put rents up by the amount of the saving. Cashflow is often the problem facing the survival of businesses, made worse at the moment with banks calling in loans/overdrafts with little notice. 

A local economic strategy that is comprehensive needs to start from a careful analysis of the economic, social and environmental needs of local people and businesses in Croydon, both for the Borough as a whole but also for each neighbourhood. This will become possible once the in-depth local data from the 2011 Census becomes available for analysis.  A strategy also needs to factor in the community dimension, and look at alternative ideas suggested by organisations like New Economics Foundation, the Transition Towns movement, Spacemakers, the Meanwhile Project, and the experiences involved in the revitalisation of Brixton Market and the West Norwood Feast. It needs to take into account the creative elements of the former Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy of the 2000s and anti-poverty strategies from earlier decades. Re-visiting previous initiatives such as the 1990s Living Over the Shop can be important to local shopkeepers with underused upper floors. 

An important element is building policy and services on the assessed needs of individuals rather than shoe-horning them into generalised service provision. The importance of this was strongly highlighted in 2001 RAMSEP study examining  the process of ‘impoverishment’. It  suggests that there are three types of poverty: (1) Intermittent/transitory: borders on non-poverty; (2) Overall poverty: involving serious lack of resources, use of survival strategies, and optimism, weak social ties; and (3) Extreme poverty: involves resignation so that there is less control over  the environment and evidence loss of identity. Individuals react differently to their deprivation. RAMSEP suggests that reactions involve different levels of loss of control of identify, caused by (1) intensity of material deprivation – low availability of goods enjoyed and/or basic services benefited from; (2) loss of engagement in informal social networks and with formal social networks; and (3) lack of will and capacity to act. It ‘is often possible to enter a vicious circle of impoverishment due to an illness, due to the lack of professional help, due to unstable housing conditions, due to a high crime rate in the areas, etc’. The ConDem assault on every group that comes under the umbrella of RAMSEP’s analysis demonstrates their failure to understand how individuals are adversely affected by their experiences and circumstances.

Going back to providing a digital hub, perhaps the advocates could offer new types of service:  free support for local businesses to have websites and email systems set up in a way that supports the ability to trade between each other; and one for community and voluntary organisations to notify each other of their  concerns, services, activities and events.

The Croydon North by-election enables the leading candidates to spell out what their economic development and anti-poverty strategies will be. It would also be good if they would promise if elected to initiate an inquiry into the economic and social state of Croydon North through which to develop ideas and networking. If Labour wins such an inquiry would assist it develop a new approach to running Croydon for use in the local election campaign in 2014. This poses a challenge to the way Labour operates locally. Picking the right candidate with an open, enquiring and listening mind, who is not on the usual politician’s ego trip, is therefore crucial.


 ‘Rapid Appraisal Method of Social Exclusion and Poverty (RAMSEP)’ by Emanuel Mastropietro. (CERFE/European Commission 2001).

Digital Hub ideas:

New Economics Foundation:

Meanwhile Project:

Centre for Local Economic Strategies:

To keep up to-date with news summaries on what is happening in Croydon sign up for my History & Social Action EDiary & News:

Saturday, 20 October 2012

More Clarity On The Ruskin Dispute

The row over Ruskin College’s archives, records and artefacts has been continuing with Hilda Keen’s latest views being circulated around the enetworks ( and a former student at the College posting a piece on the History Workshop Journal website: .

 There are two aspects of the continuing row.

1)      What further clarifications are needed from the College?
2)      What is the goal we are trying to achieve: a personal vendetta against the Principal, or learn the lessons, have a good future for the College, and ensure that the University world thinks carefully about its archive and student record policies?

 Further Explanation from Professor Audrey Mullender

I have now received further clarification from Professor Mullender as follows:

 ‘I am quite happy to comment further. First and foremost, we received legal advice today which completely confirmed that I was right to have concerns about holding onto personal information about still living former students. Furthermore, it clarified that placing the student records with another organisation would make things worse rather than better. We would still retain the responsibility for answering any data protection enquiries so there could be no sense in which the records would be sealed. If we needed a file back to look something up, it would have to be accessed by both the holding organisation (to find it) and us (to answer the query). Data protection was always, and remains, my major consideration in respect of student files. People have been poo pooing this, but that is tantamount to telling me to break the law. I would further add that, as might be expected, our files held information on trade union membership which is classed in the law as ‘sensitive information’, thus compounding the problem. Our papers are not government papers or public records and they are not subject to any 30 or 100-year rule. Furthermore, personal information remains just that while the individual is alive and we have no way of knowing when our alumni die or whether their relatives would still find information about them to be sensitive in certain regards.

