Community, de-industrialisation, and post-industrial regeneration in a Merseyside town: St. Helens, 1968-2018
Supervisors: Professor Mathew Thomson & Dr. Joachim Haberlen
My thesis explores the impact on community of de-industrialisation and (post-industrial) regeneration, via a case study of St. Helens (Merseyside, England) from the late 1960s to the present day. The main argument is that community has transformed from being centred around the working-class and industrial work to a less tangible but still present multiplicity of micro- and personal communities. This contrasts existing scholarship which often associates industrial and community decline.
I tend towards long-term analyses and explanations of my main themes: community, de-industrialisation, and regeneration. I offer these in the context of a large, formerly industrial town, a category often overlooked in favour of bigger cities, ‘new’ towns, or mono-industrial places. This long-termism is an existing trend in de-industrialisation studies, and the thesis endorses Jim Tomlinson’s proposition of de-industrialisation as a ‘meta-narrative’ for post-war Britain and Sherry Lee Linkon’s de-industrial ‘half-life’ theory. I argue regeneration is similarly an important meta-narrative: towns like St. Helens have been constantly redeveloping and regenerating across the thesis’ time period, with similar aims and objectives recurring.
I adopt what Robert Colls calls an ‘inside-out’ approach. In studying community’s development, I embrace its messiness as a concept, with each chapter offering a different perspective on community. I seek not to neatly define or measure community but to explore how it was experienced by the people of St. Helens. To this end, I use various approaches including oral history interviews, surveys, ‘imagined futures’ essays, and close analysis of materials produced by local grass-roots groups and the local press. I examine the role local industries and local/national government play in community, an important consideration for a town so influenced by its paternalist industries even today. Ultimately, I argue that community both evolves and persists in towns like St. Helens, despite the challenges of de-industrialisation and regeneration faced in recent decades.
Personal & Academic Background
I grew up in St. Helens, near Liverpool, before sending myself to Coventry in 2011 to study a BA in French & History at the University of Warwick. Upon graduating in 2015, I went souther still to enrol on a two year Masters degree in Anglophone Studies at the University of Nice, where I juggled studying and seminar tutoring with a part-time retail job and a brief career as a rickshaw driver. Having plentifully stocked myself with Vitamin D from the Côte d'Azur sky, I returned to Warwick in 2017 to begin my PhD.
Alongside researching, I am a keen but not overly-talented squash player and participate in the university's staff league. I have 3 years teaching experience in the History department and have managed/co-managed 3 student-led research projects, culminating in my post of Arts Faculty Student Experience Intern in 2021.
Since September 2018, I have been the Administrative Assistant for the Warwick Oral History Network. The OHN runs regular seminars, provides assistance to various community oral history projects, and hosts reading groups for researchers at the university wishing to share knowledge/experiences of using oral history.
In September 2021, shortly after handing in my thesis, I began a new role in the university's Doctoral College as PGR Development Officer.
2017- DPhil History (University of Warwick), ongoing
2015-2017 – Bac+5 Etudes Anglophones (Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis), mention très bien
- 2nd year dissertation: Les classes ouvrières et les inégalités sociales en Grande-Bretagne depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale : origines, évolution, et le rôle de Margaret Thatcher [The working classes and social inequalities in Great Britain since World War Two: Origins, evolution, and the role of Margaret Thatcher] (supervisor: Prof. Didier Revest)
- 1st year dissertation: The socio-economic impact of de-industrialisation on women in England from the 1980s to the present day, with specific focus on St. Helens, Merseyside (supervisor: Prof. Dider Revest)
2011-2015 – BA (Hons) French & History (University of Warwick), 1st class (with merit for oral)
As sole author
'Strike at Pilkingtons: 50 years on', North West Labour History, 45 (2020), 53-59.
'Queens of the coal age: Lancashire Women Against Pit Closures and the Parkside Pit Camp, 1992-94', North West Labour History, 44 (2019), 12-16.
Blogs and Other
'PGR possibilities: the Doctoral College and life beyond your department', PhD Life Blog (January 2022)
'The first rule about productivity? Don't think about productivity!', PhD Life blog (November 2021)
'Then and Now: History of the Faculty of Arts', IATL Blogs and Reports (University of Warwick, 2020)
'Ongoing work: Binley, Coventry', Oral History, 47:2 (2019), 12-13.
