Posts Tagged Peter Townsend
Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference:
24th June, 2015 Programme
NEW DIALOGUES AND DIRECTIONS
Ivor Crewe Auditorium
9.15-9.50 Registration and Refreshments
9.50-10.00 Conference Introduction (Nigel South)
10.00-12.30 Past Excitements New Dialogues
A panel of distinguished members of the Department reflect on what was thought to be most exciting about Sociology in the past (both as a discipline and in the way[s] in which it was practiced at Essex) – and how all this has been reflected in their own ideas and research – as well as in ‘new dialogues and directions’ today (Ted Benton; Joan Busfield; Diane Elson; Ken Plummer; John Scott; and Paul Thompson)
Chair: Lydia Morris
-Paul Thomson ‘Discovering life stories from first fumbles to our own Pioneers of Social Research’ (30 min)
-Joan Busfield ‘Continuities and Changes in British Sociology’. (15 min)
-Ted Benton ‘Beyond nature/society dualisms (15 min)
Questions (15 min)
Chair: Michael Roper
-Ken Plummer ‘Dialogues of Hope for a Better World’ (15 min)
-John Scott ‘Stratification and Social Theory: Retrospect and Prospect’ (15 min)
-Diane Elson ‘Challenges to Women’s Rights in a Time of ‘Austerity”? (15 min)
Questions (15 min)
12.30-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-16.000 Future Challenges New Directions
In three parallel, thematic sessions, colleagues who have joined the Department in more recent years will reflect on the interesting/challenging issues facing Sociology in the 21st century
Room 5S.3.8 Challenging Questions in Social Theory
Chair: Sean Nixon
-Michael Halewood, “Rethinking the Social” (20 min)
-Linsey McGoey, “Theorizing Excess” (20 min)
-Sandya Hewamanne, “Affect, Human Genome, and Dogs and Monkeys” (20 min)
PhD Discussant: Ms Stephanie Nitsche 5 mins
15 minutes question time
Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium
Room 5S.4.9 Civic Challenges, Community Studies and Public Sociology
Chair: Jackie Turton
-Michael Bailey, “Whither Community Studies? Return to Ecclesfield” (20 min)
-Neli Demireva and Isabel Crowhurst, “The Impact of Sociological Research on Social Policy” (20 min)
-Robin West, “Environment: Moral Selves and Civic Responsibilities” (20 min)
PhD Discussant: Ms Sarah Day 5 mins
15 minutes question time
Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium
Room 5N.4.6 New Terrains
Chair: Andrew Canessa
-James Allen-Robertson, ‘Gameplay Capitalism and the Hacker Ethic’. (20 min)
-Darren Thiel, “Countering Austerity and the Logic of Welfare Reform” (20 min)
-Pete Fussey, “Topologies of Urban Security and Surveillance in the Post-Snowden Era” (20 min)
PhD Discussant: Ms Roxana Baltaru 5 mins
15 minutes question time
Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium
16.00-17.00 Ivor Crewe Auditorium
Closing Comments (Sean Nixon)
Here are some of the unsolicited REVIEWS since the publication of IMAGINATIONS:
Thank you for giving us this precious gift. Leonore Davidoff … Absolutely blown away by the book! A really wonderful achievement. The photographs are especially wonderful! Sean Nixon… It is a fitting celebration of a departmental jewel in the Essex crown. Anthony Forster…What a splendid achievement! I have only so far had the opportunity to read here and there, but enough to know how rewarding it is going to be to work through it. Alasdair MacIntyre… It looks great and will be a lasting memory of the department. Sue Aylott …Will be a landmark book in the history of the University. David Lane … It is truly a major compilation. Peter Abell… It is BRILLIANT. It is so well produced and the pics are wonderful. Miriam Glucksmann… I think the book is splendid! It’s Wonderfully designed and full of fascinating reflections on a department I am proud to have been a member of. David Rose… Congratulations once again for the book. It is a reflection of your passion for sociology and sociology at Essex but also a contribution to wider sociological discussions! Carlos Gigoux… Congratulations on producing an excellent volume that brings back very many and all sorts of memories as well as posing many questions – especially where are they now? Adrian Sinfield…The book is splendid. Anthony Woodiwiss … Even though I had high expectations of the book, it really is a triumph, a fantastic thing… and I have barely dipped into it. It really is a thing of beauty. Rowena Macaulay…The book looks great. It is a pretty comprehensive view of ‘the department’, and is really impressive because it’s so unique. Colin Samson … I’ve been thinking about the Essex Sociology 50 Years book, and marveling that you’ve managed to put it together. I’m so pleased it exists, and I’m sure there are so many other people who feel exactly the same. Rob Stones
Copies are best ordered through
The Wivenhoe Bookshop by phone 01026 824050; by e mail email@example.com; or web site: www.wivenhoebooks.com
Directly from Ken Plummer through firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Waterstones, the Essex University Bookshop by phone: 01206 864773 or email: essexuni@waterstones. com
Publication price: £25.00
With post and packing in UK £30.00 Overseas will have to add extra.