 In answer to Denise Pakeman, we have digitised the information we believe we are allowed to hold without express individual permission, under the law and our own crystal clear policy, right back to the earliest records we held. We still have the files from the 1950s yet to do and part of the reason we are taking current advice from lawyers, data protection experts, historians and archivists, is to decide what to do with those. I must say that the legal advice we have received would throw into severe question the old files held not only by us but, I am told, by Oxford Colleges and I’m sure by others. In this respect, the questions you posed to open up a wider debate are vitally important and I hope they will get the attention they deserve.

Denis Pakeman refers to a number of pieces of memorabilia. The Bowerman plaque was the sole piece we held about him and it has gone on loan to join an entire display about him and his union at the Marx Memorial Library where it makes much more sense. The Raphael Samuel portrait and photograph went with the half of his archive that we held, which made perfect sense. We deliberated long and hard about loaning our holdings to the Bishopsgate Institute but Hilda’s own research assistant told me that he had to read everything twice because the collection was split and made so much less sense in that form, the clincher being that he found one letter that had one page in London and one with us. He was on a year’s full-time funding but I can’t imagine many other researchers being able to duplicate their reading of an archive just because of the eccentric way it was held. It must also be owned that the Bishopsgate, with its funded archivist, is better able to catalogue and promote the material than we are, to the benefit of scholars. It is often forgotten, but we are a working college and we are funded to serve our learners, first and foremost. The GB Shaw portrait was not ours and I returned it to its rightful owners, the Labour Party. Can it please be acknowledged that I found this lost painting, had someone from Canada confirm that this was the case and have this week had a most handsome congratulation from a Shaw scholar in Ireland. The Kitson mural is going to South Africa, by special request, and we naturally retain the commemorative plaque to David Kitson as an Honorary Fellow of our college. If the past is no longer wanted at Ruskin, as Denise alleges, why have I spent so much of my own money on repairing and framing photographs and other items for display, why have I spent whole days with removers and premises staff bringing memorabilia to our newly consolidated site and embellishing the new Boardroom, reception area, two trade union studies areas and so on with our wonderful collections? I am particularly glad to get the chance to comment again on the miners’ strike banner which Hilda Kean characterised as being displayed on a corridor leading to a toilet. It is actually the corridor leading to the Common Room in our flagship trade union studies centre, where coffee is served and evenings are spent. There happens to be a toilet next to the Common Room, which is probably not an uncommon juxtaposition, given the aforementioned coffee. The banner is large, the wall-space was perfect and the users of the building are much enjoying its highly appropriate presence. I would hazard a guess that, in its former home in our own library, folk relatively rarely glanced at it. It is now in solitary glory and much better displayed, in my opinion. We have also been able to give prominence to photos taken over a period of a century and a half, portraits and other memorabilia in our new home. Further, we have kept the working class visual tradition alive by helping to design and make a three-storey mosaic with a mosaic artist and participants in a series of WEA classes locally.

We are not a museum or a public library and we do not employ an archivist. One set of papers we held was never consulted while it was with us but has been constant use since it was married up with a whole family of papers at the People’s History Museum, on loan from us. We care about a living, learning present drawing upon the lessons of the past. Because we really care, we share our riches with other collections and we retain only those we can truly care for and truly make useful to others.’ 

Student (and Staff) Records 

As has been pointed out to me by a local authority archivist the question of the preservation or not of student records is the same one faced by any employer re- its staff records, or indeed a local authority social services department re-clients or a school re-pupils. I have been in local authority archives recently at which enquirers have been told personal information on pupils is subject to a 100 year rule. The  Records Management Society has issued guidance on the retention of records for local authorities and schools, supported by documents such as a toolkit for schools. The archivist wonders whether there is similar guidance issued for Universities.  

Another archivist has drawn my attention to several matters which I have drawn Prof Mullender’s attention to. The ICO/SoA (now ARA) has a Code of Conduct on Data Protection. JISC has guidance on Records Management aimed at the Higher Education sector. Ruskin College may be classed as a Public Authority under the Freedom of Information Act and therefore its corporate records may well also be classed as public records. The archivist stresses that it is possible to deposit records containing sensitive personal information with an archive and find a solution to deal with Data Protection subject access requests from living individuals or their legal representatives. Archives are doing this on a frequent basis – such requests are few and once an individual is deceased then DP is no longer relevant. There are a lot of college heads who have successfully implemented records management and archive procedures for their records. In Oxford several archivists/records managers should be available for advice
and for a small and lasting impact. Finally the archivist suggests that the College might consider developing a retention schedule for its own records from a records manager on a consultancy basis.