'Town centre regeneration, community, and the involvement of local residents', Centre for the History of Retail and Distribution (CHORD) Conference Blogs (University of Wolverhampton, 2019)
'Review of La prison des pauvres: l'expérience des workhouses en Angleterre' (IHR Reviews in History, 2018)
'Then & Now: Arts at Warwick student project: co-creation in the Covid-19 crisis', Exchanges, 8:4 (2021), 55-75 (with Dr. Kathryn Woods)
'Memories of Binley Colliery: An Oral History Project', (2021), 16pp., with Daniel Loveard (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust), Dan Smith, Fu Ge Yang, Kiera Evans, Amy Halliday (University of Warwick)
'Pilot launch issue: postgraduate pandemic pedagogies', Journal of PGR Pedagogic Practice, 1 (2021)
'Special Issue: Then & Now: Arts at Warwick', Exchanges, 8:4 (2021)
Conferences and seminars
13 January 2022 - Warwick Modern British History Group - 'Voices of Guinness' - Reading Group Chair
1 December 2021 - Warwick Oral History Network - 'Memories of Binley Colliery' (with Daniel Loveard, Dan Smith, Fu Ge Yang, and Kiera Evans)
30 August-3 September 2021 - ELHN-WORCK Joint Conference (University of Vienna/online) - 'Community involvement in post-industrial environmental regeneration in St. Helens, the North-West, and England: Operation Groundwork'
7-8, 14-15 November 2020 - North American Conference on British Studies 2020 - 'Community After Closure: A Case Study of St. Helens, Merseyside'
23-25 September 2020 - Building Welfare States: New Approaches to Architecture, Community, and Planning in Twentieth Century Britain (University of Warwick) - 'Building community through regeneration in St. Helens, Merseyside'
5-6 July 2019 - Oral History @ Work: Recording Change in Working Lives (Oral History Society Annual Conference, Swansea University) - 'A tale of two ranches? From John Wayne to JR Ewing: de-industrialisation and changes to work in St. Helens, Merseyside'
27 June 2019 - Urban Identities: Past and Present (Humanities Research Centre, University of Warwick) - 'Building communities? Urban development in industrial and post-industrial St. Helens'
9 May 2019 - Retailing and Community: The Social Dimensions of Commerce in Historical Perspective (Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution, University of Wolverhampton) - 'Representing local interests in post-industrial town centre regeneration: a case study of St. Helens, Merseyside'
10 November 2018 - The Politics of Sedition in Long Nineteenth Century Britain: A Social and Cultural Discourse (Humanities Research Centre, University of Warwick) - Panel Chair: 'Resistance from below: expressions of sedition from the working class'
25-26 October 2018 – The Pursuit of Legitimacy Power and its Manifestations in Political History (Leiden University, Holland) – 'Seeking continuity in a period of change: resisting industrial decline and post-industrial regeneration'
31 May-1 June 2018 – History Postgraduate Conference (University of Warwick) – 'Resisting de-industrialisation through memory: a case study of St. Helens, Merseyside'
23 May 2018 – Questioning the Disappearance of Disciplinary Boundaries (Annual PG Symposium of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Warwick) – 'Oral history: a chorus of disciplines'
Other Research Projects and Roles
January 2021-July 2021 - Student Research Portfolio project
Supervising the project in my role as Warwick Arts Faculty Student Engagement Intern.
March 2020-July 2021 - 'Then and Now: Arts at Warwick'
Co-managed this student-led history of the Faculty of Arts at Warwick with Dr. Kathryn Woods.
Read about the project on IATL's blog and through this interview with the Warwick University student newspaper: 'There was an unofficial society celebrating the Koan [...]', The Boar, 25.06.2020.
Listen to a podcast about the project, recorded with Dr. Gareth Johnson, editor of Exchanges, which will publish a special issue about the project during the next academic year.
October 2018-September 2021 - 'Memories of Binley Colliery'
Project led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in association with Warwick Oral History Network.
Awarded Warwick Public Engagement Funding, 2019-2020.
Read about the project: 'Ongoing work: Binley, Coventry', Oral History, 47:2, (Autumn 2019), 12-13.
Download our full-colour 16pp. booklet: 'Memories of Binley Colliery: An Oral History Project'
- Introduction to Active Bystander (Community Values Education Programme)
2020-2021, University of Warwick
- HI180, Britain in the Twentieth Century: A Social History
- Warwick Arts Faculty Student Engagement Intern.
2019-2020, University of Warwick
- HI153, The Making of the Modern World (weekly seminars + weekly study skills sessions)
2018-2019, University of Warwick
- HI153, The Making of the Modern World
2016-2017, Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis
- English Studies (2nd year undergraduate), 'From Schism to Revolution' [History module covering the Tudors and the Stewarts]
- Sociology/Economics (2nd year undergraduate), 'English Language'
- Human Resources Management (1st year MA), 'English Language'
2016-2017, Ecole du Journalisme, Nice
- Journalism (General) (3rd year undergraduate), 'Debates and Interviews in English'
Outreach Work and Other Activities
12 October 2021 - 'How to: Dissertation', online talk for Warwick HistSoc (with Ronan Love)
29 October 2020 - 'How to: Dissertation', online talk for Warwick HistSoc (recording available on Facebook)
13 November 2018 - Binley Colliery Oral History Project, Hagard Community Centre, Willenhall, Coventry
18 April 2018 – Entering Higher Education seminar, Rainford College
21 March 2018 – Guest speaker at Year 11 & 13 Rewards Evening, Rainford College
Doctoral College, University House
PGR Development Officer, Doctoral College
AFHEA (Associate Fellow Advance HE)
Student Fellow, WIHEA
Student Experience Intern., Warwick Arts Faculty