ISBN: 9780957085046; 208pp, 50 contributors.
It can also be ordered though Amazon but they will, as we know, effectively take all the money!
And here is A CONTENTS GUIDE to the book
CONTENTS: Introduction: Ken Plummer 1. Contexts – Creating Essex Sociology-A Timeline of Memorable Moments Peter Townsend’s Founding Vision – Transforming Visions for a Twenty First Century. 2. Formations The Early History: Joan Busfield: Remembering Early Days – Adrian Sinfield: The Challenge of Social Policy – Geoffrey Hawthorn; A New Lecturer’s View – Christel Lane: A Student’s View: Undergraduate Study During The University’s Early Years: 1968–1972 – David Bouchier: From Student to Staff: David Bouchier (1968–1986)- Making Troubles – David Lane:1968 – Michael Mann: Troubles of 1974- Judith Okely: The 1989 Czech ‘Velvet Revolution’ As Experienced At Essex 3. Wisdoms Imagining Social Justice: Creating Better Social Worlds For All Introduction.- Michael Harloe: On Peter Townsend’s Poverty – Stan Cohen: Remembering Harold Wolpe – Lydia Morris: Human Rights – Michael Bailey: Public Activism Research Imaginations: Creating Multiple Methods For Sociology Introduction: Unlimited Research – Peter Abell: Whatever Happened to Mathematical Sociology? – David Rose: The Origins of The Institute for Economic and Social Research ISER – Heather Laurie: ISER: So What Happened Next?- Louise Corti: The Creation of Qualidata Mark Harvey: Centre for Economic and Social Innovation Comparative Imaginations: Building An International Sociology Introduction. Alison Scott: On the School of Comparative Studies -Ayse Güveli: The Gains and Changes of Migration- Interdisciplinary Imaginations: Broadening The Scope of Sociology Alasdair MacIntyre: Philosophy in the Sociological Conversation 1960−1970 – Michael Roper: Social and Gender History Ken Plummer: Making the Person Matter – Karl Figlio: The Creation of the Centre for Pychoanalytic Studies – Eamonn Carrabine: Imagining Crime – Sean Nixon: The Moment of Cultural Studies – Michael Halewood: Theory in the Department – Colin Samson: Sociology, Neoliberalism and the Struggle to Keep the Interdisciplinary Spirit Alive 4. Communities Remembering Communities John Scott: Coming Home – Rob Stones: The 1990s in the Essex Sociology Department: A Personal Point of View- Mary McIntosh says goodbye Miriam Glucksmann: Remembering the 1990s – Building The Educational Community: The Great Sociological Conversation Rowena Macaulay: Twenty Years of Departmental Support: The Student Resource Centre – The Office Community Mary Girling & Paul Thompson: Reflections of a Departmental Secretary – The Global Community From South Africa: From Hong Kong: From India – The Web Site Community The Long Community Nigel South 5. Futures Looking Ahead Voices: Professors Voices: Former students- Refelctions: Telling stories of Essex Sociology- Epilogue And Reprise: The Last Refuge – Suggestions for Further Reading – Index Focus Boxes: The heads of department -The Vice-Chancellors -The expansion and transformations of Essex- Profile of an early student – The professors – Social class and David Lockwood – Seeking gender justice – feminism in sociology – A red-green revolution? – Moments of oral history at Essex: From Gay Liberation to “Sexualities” and Intimate Citizenship- Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so research areas and their books – Evaluating the quality of research – Some of the most cited books in the department – Focus On Public Lecture Series: The Fuller Lectures – Focus on Dennis Marsden – Honorary degrees – Consolidating the canon: The textbook tradition at Essex – Student numbers at Essex – Focus on the Rise of Teaching Assistants – Focus on the Essex newsletters and journals: The reading and writing community – Managing the department: The Secretaries – Paul Thompson remembers Brenda Corti- More stories of Essex Sociology- Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so books published by graduates and researchers – Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so graduates and researchers who became ‘Essex’ Professors – Sociology in the Media: Pam Cox- Handing our stories on.