What Should Be Done Now? 

With all the concern about what has happened at Ruskin and the obvious interest in the history and tradition of working class education, including its independent strand from the Plebs League to the National Labour Colleges, the time is right for several things to be done, especially by academics: 

·         Go to the Open Day if you can and see the new building and the Library. 

·         Spread the word about Ruskin’s far-reaching educational opportunities for those with few or no qualifications (see ). 

·         Return to the principles and values behind the original History Workshop movement, and develop of a new network to promote them. 

·         Support  the Independent Working Class Education Project, which meets again on 24 November at The Northern College in Barnsley.  

·         Re-engage with the contemporary work of the Workers’ Educational Association:   

·         Initiate debates in every College and University about the future of their archives and student records.  

·         Stimulate a national debate about the relationship between data protection and the retention of material that may be considered of historical interest.

(1)   Anne Summers Editorial Blog on the crisis facing archives can be read on In it she mentions the new Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.

(2)   See my blog pieces:

a.      ‘The Abolition of MLA: Is Part of Wuider Threat to Inclusive Heritage? (August 2010):

o     ‘The Threat to Archives and Records’ in December 2010:

o   Sing Along with Peggy Seeger: Taking Ruskin College Forward and the Future of Archives (October 2012):

Monday, 15 October 2012

William Cuffay - New Biography

New book aims to raise the status of William Cuffay as a leading figure in British history

William Cuffay (1788-1870) was one of the leaders of Chartism, which was the

largest political movement ever seen in Britain. His grandfather was an enslaved

African and his father was a West Indian slave, from St Kitts, who managed to

gain his freedom and settle in Chatham, Kent.

Cuffay trained as a tailor and moved to London where, in 1834, he was involved

in the tailors’ strike for shorter hours. In 1839 he joined the Chartist movement

and soon became well known for his oratory and sense of humour. At the final

mass demonstration for the Charter on Kennington Common on 10 April 1848,

he protested strongly at the decision to call off the march to the House of

Commons to present the petition. He called the national leadership ‘a set of

cowardly humbugs’.

In August 1848, Cuffay became involved in a secret revolutionary committee

which was planning an uprising in London. He was arrested, tried and convicted,

on the evidence of two police spies, of levying war against the Queen. He was

sentenced to transportation for life in Tasmania. In Hobart he carried on working

as a tailor and remained actively involved in Tasmanian politics for twenty years. His wife
was able to join him in 1853 and he was granted a free pardon in 1856. In 1870 he died a
pauper in the workhouse.

William Cuffay’s reputation during the Chartist years was immense, yet he was
subsequently forgotten for over 130 years. This book aims to set him in his historical context
and restore him to his rightful place as one of the key figures in British history.

Includes more than 200 historical pictures & illustrations


Martin Hoyles taught in Newham secondary schools in east London and at the University of
East London. He has written books on gardening, childhood and literacy. His latest books are
The Axe Laid to the Root: The Story of Robert Wedderburn
and Ira Aldridge: Celebrated 19th Century Actor.
With his wife Asher, Martin wrote
Remember Me: Achievements of Mixed Race People, Past and Present, Moving Voices: Black Performance
Dyslexia from a Cultural Perspective and Caribbean Publishing in Britain.

William Cuffay: The Life and Times of a Chartist Leader

by Martin Hoyles
Publication Date: 31 October 2012 • Paperback • 284 pages • 228 x 152mm • £9.99 • ISBN: 978-1-906190-62-0


P.O. Box 226, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 3WY, United Kingdom • Email:


Diary of Events 18 October following

To 4 November. The Good Neighbour. Discover Hidden Stories About Battersea. (See poster details next page.)
Thursday 18 October.  Implementing the Law on, and Policing of, Racial Abuse in the Age of Twitter and Social Media: An “Impossible Job?” Roundtable Debate. Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Seminar in the Kick It Out One Game One Community weeks of action campaign– see Panel members including a former Premier League footballer and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the FA, and a leading law firm, will discuss the challenges faced by football in ensuring that the law on combating racial abuse is applied effectively in this new era of social media. Is it an impossible job? Or can the power of social media be mobilised to address the problem, not just in terms of prosecuting those that abuse, but also by educating a new generation on the necessity for respect and tolerance in football and in society? The event is organised in collaboration with Kick It. Free. As it is anticipated that there will be heavy demand for this event, in order to secure your place can you please send a confirmation of attendance e-mail to:

Friday 19 October. 11am. A Memorial Service for Malcolm Wicks, MP.  Croydon Minster. Reception to follow in the Parish Hall across the Minster Green. The Minster’s website includes location details. Prior to his death, Malcolm expressed a wish that anyone choosing to make a charitable donation in his memory to consider Carers UK. You may do this via

Saturday 20 October. 1pm.  Murals in Battersea. Free Talk & Walk by Brian Barnes,  MBE. Illustrated talk about Community Murals in South London with visit to Battersea in Perspective in Culvert Road /Dagnall Street and Chesterton school playground mural. Light refreshments will be provided. Doddington & Rollo Community Association, Charlotte Despard Avenue, London, SW11. 020 7627 5821.  

Tuesday 23 October, 'Broken Pastoral and the English Folk: Art and Music in Britain, 1880-1914'. Talk by Professor Tim Barringer (Yale University). rank Davis Memorial Lecture series at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London; see here for details: Editorial Note: I have emailed Barringer to point out that although interested in Negro folk music Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer who was part of the wider movement among European composers in using folk music.  

Thursday 25 October. 7.30pm. Looking for Samuel: Commemorating the life and works of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor through talks, music and poetry. Join poets Maika Booker and Dorothea Smart  as they collaboratively re-imagine the life and works of SC-T with poetry and  original music composed and performed by ensemble Music Off Canvas. £7 (£5 concessions). To book go to:  Canada Water Culture Space, Canada Water Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, London, SE16.

Thursday 25 October.  7.30pm. Vauxhall Society AGM and Talk on Nine Elms. St Stephen’s Church, St Stephen’s Terrace, London SW8. Helen Fisher, the new Nine Elms Programme Director of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Strategy Board, will be the guest speaker. She will give an overview of the Nine Elms Vauxhall programme, governance, and progress. She will be joined by Brigid Burnham from TFL, who leads the consultation on NLE, and by Lambeth’s Sandra Roebuck (Programme Manager, Regeneration), who will take questions relating to the newly-published Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document. Everyone is welcome, members and non-members alike.

Saturday 27 October. 10am–8.30pm. Ruskin College Grand Opening and Gala Evening. Dunstan Road, Old Headington, Oxford, OX3. See details in Ruskin College story below. For information on venue:

Saturday  27 October. Sport & Politics. Historians on Sport Conference. De Montfort University's International Centre for Sports History and Culture.
Tuesday 30 October. 6-8pm. Patterns of dissent - thoughts towards a geography of war resisters in Britain 1916 to 1919. The creation of a database of over 16,000 British World War 1 Conscientious Objectors has made it possible to explore more of the detail and diversity of opposition to that war. Distinctive anti-war communities can be identified and much more can be said about the extent and character of individual and group acts of resistance. The connections with elements of the women's movement are seen to be crucial as are the new alliances forged within the broad left - from radical Liberals to Socialist and Anarchists. It was a process which was to exercise significant influence on the evolution of the radical politics of Britain in the years after the war and a process within which members of the Society of Friends played important parts. Cyril Pearce is a retired University Lecturer and Visiting Research Fellow at the University Leeds. Some years ago he published Comrades in Conscience, a study of the anti-war movement in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield. In it he argued that opposition to the war there was far more extensive than traditional accounts of public opinion insisted should have been the case. Since then he has been working to discover whether there were other 'Huddersfields'. The CO database has been part of that process. Quaker History Meeting. 6pm in the Quaker Centre Café for a 6.30pm start. The Library will be open that day until 6pm. Register for a free place by emailing or telephoning Jennifer Milligan 020 7663 1132. Quaker Centre, Friends House, 173 Euston Rd, London, NW1.

Wednesday 31 October. Closing date for suggestions for panels and papers for the European Rural History Organisation's annual conference, taking place at the University of Bern in August 2013. See:
Monday 5 November. 7.45pm. The Gordon Riots of 1780. Talk by Bernard Winchester. United Reform Church, East Croydon. Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society.

