The third and final day of the End of Summer School (facilitated by Tracey Potts & Janna Graham) focused on questions of social relations, and the institutions that support or – in some cases – inhibit them. The theme of the day was radical education, as this provided an important example of people’s attempts to create spaces outside of formal establishments, to come together and learn, often in ways that supported political mobilization.
Unlike previous days, the sessions began with a walk – or ‘drift’ – through the city, where we learned about spaces, both historical and present-day, which had been important sites of education. For me, the most fascinating part of the day was learning about places in Nottingham which I wouldn’t have thought twice about but which played incredibly important roles in working class education and suffrage movements. We learned about working class libraries that – unlike state-run institutions – were open on Sundays and working hours, and were often housed in pubs. We also saw the site of the Charterist Chapel, which housed the radical movement in favour of parliamentary reform during the mid-1800s, and had the aim of preparing people for engaging in political debate with upper the classes. Most inspiringly, from my perspective, we heard about two amazing local women: One of whom went to prison for campaigning for freedom of the press – and repeatedly told of the judge during her trial, for interrupting her – and the other whose bookshop was repeatedly attacked for being perceived as ‘blasphemous’, but who refused to be intimidated. Bringing things up to the present day, we were also taken to important sites in LGBT and disability activism, which brought home how much things have changed even in my lifetime.
As perhaps inevitable with a ‘drift’, we then became a bit lost and arrived back late to the next session (ooops). Led by the fantastic Tracey Potts (author of one of the most fun, yet thought-provoking, academic books I’ve read!), the afternoon session drew on participants’ personal experiences of education to explore how these experiences had shaped our own identities and understandings of the world. A lot of people in the room seemed to have had a love/hate relationship with formal education, and we compiled a list of ideas (see image) for a DIY pamphlet that reflected on contemporary issues about educational establishments.
The evening’s talk focused less on what we felt about formal education, and more about the issues facing educational establishments due to changes in the UK education system. Andrew McGettigan, whose articles in the Guardian about policy changes in HE have caused a bit of a stir in recent years, showed discussed some pretty horrifying things, including those documented in this video.
Perhaps more pressing for past and present students though, is this consultation which has gone under the radar. If you currently have or are repaying a student loan, then please, please, please look at the consultation and let your voice be heard – as this has real implications for the amount of interest you’ll end up paying. This sort of thing is a bit technical and boring (probably to discourage people from reading it), but it’s really important to have your voice heard. If you feel strongly about this, then also write to your MP, who you can contact here (you can also find out who your MP is if you don’t know already).