Happy days: memories of Essex Sociology
I have loved reading all the stories gathered in so far and share the affection and gratitude they exhibit. But there is one aspect of the experience that has not yet received the attention it deserves – how many ordinary happinesses there were and I am sure there still are. So here are a few of the many things that that still make me laugh or smile whenever I remember them.
Walking down to campus from Wivenhoe House.
The departmental reading room, especially when the morning rolls and coffee had just arrived.
Having to cross a picket line when I came for my interview.
Mary Girling’s huge dogs lying around the office when they were sick.
Walking past Mike Lane’s office after lunch.
Peter Townsend really meaning it when telling me that he was very pleased that the University had given me tenure despite the objections of the Department’s senior staff(himself included).
Staying overnight in George Kolankiewicz’s house in Queens Road with my first real duvet, my last outside toilet and my only Francis Bacon soon to live next door.
Stan Cohen’s greeting smile.
Dancing the ‘funky gibbon’ with Mary Mac at one of Ted and Shelley’s parties.
Numberless parties at Ken and Ev’s: great music, brilliant food and far too much drink.
Having to learn how to teach again after smoking was banned in all classrooms.
Seeing the first punk tour with Wreckless Eric, the Stranglers et al in the university ballroom.
Derrick Schwartz telling me that Harold Wolpe’s nickname amongst the graduate students was ‘killer’ because he always responded to their answers to his questions by asking them to explain why they had so answered.
Dropping in on George Kolankiewicz, Sean Nixon or Ted Benton for a chat.
The Rose and Crown.
Ted’s face when I told him at a party in the upstairs bar that my idea of communism was lying on a beach, listening to music and drinking beer.
Driving up to Colchester from London with Harold and Ernesto Laclau. They argued about Marxism all the way – never again, absolutely terrifying.
Many lifts from Harold on his own to and from London – also very fast but not quite so terrifying. I ultimately realized that he was trying to teach me how to theorize with his relentless ‘whys?’.
Being in a car going back to London wIth Jean Baudrillard – haunting.
Lifts to London with Sean, RIchard Wilson and Carlo Ruzza: life-enhancing and serene progresses.
Watching George on TV every night during the rise of Solidarity.
Harold’s poker evenings in Wivenhoe. I never played but Mike Lane, MIck Mann and colleagues from Literature did. No one ever admitted to losing anything…
The Fuller Bequest: it paid for two long trips to and around the US during the 1970s – Greyhound is probably the best way for a sociologist to travel around America, but does anyone have the time anymore?
An outdoor hot spring bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleagues on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Staying overnight at Dennis Marsden and Jean Duncombe’s, especially our breakfast chats.
Realizing that when Mary GIrling gave me a nickname it meant I was generally accepted as being a fit and proper person to be a member of the Department.
Spending time with Howard Newby in Madison when we were both exiles in America.
Maxine Molyneux when she suddenly swerved off the road and roared around a field when taking me and others back from the pub to my house in Wormingford – such is the power of Abbot Ale.