Tuesday 13 November. 6.30pm. John Milton as a theorist of liberty. Annual Creighton lecture given this year by Professor Quentin Skinner (Queen Mary, University of London).  Followed by a wine reception. Logan Hall, Institute of Education (20 Bedford Way, London, WC1.  Attendance is free and this event is open to all. To RSVP, please contact

Tuesday 13 November. Spa Towns. Talk by Dr Astrid Kohler as Annual lecture of Queen Mary, University of London, School of Languages, Literature and To find out more and to book to attend:

Thursday 15 November. 8pm. After the Great Exhibition. Talk by Brian Bloice (Streatham Society). Phoenix Centre, Westow St, Upper Norwood. Norwood Society.

Saturday 24 November. British Society of Sports History North West Sport & Leisure History Network Workshop. Manchester Met Univ. Manchester Metropolitan University, Crewe, Cheshire. Diane Clements (Director, Museum of Freemasonry) will talk on ‘Devoted exclusively to Association Football’: New Light on Freemasonry and Football,’ Other papers will be given on Psychology and the Outdoor Movement in the 1920s; Golf and the Common: The Hertfordshire Experience; ‘The Finest Spectacle in P.O.W. History’: the 1952 ‘Inter-Camp Olympics’ and British Prisoners of War in the Korean War; Wilson of ‘The Wizard’: Asserting the Rural in Post-War Britain; The Regional and Local History of North-West Leisure: A Historiographical Review; Leisure, Politics and the Conservative Party Hegemony in North-West England, 1880s-1930s; Pantomime and the Bankruptcy of Captain Bainbridge – 1889; ‘Pen and paper quizzes, games and dancing’: Holiday Making with the Co-operative Holidays Association and Holiday Fellowship. Further details from Dave Day on or 07785545193.

Saturday 19 January. Luddites and York.

London Socialist Historians Group Seminars
Mondays. 5.30pm. Gordon Room (G34), Ground Floor (except 5 Nov).
Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London
15 October. George Paizis (UCL): Retranslating Victor Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary
5 November. Dan Gordon (Edge Hill): Immigrants & Intellectuals: May 1968 and the rise of anti-racism in France. Joint session with Modern French History Semina. Please note: this session takes place in the Bedford Room (G37)
12 November. Chris Blakey: Georges Cheron and the 1936 Hotchkiss factory soviet.
26 November. Pete Brown: Shakespeare's Local.
10 December. Keith Flett. History of Riots project: research update
'Imbibing Bodies: Histories of Drinking and Culture'
Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture’ Seminars. The History Department, Royal Holloway University of London. Wednesdays. 5pm . Royal Holloway, 11 Bedford Square, on Wednesday at 5.00pm.
17 October, Karen Harvey (Sheffield), ‘Politics by Design: Drink, Allegiance and Manly Consumption’
21 November, Lyanne Holcombe (Kingston), 'Leisured Spaces, Liminal Bodies: Gender and the Practice of Consumption in the Lyons Restaurant, Grill and Hotel 1914-1939'
12 December Mark Hailwood (Exeter), 'Alehouses, Sociability and Intoxication in Seventeenth-Century England'
Winter Term
16 January, James Kneale (UCL), 'Measuring Moderate Drinking Before The Unit: Medicine and Life Assurance in Britain and the United States, c.1860-1930'
13 February, Stella Moss (RHUL), '"An Abnormal Habit": Methylated Spirit Drinking in Interwar Britain'
13 March, Tessa Storey (RHUL) ‘Salute! Drinking to health in late Renaissance Italy’
Due to security requirements at Bedford Square we need to notify reception in advance if attendees are coming from outside RHUL. Please email in advance if you wish to attend:
Institute of Contemporary British History, King’s College London
Wednesday 17 October. 5pm. Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain.  Camilla Schofield (UEA). Contemporary British History seminar. KCL History Department Seminar Room, 8th floor, Strand Building, Kings College London, WC2.
Tuesday 23 October. 6pm.Seeing Red: British socialists visit revolutionary Russia’. Dr Jonathan Davis (Anglia Ruskin University). Holden Room, Senate House, London, WC1E.
Wednesday 24 October. 6pm. The Left and Constitutional Reform, Gladstone to Miliband. Professor Kenneth O. Morgan. Institute of Contemporary British History Annual Lecture 2012. Council Room, King’s College London (Strand campus).




Ruskin College is entering an exciting new phase moving to new buildings. If you can why not go to the College’s Open Day on Saturday 27 October to see the new building, and find out what Ruskin will be doing.

Aspects of the move, however, have caused much consternation and raise broad issues about archives and student records.

That consternation has been reflected in the press, in hundreds of people objecting to the alleged destruction of archives at Ruskin College in Oxford. Emails, web postings, and letters of objection have been sent to the College Principal and the Governors. I did my bit to send the information around the labour history network and proposed at the meeting of the Independent Working Class Education project on Saturday 5 October sending a letter of protest. Although it raises some broader issues, it now appears to me to be all based on a regrettable misunderstanding.  

The following email alert was sent out by Anna Davin:

‘The archives of Ruskin College, pioneer institution of working-class education, have been partly destroyed, on the instructions of the college principal and despite protests and an offer from the Bishopsgate Institute to take everything. What remains may still be at risk.

'Papers have not gone to a landfill site but have been specifically destroyed. Even the removal firm seemed puzzled and sought clarification from the principal who allegedly confirmed that indeed such material must be destroyed', writes Hilda Kean in an article on the History Workshop

Please read Hilda's article for more information if you have time

And please urgently sign and publicize the petition at:

This is what I forwarded on to others. This in turn led to a query to the Principal Audrey Mullender whose reply was copied to me.
‘No, the story is not true. Thanks for checking! …….. We have actually expended a great deal of time and care on moving the College and MacColl Seeger archives into specially designed space in the new library. Do come to our grand opening on 27th October and see it and do please help spread the word that we are now in wonderful premises, set fair for the future. The one thing we have done is to digitise our student records in an interactive database, in a way that complies with data protection legislation but which will allow our alumni to stay in touch with us and with one another.’

Professor Mullender also emailed a general statement providing more detail: 

‘Ruskin College is now in wonderful new premises that mean we can look ahead from the firm foundation of celebrating our past. We have spent a lot of money on moving and housing our archives and memorabilia. The College archive is in a brand new rolling stack, affording access on request to bona fide scholars. The MacColl Seeger archive has its own room, with built-in display cabinets and its sound archive will be backed up on computer. The miners' strike banner had its own vehicle and two teams working on moving and hanging it. It is now in Stoke House at our Headington site. The Bowerman plaque is on loan to the Marx Memorial Library. The one thing we have done is to digitise the student files in a way that complies with the Data Protection legislation. Please come and see us at our grand opening on Saturday 27th October and please help quash these dreadful rumours.’
Some Questions

I then followed it up with an email to Professor Mullender, in which I asked her to clarify the situation based on the following questions:

(1) What happened in respect of instructions to the removal firm which could have led to a misunderstanding about the possible destruction of archive material?

(2) Has any part of the archive material been pruned and destroyed, and if so what did it cover.

(4) Is any further part of the archive material to be pruned and destroyed, and if so what does it cover?

(5) Can you give an assurance that no part of the archive will be pruned without discussion with the Governing Body and the wider body of labour historians and archivists?

(6) Are all original documents in the archive being kept even if they are digitised because of the danger of digital failure or replacement by new technology?

(7) Which sections of the archive are subject to the equivalent of 30 years rule as in the case of Public Records and 100 years as in the case of personal information about people who are still alive?

(8) Given that 100 years have now passed with regard to the personal records of staff and students up to this month, are these now available for public viewing?

Subsequent Discussion

In our telephone discussion Professor Mullender explained to me the following. 

The Archive & Library: There has been some rationalisation:

·         Raphael Samuel material has been sent to the Raphael Samuel archive held at Bishopsgate Institute. This seems to me to be perfectly rational. Prof Mullender cited for example that Ruskin had one half of a letter and the RS collection the other!

·         Middleton papers have been transferred to the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

·         Multiple copies of pamphlets have been reduced. Again this appears to be perfectly rational.

·         The MacColl Seeger Collection is in a special room in the new building including in display cases. The sound material is being digitised.  

Student Records 

·         The student records were not part of the College Archive as such but held in the Registry section, and were not seen to be part of the Archive. The decision to destroy student records was taken after looking at the College Data Protection policy. This states that records should only be kept for 6 years.

·         The records were not comprehensive e.g. some from the earlier years had not survived and the records of those who undertook social work courses at the College had not been retained. Approximately A5-size ledgers with entries for past students are being kept. An accessible database has been created of the names and subjects of former students.

·         Prof Mullender tells me that she did not know about the 100 year rule convention e.g. re-Government held personal information. As the College is not government or government-related it is less clear that the 100-year rule would apply to it as a private institution. As the records are private property of the College it is taking legal advice about the 100-year rule.