A gorgeous lunch at Mick Mann and NIcky Hart’s equally gorgeous house in Dedham.
The ‘Sociology of the USA’ class that lasted four and half hours.
David Lockwood’s amusement on suddenly realizing that we both had rather small feet.
Eating horse sashimi (and mushrooms) with HIromi Shimodaira in Matsumoto.
A lovely party at Ian Craib’s beautiful windmill in Sudbury.
Cruising (not really) in Santa Barbara and Hollywood with Harvey Molotch and Glen.
The External Examiner’s dinners.
Going with Pete Utting and Amalia Chamorro to the celebrations in Managua that marked the second anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution – ‘presente’.
Getting extremely drunk (on Sociology as well as wine) at Bryan Turner’s house one night – I think that must have been when we became frIends.
Teaching the joint seminar in Government and Sociology with Bob Jessop. Having just ridden all the way from Cambridge on his pushbike, Bob would come in and speak perfect Jessopese for the first hour without a note.
DInner in Hong Kong with Ken and Ev, Travis Kong, Raymond Chan but unfortunately not Jimmy Wong.
Getting to know John Gagnon (a little). The most sophisticated person I have ever met – ‘awesome’ as he would never say in a million years.
An outdoor hot bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleages on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Great chats with Lydia Morris at the French House in Soho.
Bryan suggesting to me at the Dictionary Launch in the LTB foyer that I extend my work on labour rights to human rights more generally. I replied that unfortunately I knew nothing about human rights. ‘Exactly’ said Bryan, ‘nobody in sociology does’.
Suggesting to Richard Wilson that he extend his work on truth commissions to human rights more generally. Richard replied that unfortunately he knew nothing about human rIghts. ‘Exactly’ I said.
A summer holiday in Montecastrilli with Mike and Joan – delicious and topped off with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Joinville on the way back.
Visiting (many times) Katsu Harada’s beautiful, neo-traditional house in Kamakura and listening to jazz.
Harold’s inevitable response to any request for advice on a difficult personal matter, ‘Tony, do as you think best.’ Still good advice.
After a History degree at Exeter and a PGCE in London I taught in a secondary school. During the PGCE I enjoyed the Sociology of Education and found Education and the Working-Class by Jackson and Marsden (1962) particularly illuminating. I had no idea that I would be taught by Dennis Marsden, would work with him at Essex and become a close friend. Sadly he died in 2009 after a long illness but I was able to visit him and Jean (Duncombe) a number of times in his last years. At a memorial symposium at Essex on his work colleagues referred to this book as graphically illustrating their mobility through education laced with class ambivalence – which was also my experience.
One day at school I saw an advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement for a Master’s in Sociology at Essex, applied and was accepted in 1965. The university was brand new and the student population tiny – my year was the second cohort – and the campus buildings were under construction. Almost none of the students had a background in Sociology and neither had many of the staff. There was an emphasis on Social Policy given that Peter Townsend was the founding father and he recruited people, including Adrian Sinfield and Dennis Marsden, with a Fabian engagement with class and social problems. Classes were small and the teaching mostly engaging although Parsonian functionalism didn`t much appeal to me: we had no idea that Geoffrey Hawthorn was new at the game and was struggling with his burden of teaching (as he explains in an interview). My focus was on the Sociology of Education and my thesis was on boarding schools. On graduation I started a PhD at Cambridge on that topic but for various reasons transferred back to Essex where I had an exemplary supervisor in Geoffrey Hawthorn. In 1970 I was offered a lectureship and taught several courses including the Sociology of Education with Dennis. Then in 1975 I moved to The Netherlands, initially for a few years but my stay has become permanent. My wife Corry is Dutch and I had spent a sabbatical period at the University of Amsterdam in 1973: the contacts made then led later to an offer to teach in the University of Utrecht.
Looking back I would say that Essex was remarkable in that it attracted staff from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines but, given that many of them were gifted and productive, it soon became a leading Sociology department not only in the UK but also in Europe. In those early years there was Peter Townsend, David Lockwood, Mary McIntosh (from 1975), Alan Ryan, Peter Abel, George Kolankiewicz, Dennis Marsden, Geoffrey Hawthorn, David Lane, Adrian Sinfield, Colin Bell, Michael Mann, Joan Busfield, Ted Benton, Paul Thompson and Alistair McIntyre (some of whom have passed away). It was largely a man`s world but the gender imbalance started to be rectified from then on. There was little academic ritual, a low sense of hierarchy and the general atmosphere was one of trendy newness. At the same time there was a strong culture of stimulating and rewarding research and publications but without the performance pressures of recent years in UK universities. This was a golden age of individual freedom and few administrative burdens: most people set their own agendas and could, unhindered, use the summer vacation and sabbaticals for research and writing. Predatory publishers stalked the corridors forcing contracts and advances on us. Given the smallness and newness and that quite a few staff lived in Wivenhoe with young families, there were generally amicable relationships and frequent socializing – including on the Wivenhoe quayside on Sunday afternoon. We also played cricket, football and squash and on Saturdays some of us went with to watch football at Ipswich. For me it was a busy time of starting a family, preparing classes and trying to get something published.
The philosophy of the university was innovative – with few of the trappings of the traditional universities – as the Vice-Chancellor boldly proclaimed in the BBC Reith Lectures (Sloman: 1963). Unfortunately its foundation coincided with student radicalism and Essex attracted certain students – some now peers of the realm – who unsettled the benign culture with demonstrations, intimidation of staff, rent-strikes and sit-ins. There were problems with drug use, theft, damage to property and guest speakers being shouted down. Students occupied the administration building with access to confidential staff and student files and to the keys of the offices: rooms were entered, there was some pilfering (including of research data) and all the locks had to be changed. Later conservative politicians and newspapers called for Essex to be closed down. So those were interesting times with never a dull day.
Particularly disturbing for a university were student “strikes” with the barricading of lecture theatres to prevent students attending classes. On one occasion a student resolutely climbed over a barrier and found he was alone with Alistair McIntyre. Both agreed they wouldn`t allow intimidation to restrict their freedom and McIntyre gave him a private master-class on Philosophy. The student was Geoffrey Markham who was one of the Essex police officers studying full-time. Sending officers to university for three years was a considerable investment at that time but Essex was a forward looking force. The scheme continued for some years, became part-time and was later supervised by Maggy Lee. I became friendly with some of these officers and this began to shift my research interest to policing. Years later together with Maggy I interviewed some of them and invariably the experience of studying enhanced their professionalism and their career (Lee and Punch: 2005).
Indeed, Markham maintains that the degree has been crucial throughout his career and to his performance as a highly-regarded officer who reached high rank. Most of the police graduates stayed in the force and did well. For instance, Ralph Crawshaw studied Politics and returned to the university after retirement, took a Masters in Human Rights Law and has become an authority in the field. He writes of how stimulating it was to be taught by Ivor Crewe, Mike Freeman and Ian Budge and that the “whole experience was quite transforming”. It helped him do some things differently in the police service as he`d been made aware of the power of the state and abuse of that power. This led him directly to human rights and after graduating he decided that he would go back to the university once he`d reached pensionable age “primarily because the whole process had been so stimulating and rewarding”. Clearly attending university was of great value to him and others. I`m plainly biased – both Geoffrey and Ralph have been instrumental in helping me with my police research and publications and we have remained friends ever since – but I believe the scheme was positive for both the Essex Police and the university. And it should be acknowledged in the institutional memory.