·         Files were offered to Ruskin Fellowship members rather than to all alumni, whom it would not have been feasible to contact. Some Fellowship members requested them and these were posted to them at the College’s expense. Because the records were in the Registry she did not see them as archives and only thought about them in terms of Data Protection.

·         She accepts that there are different views to be taken on this: those who would argue that personal records should be kept and then made available after 100 years, but there are others who argue against the keeping of personal records and then their release.

·         She also stresses that in former days there were no controls over tutors’ comments on students in records. They could write what they wanted, and sometimes students themselves recorded very personal detail in connection with their applications. 

Artefacts. Prof Mullender explains that a lot of money (chiefly her own, through personal donation) has been spent on repairs to artefacts and on framing/re-framing items.

·         A miners’ strike banner. This is already on display in one of the refurbished buildings, having had its own vehicle and two teams of skilled workers involved in moving it.

·         The Bowerman plaque is on loan to Marx Memorial Library.

Future of the Library/Archive. The College does not have an archivist. The Archive is held in the Library.  

Ruskin’s Past, Present and Future. Prof Mullender stresses that she and the Governors are proud of the College’s history and wish to promote alongside current and future work.  It seems to me that the recent row may have damaged the reputation of Ruskin which could undermine its ability to deliver in the future. On the other hand a lot more people now know about the unique contribution that Ruskin has made. It may be a case of any publicity is good publicity. But if you agree with me that the row has been based on a misunderstanding then Ruskin deserves positive support from now on. 

On-going Debate

Following my sending the above to my Labour History elist I have received a number of responses, drawing my  attention to three issues, which I emailed Prof. Mullender about. 

Firstly, given the shredding of student records (confirmed in the Telegraph piece. there does not appear to have been a guarantee that all surviving student records from the 1940s will be retained and that as a priority assurances are needed that no further destruction of archival material will take place. Of course this makes the assumption that the student records are archives. 

Secondly, a real concern that student records from between the foundation of Ruskin in 1899 and the 'strike' in 1909 may have been among those shredded. 

Thirdly, issues relating to Data Protection and Freedom of Information. I set out below my understanding of points made to me by archivists. as a section to be added into my Blog. 

I suggested to Prof. Mullender that it would be very helpful if she would consider the following: 

(1)        making it clear whether or not student records from 1899 to 1909 were in existence and were shredded or whether they had not survived from earlier times.

(2)        stating that all remaining student record files will be retained while the College considers the matters raised by archivists below. 

Data Protection and Freedom of Information

It has always struck me that Data Protection and Freedom of Information are mine fields, at it is no wonder that things can be misunderstood. It is therefore very helpful to have received advice from archivists on the following matters arising from the Ruskin affair.  

1.         Although one of the 8 principles of the Act does advocate the destruction of records including personal and sensitive personal information as soon as they are no longer required, this does not mean that such records cannot be retained for future use as historic archives.

2.         The Society of Archivists (now Archives and Records Association) did establish a Code of Practice on the retention of records including personal information for future historic research that have been approved by the Information Commissioner.

3.         Managers of organisations do need to seek advice from an Archivist/Records Manager.

5.         JISC has created excellent records management guidance for further education bodies that provide support in such circumstances. See

6.         Unfortunately the Principle of the Data Protection Act (in 1. above) is being used by many organisations as an excuse to prune manual/electronic corporate records that in many cases have survived and can be used for amazing research.

7.         The lack of knowledge and not seeking advice about the above points has led to this unfortunate destruction. Extracting student details as part of a database is not a replacement for the original records that would have included so much more information that would have become available to researchers after a restricted access period.

8.         Such electronic records will incur future digital preservation strategy requirements. Procedures will need to be put in place to cover these requirements.

9.         The Ruskin situation highlights the problems that can occur of limited awareness of information management and Freedom of Information responsibilities by public authorities, which include further and higher education bodies.

10.       In many cases, researchers who have access to records including personal/sensitive personal information may be asked to sign a disclaimer document in the archive agreeing that they will not mention names of individuals but will make such entries anonymous to protect individuals, so best practice guidelines are available to cover such eventualities, including the DP guidance mentioned above.

11.       There is no such thing as a 100 year rule. Many archives implement a ‘restricted access period’ of 100 years or even these days 110 years, so that individuals are no longer living when access is granted to researchers. Access to information contained in records can be challenged by individuals under Freedom of Information legislation (and the ICO has guidelines on such things) and it is important for any public authority to have an overview of how the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information and other information legislation interact when deciding whether to provide access to information held in records.