But in the radical early 1970s there was deep suspicion of the police presence on campus. For example, at one stage after several weeks of students blocking access to the campus, the police moved in and arrested over a 100 students. The police were led by one of the Essex graduates. Then disinformation appeared in the press that the officer had been planted in the university and had not honestly attained his first-class degree. This was typical of the antagonism to the police in general at that time, some of which rubbed off on me. Moreover, what actually happened when the blockade was broken has become distorted with memory: for a previous contributor to this site wrote – perhaps on hearsay – that, during the stand-off between students and the police at the blockade, Peter Townsend interceded and calmed matters down. That is not quite what happened. The students had been blocking access to the campus for weeks and eventually an Assistant Chief Constable met with the VC and others and firmly informed them that, although this was private property, it was intolerable that illegal conduct was restricting people`s freedom and the police would have to intervene. I`m sure Peter did his utmost to resolve the situation and avoid confrontation but, with fuel and supplies running short, the decision had already been taken. When the police contingent arrived Sociology staff inserted themselves between the police and students as a kind of deescalating buffer. But Howard Becker was giving a staff seminar that afternoon and suddenly nearly all the staff disappeared except for me. The students refused to give way, the police moved in and made the arrests when there was any resistance: after some scuffling it was soon over.
There was, then, a downside to that first decade at Essex but it was also an exciting period of innovative research and impressive productivity. Furthermore, it was typical of the eclecticism that there was the social historian Paul Thompson pioneering oral history and organizing fascinating field-trips; Stan Cohen enthusiastically promoting the Sociology of Deviance; and Colin Bell and Howard Newby reinventing Agricultural Sociology. However, the rather idyllic early years of pioneering and amicable solidarity started to wane as people of different academic and theoretical plumage joined the faculty and there were hefty doctrinal disputes that diminished the emphasis on Social Policy.
For several reasons I felt that I had to spread my wings. There were frustrations as I was low in the pecking order, would remain second to Dennis if I stayed in the education field (and he spent the rest of his career at Essex) and I was experiencing difficulties with the sponsors of my PhD research on former pupils of Dartington Hall School. The Trustees of the “progressive” Dartington enterprise endeavoured to restrict access to my PhD – Peter Townsend flatly refused to countenance that – and prevent publication of my findings (cf Punch: 1979, 1986). But I badly needed a publication and wrote an article for the BJS without asking their permission which led to irate missives from Devon but fortunately, after some grovelling, they were not followed by a writ. So when an application to the Home Office for police research was turned down I decided to move abroad, originally for a short period.
But I look back at that period in Essex as one of remarkably productive achievement in innovative and quality scholarship: and which in a very short period of time, and reinforced by later cohorts of talented academics, developed a leading department of Sociology. There were equally strong faculties of Politics, Economics and Law – with a leading Human Rights Centre – that could muster their own line-up of star performers.
Finally, the Essex I left in 1975 was still small with predominantly British staff and students, while Colchester was a dull, grey garrison town. Thanks to the internet a Brazilian student of the time (Julio Grieco) contacted me recently and wrote about how cold the place was and how awful the food. The architecture of Mediterranean palazzos was certainly not geared to North Sea gales and the cuisine served in Wivenhoe House was of Fawlty Towers quality. Then through meeting Nigel South at a conference over a decade ago I began teaching again at Essex but in the Law School with Jim Gobert. I was amazed that there were people around from way back. Mary Girling was still the Secretary in Sociology and the old squash-ladder lay in a corner.
But Colchester had gone through a major make-over. And the university had expanded considerably, the resources and infrastructure (including for languages and for sport) had improved immensely, there was a rich cosmopolitan diversity of students and faculty, vibrant summer schools were taking place, new departments had arisen and Sociology was scoring high on the RAE. And although the northerly wind could still howl across the squares the catering had progressed greatly, at least by British standards.
Lee, M. and Punch, M. (2006) Policing by Degrees (Groningen: Hondsrug Pers)
Punch, M. (1979) Progressive Retreat (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
Punch, M. (1986) Politics and Ethics of Field Work (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage)
Amstelveen, The Netherlands.
We have put a short extract from a long interview with Peter Townsend on the stories page. Click here…Peter Townsend interview
Here is an even shorter extracts which speaks a little about the troubles of 1968…
The crisis can be seen in large and small terms. I think, in large terms, there was a sort of revolutionary potential about some of the attitudes and values which we’ve been speaking about, which are a threat to established elites and classes. It’s almost like saying we were moving too fast into what collective gains and action would mean, and what democratic values, when properly spelt out, would lead to in terms of the organisation of society, including universities. There was that revolutionary potential, there’s no good getting away from it. And yet there were smaller issues to do with individual human rights and justice, not smaller in some important particulars of course, but where you can actually obtain restitution and acknowledgement of a dignified position more easily than you can obtain structural change, which is what I was implying a moment ago. So 1968 was extraordinary, because although, looking back, I’m sure we were, British students were influenced by what was going on on the Continent, it seemed to be something just being taken up in different universities, and certainly students in different universities became very quickly aware of what was going on among them. It started with a protest about Porton Down, and students who attempted to prevent a particular lecture taking place, and the Vice-Chancellor feeling that an example ought to be set, and the student body believing that this was an issue of freedom to protest, and this was such a serious issue that it didn’t fit easily into the customary treatment of protests about other events. And one thing led to another. The students were sent down, sent away from the University. There were appeals, there were protests within the University which escalated to such a degree that a thousand and more people attended some of the assemblies. I mean, the entire University, including all its staff, attended a few of the meetings. And this was extraordinary by anyone’s standards, before or since in my career, because although it of course swallowed up time that might otherwise have been given to teaching and learning, and research, it was quite unprecedented to have one’s nose rubbed in the whole business of what kind of society were we living in and working in, and how should it be organised, and who should have a right to have a say, and be involved in a decision that was taken? And we went through one of these principles after another, and it was very exhilarating, one has to say, I have to say, because it was like going over all the taken-for-granted aspects of professional life, shaking them up, and inviting each of us to re-cast the result.
For more, click on Peter Townsend Interview
I am currently PVC University of Cumbria – just about to retire (permanent sabbatical) at end of the year to enjoy walking in the lovely Lake District and maybe finding time for that writing I never got round to.
I came back to my home county to help set up the new university in a part of the country that has low participation rates and a real need for socio-economic boost from higher education. Formerly I was Director at the Higher Education Funding Council for England – where my boss was a former Essex Sociology staff member – Howard Newby. I have also worked at Coventry University, University of Brighton, the Open University and at Newcastle Poly (now Northumbria University). My PhD came from Surrey University where I went immediately following my 3 years at Essex. I can say that intellectually speaking the 3 years at Essex were the best foundation I could have hoped for.
On graduating from Essex I was unsure whether to follow deviance studies or education. The choice of education was due to a funded phd offer at Surrey and I have been studying the relationship between teaching and learning ever since. Essex staff always took great efforts to help us to learn. Debate and arguement was supported and I still remember some amazing lectures and fascinating tutorials. Partly as a consequence I have spent my career arguing for and helping to develop professional approaches to teaching in higher education.
The lecture that sticks in my mind to this day is when Ken Plummer, in the space of an hour in a small cramped lecture theatre, gave us a complete overview of the theoretical frameworks underpinning modern sociology. By the end of the hour the board (yes, still a black board I think) was covered in connections and links – it was a real “Ah ha”moment for me. In terms of helping students to learn Ken is the man!
Another memorable lecture series was a joint set of debating lectures given by Ted Benton and Ian Craib. Their contrasting styles adding to the amazing intellectual effort just to keep up with their thinking as they paried their different views – while trying unsuccessfully to keep cigarettes lit. – To witness this was to understand that ideas are not right and wrong but require deeply reasoned arguement based on facts and theories: that ideas can be transmuted into different significance through linkages and contexts. It was a life lesson.
Another memory is of the troubled times when we had a ‘sit in’ in the hall and the police came in vans. There was a stand off in the underground car park – students on one side and police on the other. Peter Townsend calmly walked between the two sides, had a chat with the chief policeman (I think he was an essex graduate also) and things were diffused. It could have been nasty. A typical gesture from a really lovely person. Weren’t we lucky with the senior staff at the time – Three wonderful professors – Peter Townsend, David Lockwood and the incomparable Stan Cohen. Wow – I count my lucky stars that I got to Essex, through clearing, all those years ago – and never looked back.