These are clearly matters that need to be considered by all institutions considering pruning and destroying records in the future.

Prof. Mullender’s Response 

Prof Mullender has replied to the above saying that she has referred the whole matter to the College Data Protection Officer.’ Interestingly, and in the light of the very sensible questions in your blog’, she has also asked one of her correspondents from the University of Oxford what Oxford does with its student files.  

The Future of Archives 

The reaction to the initial information is understandable given the wider context relating to Universities and archive organisations. Both are under increasing financial pressure.   

·         London Metropolitan University (LMU) played funding brinkmanship over the future of the TUC Library. Although the TUC and the University have reached agreement how long will this last.

·         LMU’s  threat to close the Women’s Library has resulted in LSE agreeing to take it over, although there are continuing concerns about its relocation to the LSE campus from its more accessible community area setting, and question marks over the future of its staff.

·         The lack of money for archives and specialist collections to expand their storage space means they cannot accept additions to their collections. In my experience this has been  a particular problem with specialist record collections of 78 and LPs, whose preservation is needed because of the differences in listening experience  to CDs, and the as yet unknown life of CD and digital recordings. There is also going to develop into a crisis as hundreds of community and voluntary organisations going into liquidation due to funding problems whose archives will need to be preserved.

·         The increasing commercial deals meaning that non-academic researchers have to pay for access to digitised archives.

·         The ring-fenced nature of an increasing number of digested archives and collections mainly to academics, even though large sums of public money have been spent to create them.

·         As I have previously argued we need to strongly advise organisations to have archive preservation policies, and in the event of emergency crises of collections needing to be provided with temporary homes while their longer term futures are decided.

·         The threat to local archives and study centres as part of the crisis facing funding of local authority libraries.

The Future of Policies on Student Records. Should there be a discussion across the University world as to whether student records are archives or registry documents? If they are registry documents should they be classified also as archives? Should Data Protection Policies on student records:

·         provide for the keeping of  student records closed for up to 100 years subject to their own files being accessible by former students?

·         provide for the destruction of records after a set number of years subject to the individual former student being offered the options of (a) having the file sent to them, (b) to have it destroyed, or (c) to be retained and opened after 100 years?

·         include provision for the creation of accessible databases of key information about former students, where year books are not published?

·         be discussed with Convocations of graduates? 

Grand Opening and Gala Evening

Ruskin Hall • Dunstan Road • Old Headington • Oxford OX3 9BZ

For information on venue:

Saturday 27 October 2012

10.00 a.m. – 8.30 p.m. 

All-day events include opportunities to tour the new building and visits to the walled garden together with displays, activities, a new café and much more. All welcome, free, just come along!
Programme of Events (Subject to change) 

10.00    The new Academic Building and the renovated Rookery open to visitors. Visits to the walled garden commence.

10.30    Ribbon cutting in the walled garden by Peter Thoday, TV presenter of The Victorian Kitchen Garden and former Horticultural Director of the Eden Project. Speeches and poems.

11.30    Ribbon cutting on the main entrance by Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth.

11.45    Ribbon cutting on the Callaghan Library (upper ground floor, through reception) by Baroness Jay of Paddington, daughter of the late Lord Callaghan and former Leader of the House of Lords/Lord Privy Seal Minister for Women.

12.00    Speeches in the Conference Room (rooms 2.09/2.10) to celebrate the grand opening of the redeveloped Ruskin College.

13.00    Ribbon cutting on the mosaic in the atrium by the artist, creative team and their WEA tutor, with brief explanatory talk.

14.00    Book launch and seminar on: Gendering and Diversifying Trade Union Leadership, edited by Sue Ledwith and Lise Lotte. Hansen, Conference Room (rooms 2.09/2.10).

14.30    Design and construction workshop on the redevelopment project, Board Room (room G.01, just inside the main entrance).

16.30    World première of the play: Our Lady of the Trees, the story of Wangari Maathai, the first Black woman to win a Nobel prize. Conference Room (rooms 2.09/2.10).

19.00–   Gala evening, Conference Room (rooms 2.09/2.10), with top of the bill: Peggy Seeger. 

All Day:

·         Opportunities to tour the new building

·         Visits to the walled garden

·         Academic subject displays

·         Mosaic project display

·         Corporate displays by the design and construction teams

·         Preview of exhibition, ‘Lake of the Whispering Spirits’, for Native American Heritage Month in November

 Further details: